CMA Awards: A Powerful Opening

Medley Takes Fans Back Through the Years

Just 11 minutes into the 50th annual CMA Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 2), and portions of a dozen songs had already been sung.

In a medley that started with Vince Gill performing a Merle Haggard classic and ended with Randy Travis singing the last “amen” in his “Forever and Ever, Amen,” the artists in the crowd served as everyone’s background vocalists as they sang along to the familiar tunes from the past decades of country music.

Gill had Merle Haggard’s youngest song Ben as a sideman while he sang Haggard’s hit from 1968, “Mama Tried.”

Then Brad Paisley took over, with Buck Owens’ “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail.” Backing him on the banjo was the legendary Roy Clark, the late Owens’ longtime co-host of TV’s Hee Haw.

Next up was Carrie Underwood singing just enough of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” to get the crowd in the classic country mood.

So by the time Charley Pride got his “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” started, with Paisley backing him on guitar and vocals, everyone was ready.

Next up was Alabama, singing their own hit “Mountain Music.” And everyone in Little Big Town, plus an enthusiastic Keith Urban, was singing along. The tune from the early ’80s is one everyone knows by heart, because from 1981-1983, Alabama was the CMA vocal group of the year.

Charlie Daniels rosined up his bow after that, to play his “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Paisley didn’t take his eyes off Daniels’ fiddle for a second.

When Reba McEntire joined in with her hit version of “Fancy,” Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert were both seen singing along from their spots in the audience.

Dwight Yoakam was next with his “Guitars, Cadillacs,” and Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks knew every word.

As the group of singers on stage grew bigger and bigger, Clint Black came out for his “Killin’ Time,” with Underwood and Reba standing behind him like true background vocalists.

Ricky Skaggs joined everyone there for his “Country Boy,” and Charles Kelley was beating his chest to the music. And right when Alan Jackson started singing “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” so did Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard from his seat.

To end the medley by paying tribute to the ailing Travis, Paisley and Underwood stood beside him to sing the 1987 CMA song of the year, “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.