Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line picked up two wins each at the 2013 CMA Awards in Nashville during a night that included appearances by some of the biggest stars in country music, not to mention Dave Grohl, Jason Mraz and — surprise, surprise — Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Joining Shelton and Florida Georgia Line as multiple winners were Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Earlier in the day, they won musical event and music video of the year honors for their work on McGraw’s single, “Highway Don’t Care.”
Shelton won another male vocalist trophy, and he and producer Scott Hendricks triumphed in the album of the year category for Based on a True Story. Shelton’s wife Miranda Lambert won her fourth consecutive female vocalist award.
In addition to being named vocal duo of the year, Florida Georgia Line captured single of the year for “Cruise.” The award also went to the duo’s producer, Joey Moi.
George Strait was named entertainer of the year, the top honor he claimed in 1989 and 1990. Little Big Town won in the vocal group division, and Kacey Musgraves was crowned new artist of the year. “I Drive Your Truck,” the Lee Brice hit, resulted in a song of the year win for songwriters Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary. Guitarist Mac McAnally, a well-known sideman to Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney and many others, received his sixth consecutive win as musician of the year.
Grohl, a former member of Nirvana and current frontman for Foo Fighters, played drums with the Zac Brown Band during the debut of an intense new song, “Day for the Dead.” Hayes and Mraz were more laid-back during their collaboration on “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me.”
Still, the biggest shocker of the evening was when Combs arrived onstage with Kellie Pickler to present the vocal group award.
“Ladies and gentlemen, are y’all surprised to see me here?” Combs said. “Music City, I’m here! Check it out. It’s always a dream of mine to come to the CMAs. I’ve always been a kind of down-low country music fan, but I’m coming out tonight. I love me some country music, baby! I love all kinds of music.”
But back to the notable acceptance speeches …
Strait, who plans to retire from touring next year, seemed genuinely surprised to be named entertainer of the year at this point in his career. He also made mention of his father, who died in June and the other entertainer of the year nominees — Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Shelton and Swift.
“What?!” he said. “Oh, my gosh. Never in a million years. Thank you so much. My dad’s been having some good conversations up there, I have to say. Wow … this blows me away. I just cannot believe it. You guys that were nominated, you’re such powerful entertainers. I’m just so thrilled even to be nominated again.”
“I really didn’t think this one was gonna happen this year,” she told the crowd. “I sit here every time, and I’m just so thankful to be here. And I watched this category go by, and I can’t believe. I have to pinch myself.
“Taylor, I was crying. That was frickin’ awesome,” Lambert said of Swift’s performance of “Red” with Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and others. “That wall of stars — amazing. Kelly, really? I mean. Carrie Underwood, your performance blew me away tonight. Kacey, congratulations on new artist. That was awesome. East Texas girls gotta stick together.”
In accepting the album of the year award earlier in the evening, Shelton said it was the category he especially wanted to claim, but he said he wasn’t expecting to receive another win as male vocalist.
“Not to just echo the words of Miranda, but I really swear, I did not think this was going to happen this year,” he said. “But it did, so let me thank some people. Let me first thank my record label, Warner Bros, because they have worked their butts off. We have been at the bottom before, and somehow dug our way out and I’m up here talking about this.”
One of the most poignant moments of the night came when “I Drive Your Truck” was announced as the CMA’s song of the year.
“This song was written about a young man named Jared Monti,” songwriter Jimmy Yeary said. “Jared gave his life in Afghanistan for his battalion. Jared gave his life for this country, and his dad — to this day — still drives his truck. We wrote this song about him, so thank you so much, Jared, for what you did for this country.”
During the show, Swift became the second country artist to ever receive the CMA Pinnacle Award recognizing “an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence through concert performances and record sales at levels unique in country music.” McGraw and his wife Faith Hill presented the award alongside Rascal Flatts, Strait, Brad Paisley and Urban.
“They told me that this was going to happen, but I didn’t know there was going to be all this,” Swift said. “My parents are not just crying, they’re actually bawling at this point.”
She then recalled how the other artists had encouraged her early in her career.
“I remember when I was 16 and I got the first phone call from Scott Borchetta, my label president,” she said. “He said, ‘Can you be on the road in two days to open up for Rascal Flatts? And I just started screaming. I said, ‘This has to be a miracle.’ He said, ‘No, it’s not a miracle. Eric Church got fired for playing too long.’
“But then I got a call that I was going to get to go on the road with George Strait, who taught me to play the songs your fans want to hear. And I got a call from Brad Paisley, and I toured with him for nine months. And I sat on a speaker by the side of the stage and watched him every single night ’cause he was funny. And I’ll never be that funny — and it makes me sad.
“Keith Urban, I toured with him. I’m such a huge fan of his music. And Tim and Faith have a style at a level that is a pinnacle that I’ll never reach … the style that the two of you have.
“You guys all got up here, and you all did this. I just know that this had to have taken a lot of people to make this decision to give this to me. So to the CMA, to whoever made this choice, you’re not only rewarding my hard work and exhaustion, you’re rewarding the hard work and exhaustion of my family and my label and anyone who works with me and, most of all, the fans who fill stadiums. I love you. On behalf of all those people, thank you. … I love you. You’ve made me feel so special right now.”
Newly-inducted Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers was presented the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award during a segment that featured Rascal Flatts performing “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and Darius Rucker performing “The Gambler.” Jennifer Nettles introduced Rogers by singing part of “Sweet Music Man” and joined him later for a duet on “Islands in the Stream.”
Other performers during the three-hour awards show included Aldean, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, McGraw, Musgraves, Paisley, Shelton, The Band Perry and Underwood.View complete coverage of the 47th annual CMA Awards.
Editor’s Note: All video clips courtesy of the Country Music Association and American Broadcasting Companies Inc.