George Strait, Garth Brooks Dominate News in 2014

Album Sales Slump, but Awards Shows Still Plentiful

What a year 2014 was for country music. George Strait retired from touring but kept winning awards. Garth Brooks made a triumphant return. Taylor Swift engineered a seamless switch to pop music primacy. And Brooks & Dunn decided to reunite for a Las Vegas run with Reba McEntire in 2015.

But, wait, there’s more!

Here’s your whirlwind view of the biggest news:

January
Country albums sales slipped 10.7 percent in 2013 from their totals of the previous year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, but Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton were among the best-selling album artists of all musical formats. … Grammy awards go to Kacey Musgraves (best country album and song), Darius Rucker (best country solo performance), the Civil Wars (best country duo or vocal performance), Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (best Americana album) and the Del McCoury Band (best bluegrass album). … Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles issues her solo album, That Girl.

February
The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America votes Rhonda Vincent its entertainer of the year and inducts her into its Preservation Hall of Greats. … Garth Brooks wins lawsuit against former business associate Lisa Sanderson, who headed the Los Angeles office of his Red Strokes Entertainment, a movie and TV production company. … Dierks Bentley releases the album Riser, inspired by his son’s birth and father’s death. Singles include “I Hold On” and “Drunk on a Plane.” … Country Radio Broadcasters honor Vince Gill with organization’s career achievement award. … Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Cassadee Pope, Tyler Farr and Charlie Worsham perform on the Country Radio Seminar’s New Faces Show.

March
Talent manager Dale Morris, career advisor for Alabama and Kenny Chesney, among others, wins Tony Martell Lifetime Achievement Award.

April
Glen Campbell moves to Alzheimer’s care facility in Nashville. … George Strait crowned entertainer of the year by the Academy of Country Music in Las Vegas. … The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville formally opens an addition that doubles its size. … Miranda Lambert releases the album Platinum, featuring the hits “Automatic” and “Something Bad,” the latter a duet with Carrie Underwood.

May
Yale University awards bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley an honorary doctor of music degree.

June
George Strait plays final tour concert at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, before a crowd of 105,000. … Carrie Underwood wins video of the year award for “See You Again” at 2014 CMT Music Awards. . . . The four-day CMA Music Festival features performances at Nashville’s LP Field by Alabama, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Travis Tritt, Darius Rucker, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Sara Evans, Brad Paisley, the Charlie Daniels Band, the Oak Ridge Boys, Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum, Thomas Rhett and the Zac Brown Band.

July
Garth Brooks announces plans for his first album for RCA Records and a return to touring.

September
Garth Brooks kicks off world tour in Chicago with 10 sold out shows. … Carrie Underwood reveals she is pregnant with her first child. … Jason Isbell wins song, album and artist of the year honors at the annual Americana Awards & Honors ceremony in Nashville. … Underwood, Ronnie Milsap, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts, Kris Kristofferson and the late Cowboy Jack Clement and Buck Owens are among those acknowledged during the ACM Honors event in Nashville.

October
John Anderson, Gretchen Peters, Paul Craft and Tom Douglas are elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. … Mac Wiseman, Ronnie Milsap and the late songwriter Hank Cochran are inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. … Taylor Swift releases 1989, her first pop album, and sees it crown the charts. … Little Big Town formally join the Grand Ole Opry, welcomed by Reba McEntire.

November
SESAC names Rob Hatch its songwriter of the year. … Alan Jackson, Craig Wiseman and Ashley Gorley win ASCAP’s top country songwriting awards. … BMI presents Vince Gill its Icon award and names Rhett Akins its top country songwriter. … Luke Bryan wins the CMA entertainer of the year trophy. … In separate announcements made on the same day, Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman announce they are gay, the first country acts to do so since Chely Wright came out in 2010.

December
Merle Haggard presented the first-ever Artist of a Lifetime award at the 2014 CMT Artists of the Year celebration. … Brooks & Dunn say they will reunite for a series of shows in Las Vegas in 2015 with Reba McEntire as their co-star.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.