If there was an award for the most heartfelt presentation of an award, Lauren Alaina would be a sure thing.
On Wednesday night (Aug. 21) at the Ryman Auditorium, the 2019 ACM Honors ceremony was going on to honor some of country music’s most influential artists. And in one case, the newer artists they’d influenced.
Martina McBride was there to accept her ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award, which is reserved for the artists who advanced the popularity of the genre through their varied contributions. But before she could say a word, Alaina took the stage of the Mother Church of country music to tell the crowd her story of how McBride unknowingly taught her to sing.
“McBride was one of those women who fired up girls like me with unvarnished songs that told the truth. You are my hero,” Alaina told the crowd and McBride. “She literally taught me how to sing. I would sit in my bedroom and play your CD over and over again and try to hit the high notes. I couldn’t do it for a really long time. But I’ll never forget the first time I hit the big note in ’A Broken Wing,’ my parents ran upstairs, and it was the most joyous day of my life.
“And then I got to meet you. If I could ever be a hero for a little girl like Martina was for me, that would be the biggest accomplishment of my life.”
When Alaina eventually passed the microphone to McBride, she had a list ready. An actual list, of all the people who have had her back throughout her legendary career.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do — ever — was to sing and to carry the flag for country music,” McBride said. She thanked her husband, her record label, her songwriters and producers, her road family and country radio. That was especially important to McBride, because she remarked that some of her serious issues songs might not have ever made it on the air. “I look back, and I don’t know if songs like ’Concrete Angel,’ ’A Broken Wing,’ ’Independence Day’ or ’Love’s the Only House’ would get played today. Honestly.”
McBride went on to thank fans, voters, glam squads — even all the journalists — because it’s those behind-the-scenes people that support an artist’s career in music. And the pioneers who came before her, especially the women. “Women paved the way and kicked down the doors, and they did it with such integrity and authenticity. And that’s really all I ever wanted to do: leave behind a body of work of songs that matter to somebody.”
“I’m so honored. I’m so humbled. I’m so grateful. I’m so happy. And I’m so, so blessed.”
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Icon Award have included Alabama, Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, George Jones, The Judds, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs, The Statler Brothers, George Strait, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Keith Whitley, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Wills, Dwight Yoakam and more.