Luke Bryan claimed the coveted entertainer of the year trophy, but Miranda Lambert was the big winner at Sunday night’s (April 19) Academy of Country Music Awards, taking home three awards from the live broadcast in Arlington, Texas.
“Oh, hello, Texas. Thank y’all so much. It’s good to be home tonight,” the Lindale, Texas, native said when she accepted her first ACM Award of the night for song of the year for “Automatic.”
“I want to thank my co-writers Natalie Hemby and Nicole Galyon for helping me pen this amazing tune. Please say something, my beautiful friend,” she said as she handed the mic to Hemby, who just said, “I hope I can be your Dean Dillon because you’re my George Strait.” (Hemby said Galyon couldn’t attend the show because she was home nursing her baby.)
The grand prize of the night — entertainer of the year award — went to Bryan.
“Texas! What an amazing night of music, to be here in Texas with so many heroes that got awarded tonight,” he said before thanking his wife, his kids, his manager, his label and his co-host Blake Shelton.
The three and a-half hour show handed out nine major awards in between performances.
When Florida Georgia Line won duo of the year honors, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard took the stage to say thanks to a long list of people in their lives. Kelley thanked his wife for being his support and his inspiration and the duo’s band and crew that “allow us to do what we do every night on the road playing for our amazing fans.”
Little Big Town claimed vocal group of the year, and Karen Fairchild accepted the trophy from Alabama, and then spoke for the group saying, “Hey, Texas. This is Alabama. This is the inspiration for everything we wanted to be right here. What an honor to be here tonight. And, Texas, you’ve given us so much love.
“Two things: We really wanted to bring big hair back to country music, and you do it! And you gave us George Strait, and we slow danced in college to George Strait, and we made mix tapes, and they were about George. So God bless y’all.”
The ACM for album of the year went to Lambert for Platinum.
“That was a tough one, man. I love all of those albums so much. I have them all,” she said of the nominees in her category.
Cole Swindell won the ACM for new artist of the year, and thanked the fans and Luke Bryan, who he said was like a big brother to him.
When Lambert won female vocalist of the year, she took the familiar walk up onstage for the third time.
“I don’t even realize what’s happening tonight, but thank you so much, Texas,” she said. “I love you. I love my job so much. I will never not love this job.”
Then it was Lee Brice’s turn, when he accepted the award for single record of the year for his hit, “I Don’t Dance.”
“Wow. Well, this is my first time in this moment like this,” he said humbly before thanking his wife Sara for inspiring the song.
“I tell you, this couldn’t have come from somebody more special,” he said. “I grew up right down the road from where Trisha Yearwood’s from, and the first show I ever got to open for anybody was opening for her when I was about 16 years old.”
Throughout the night, the ACM also handed out six of their Milestone awards for career milestones.
Strait was the first recipient of the night, and he graciously thanked the fans for “keeping me back here all these years.”
Lambert, upon receiving her Milestone award, said, “I have no idea why I’m up here receiving this, but thank you so much for allowing me to live my dream. Thank you to the Lord Jesus Christ for giving me the gift of music and allowing me to share it with you guys.”
When Reba McEntire accepted her Milestone trophy, she thanked Texas and then told the fans, “I sure wouldn’t be here without you — and I sure wouldn’t want to be.”
Taylor Swift accepted her Milestone award from her mother and said somebody once told her that you truly see who a person is when you tell them something they don’t want to hear when you give them news that they weren’t expecting.
“And so to the country music community,” she said, “when I told you that I had made a pop album and that I wanted to go explore other genres, you showed me who you are with the grace you accepted that with. I will never forget it.”
And when Garth Brooks received his Milestone award, the first thing he did was thank the armed forces. Then Texas.
“And as far as you, Texas, this is where we kind of started our career way back in all the honky-tonks,” he said. “ I want to thank one guy, (manager) Bob Doyle, for seeing this from the very first and sticking with us, and I hope we’re together for another 25 years.
“And I think you’re always a product of how you were raised, and this has been a big emotional day for my home state of Oklahoma,” Brooks said referring to the 20th anniversary Oklahoma City bombing, “I want to send this back to them.”
Kenny Chesney accepted his Milestone award by remembering where he’d come from.
“To be a part of all this was just more than a kid from East Tennessee could really dream of at one time,” he said. “The first time I came to the ACMs, I sat right back there — and I had a record deal! I do want to thank the fans out there that have let me and my road family hold your lives in our hands for so many years. I really appreciate it. Thank you for loving music.”