See Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban and More Stars Experience Their First CMA Awards

CMT Hot 20 Countdown Takes Us Back to Their Beginnings

Tonight is the night: the 52nd Annual CMA Awards are here and what better way to celebrate than to head back in time see where it all began from some of our favorites and nominees this year.

CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown put together this incredible blast from the past to remember the night the stars first stepped foot on that iconic red carpet, a moment that forever changed their lives and careers.
Four-time Entertainer of the Year winner Kenny Chesney scored his first-ever CMA nomination in 1999. Ironically enough, it may have also been Justin Timberlake’s first CMA Awards with his superstar group *NSYNC, who also walked the carpet that night alongside Chesney.

“I’ve been trying to get my hair to look like *NSYNC’s,” Chesney says in the clip. “I may dye it green before the night’s over before I do ’How Forever Feels’ or something. I may do that tonight and kinda go with *NSYNC.”

He didn’t but we would have loved him if he had, maybe even more than we already do. And how gorgeous did CMT’s Katie Cook look with that Faith Hill-inspired pixie? Katie, you get more beautiful every year!

2001 introduced many viewers at home to Keith Urban, whose fashion game was just as strong 17 years ago as it is now. That year he won his very first CMA Horizon Award, which is now Best New Artist.

2005 was a monumental year: not only did the CMAs head to New York City but also welcomed Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Sugarland and Jason Aldean to the ceremonies.

“I heard the best quote of the day, bringing butter beans to Broadway and I think that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day,” Aldean said that night.

Scott Gries/Getty Images

In 2006, Carrie Underwood snagged her first nominations and two wins for New Artist and Female Vocalist of the Year, but the night also symbolizes Taylor Swift’s CMA red carpet debut.

Scott Gries/Getty Images

Look at the gorgeous curly hair. We remember this Taylor so well!

2007 saw the emergence of Lady Antebellum now a staple of the big night, while 2012 marked the beginning of the reign of Florida Georgia Line.

Oh, how the years go by. We can’t wait to see this crew back in action again tonight when the 52nd Annual CMA Awards air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT on ABC.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.