Country stars turn out to get special awards
The Academy of Country Music held its annual ACM Honors show Monday night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, honoring special award recipients and non-televised category winners from this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards, held in April in Las Vegas.
The roster of winners ranged from country superstars Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks to revered veterans Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers and Tom T. Hall. All but Brooks were in attendance Monday night, saluted by presenters including Ronnie Dunn and Laura Bell Bundy with performances from Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Montgomery Gentry and others.
Dunn presented McEntire with the ACM’s Career Achievement Award, recognizing a three-decade run as one of the best-selling country artists in history. “Thank you very much for putting up with me all these many, many years,” Reba told an audience of friends, family and fans. “I have had a blast doing this.”
Swift, a big winner at the televised ACM Awards in April, was recognized for her global appeal with the Jim Reeves International Award. She is touring North America between extensive jaunts in Asia, Europe and Australia.
“I have heard my name pronounced in so many ways that I didn’t even know were possible,” Swift said after thanking the Academy. “That’s been part of the reason why the last couple of years have been so magical. You go to these places where they don’t speak English, but somehow, they know every single lyric.”
Brooks, Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers received the Academy’s Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award, honoring trailblazers in the genre. Presenting the award were Gatlin friends and former Pioneer Award winners The Oak Ridge Boys.
“The man who loves his job is always on vacation,” Larry Gatlin said. “So when somebody said, ‘We’re going to pay you to sing,’ I said, ‘I can do that!’”
In a video message, Brooks explained that it was wife Trisha Yearwood’s birthday, “and the queen takes precedent, of course. But I wanted to send my love and my gratitude. Thanks to the academy, not only for tonight, but for my whole career.”
Brooks mentioned some of the previous winners of the Cliffie Stone Award, including Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton.
“I think the question that’s on everybody’s mind … with a list like that — Larry Gatlin?’” Brooks said before bursting into laughter and explaining that Gatlin “offered me a stage when no one else would.”
Writers and players
Celebrated songwriter/performer Tom T. Hall (“Harper Valley PTA,” “I Love”) and the late Hank Cochran (“I Fall to Pieces,” “Make the World Go Away,”) were this year’s recipients of the Poet’s Award, honoring their accomplishments in country music songwriting.
“You do not wind up standing in a spot like this if you try to do it alone,” Hall said as he thanked everyone from his wife and writing partner, Dixie, to his doctor. “There are so many people involved.”
Other special award winners included artist manager, ACM treasurer and industry vet John Dorris, who received the Mae Boren Axton Award; and the Nashville-made country music drama Country Strong, which took the Tex Ritter Film Award.
Nine of the industry’s top session musicians, engineers and producers were recognized in the Musician/Bandleader/Instrumentalist category. Winners included producer Paul Worley, steel guitarist Dan Dugmore, guitarists Tom Bukovac and Bryan Sutton, bassist Glenn Worf, keyboardist Gordon Mote, drummer Eddie Bayers, fiddle player Aubrey Haynie and audio engineer Chuck Ainlay.
In addition to hosting the festivities, Ryman Auditorium was named Venue of the Year, while Ryman general manager Sally Williams received the Promoter of the Year Award. Other winners in the Industry Awards categories included Steve Bogdanovich of Romeo Entertainment Group (Don Romeo Talent Buyer of the Year), Chicago venue Joe’s Bar (Nightclub of the Year) and the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut (Casino of the Year).
ACM Honors recipients
Garth Brooks — Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award
Hank Cochran (posthumous) — Poet’s Award
John Dorris — Mae Boren Axton Award
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers — Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award
Tom T. Hall — Poet’s Award
Reba McEntire — Career Achievement Award
Taylor Swift — Jim Reeves International Award
Country Strong — Tex Ritter Film Award