2015 Country Music News in Review

In an industry that’s congenitally prone to patting itself on the back, 2015 was an especially congratulatory year for country music artists. Several ascended to the various halls of fame.

Others contented themselves with armloads of trophies. The brightest new stars in the country firmament were Chris Stapleton, who emerged from the CMA Awards with wins in three categories and the most-talked-about live performance of the year, and Sam Hunt, who had the year’s bestselling album,.

But there was ample sad news, too. Country Music Hall of Famers Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Ed Brown and Billy Sherrill passed away, and Blake and Miranda were divorced, as were Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock.

In the stars-of-the-recent-past category, Shania Twain announced her final tour, while the Dixie Chicks trumpeted that they would return to touring.

Here’s the compact, freeze-dried version of country music in 2015:

Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Fame member Little Jimmy Dickens dies at 94. … Nielsen Music’s 2014 year-end report lists Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert among American’s bestselling album artists. … Blake Shelton hosts Saturday Night Live. … Taylor Swift makes surprise appearance at Nashville party for Grammy nominees. … Eric Church plays solo acoustic show in Salt Lake City after band and crew become ill with stomach flu.

At the Grammy Awards winners include Miranda Lambert’s Platinum (best country album), Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water” (best country solo performance), The Band Perry’s “Gentle on My Mind” (best country duo/group performance), Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (best country song) and the Earls of Leicester’s The Earls of Leicester (best bluegrass album). … Tim McGraw sings Glen Campbell’s nominated “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” at Academy Awards show. … Eric Paslay, Sam Hunt, Maddie & Tae, Frankie Ballard and Cole Swindell perform on Country Radio Broadcasters’ New Faces show. … CMT Crossroads: Bob Seger and Jason Aldean premieres.

Shania Twain announces she will commence her final tour in June. … Jason Aldean marries Brittany Kerr. … Some radio stations say they will not play Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” because of listener misperceived complaints about its content. … Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opens the exhibit Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City.

Luke Bryan named Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year. Other ACM winners include Miranda Lambert (female vocalist), Jason Aldean (male vocalist), Little Big Town (vocal group), Florida Georgia Line (vocal duo), Cole Swindell (new artist), Lambert’s Platinum (album of the year), Lee Brice’s “I Don’t Dance” (single record of the year), Lambert’s “Automatic” (song of the year), Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” featuring Bryan (vocal event of the year) and Luke Laird (songwriter of the year).

Florida Georgia Line named top country artist, and Jason Aldean wins for top country album (Old Boots, New Dirt) and song (“Burnin’ It Down”) at Billboard Music Awards. … Consultant Keith Hill sparks a furor when he advises radio programmers to play more records by males and fewer by females and uses the unfortunate metaphor that men are the “lettuce” and women the “tomatoes” in the ideal playlist salad.

Carrie Underwood is the big winner at the CMT Music Awards, taking home trophies in three categories, one of which she shared with co-star Miranda Lambert. Also winning were Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Bob Seger, Lady Antebellum and Luke Bryan. … Grand Ole Opry star and impending Country Music Hall of Fame member Jim Ed Brown dies at 81. … Superstar-heavy CMA Music Festival draws an average of 87,680 fans on each of its four days. . . . Headlined by Ty Herndon, country music’s gay community and its sympathizers stage “Concert for Love and Acceptance” at Nashville’s City Winery. … Brad Paisley opens for the Rolling Stones at Nashville’s LP Field. … Bobby Braddock and Toby Keith inducted into New York-based Songwriters Hall of Fame. … Country Radio Broadcasters present Dwight Yoakam a career achievement award.

Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” sets Billboard chart history for a group act by staying the No. 1 country song for 11-consecutive weeks, thereby beating the Brown’s 10-week tenure for “The Three Bells” in 1959. … Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert confirm they are divorcing after four years of marriage.

Reba McEntire and her husband-manager, Narvel Blackstock, announce they are ending their 26-year marriage. … Billy Sherrill, the legendary songwriter and producer of such superstars as Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Charlie Rich dies at 78. He is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. … Charlie Daniels stages Volunteer Jam in Nashville after long hiatus. … Taylor Swift invites Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines to the stage at Los Angeles concert. … Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips exhibit opens at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. … CMT Crossroads: Lynyrd Skynyrd and Brantley Gilbert premieres.

Academy of Country Music presents Loretta Lynn its Crystal Milestone award and Alabama its career achievement trophy. … Americana Music Association names Sturgill Simpson artist of the year and Lucinda Williams’ Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone album of the year.

Earls of Leicester sweep International Bluegrass Music Association Awards show. Bill Keith and Larry Sparks inducted into International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. … Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley announces he will record and tour as soloist tour while Lady A is on hiatus. … Rosanne Cash, Even Stevens, Mark James and Craig Wiseman inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. … The Browns, the Oak Ridge Boys and guitarist Grady Martin inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame. … CMT Crossroads: REO Speedwagon and Sara Evans premieres.

SESAC declares Cary Barlowe its songwriter of the year and “Homegrown” its song of the year. … Former President Jimmy Carter is surprise guest as ASCAP names Ashley Gorley and Sam Hunt songwriters of the year and “Leave the Night On” top song. … BMI cites Rodney Clawson as top songwriter, “Beat of the Music” top song and Mac Davis its Icon award-winner. . . Chris Stapleton-Justin Timberlake duet brings down the house at the CMA award show. The official winners are Luke Bryan (entertainer of the year), Miranda Lambert (female vocalist), Stapleton (male vocalist and new artist), Little Big Town (vocal group), Florida Georgia Line (vocal duo), Stapleton’s Traveller (top album), Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” (single and song), Keith Urban’s “Raise ‘Em Up,” featuring Eric Church (musical event), Maddie & Tae’s “Girl in a Country Song” (music video) and Mac McAnally (top musician). … Dixie Chicks announce they will tour in 2016. … Willie Nelson wins Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress. … American Music Awards proclaim Luke Bryan and Carrie Underwood favorite country artists, Sam Hunt new artist of the year.

CMT honors Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, Kenny Rogers, Chris Stapleton and the cast of the Nashville TV series at its CMT Artists of the Year ceremonies. … Billboard calculates that Sam Hunt’s Montevallo is year’s bestselling country album.

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