Clint Black certainly knew the score at the 27th Annual Country Music Association Awards show last night. Mere minutes into the broadcast, Black teased co-host Vince Gill about hogging all the nominations.
"My buddy here got nominated for eight awards, and I only got nominated for one," pouted Black.
"Hey, you got in free, so don't complain," joked Gill in response.
Black did win his CMA trophy -- an award he shared with the nine other stars who joined George Jones for the Vocal Event of the Year, "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair." But that hardly kept Gill from dominating the show.
He was named Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. He won Album of the Year for "I Still Believe in You" and shared the Song of the Year Award with John Barlow Jarvis for the album's title tune. He was even one of the other singers who shared that Vocal Event award with Jones.
They may as well have renamed it "The Vince Gill Show."
Gill was more than modest despite his success. "I think Garth [Brooks] played to more people in one weekend than I did all year," he joked after winning the Entertainer of the Year award. But it was clearly his night, nonetheless.
Of course, there were other winners last night. Single of the Year and Video of the Year both went to Alan Jackson, whose "Chattahoochee" beat Gill's "I Still Believe in You" on both fronts.
"Well, it was a good single for me," deadpanned Jackson as he was handed the Single award. And when he came back later to accept the award for his video, which featured footage of Jackson waterskiing on the Chattahoochee River, one of the people he thanked was his father, "for teaching me to ski when I was 6 years old."
Clearly, a man who honors his debts.
There were even a few categories Gill wasn't competing in. Like Vocal Group of the Year, which Diamond Rio won. And Vocal Duo of the Year, which went to Brooks & Dunn. And the Musician of the Year, which fiddler Mark O'Connor walked off with. And the Horizon award, honoring up-and-coming talent, which was given to Mark Chestnutt.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter was named Female Vocalist of the Year, and seemed genuinely surprised by the honor. Granted, some of her surprise may have stemmed from how abruptly the award was announced. Apparently, presenter Billy Ray Cyrus got his signals crossed over whether he was supposed to name all the nominees. "This lady says I'm not supposed to read the nominees," said Cyrus, apparently referring to one of the directors. "But Wynonna's grandmother down here says, 'Read the nominees!' "
He didn't -- he just blurted Carpenter's name. But given the amount of cheering that ensued, it's doubtful anyone minded much.
Cyrus' mistake aside, the CMA show did much to dispel country music's hayseed image.
It wasn't simply that the show's visuals -- like the clever use of videos behind Clint Black when he sang "Tuckered Out" -- were as sophisticated as anything found on the Grammy show. There was also glamour aplenty, particularly among the women. Reba McEntire, for example, sang "Does He Love You" in a racy red dress that revealed more cleavage than any of the stars at the last MTV Video Music Awards.
And between his roaring guitars and scantily-clad dancers, Dwight Yoakam's "Fast As You" would have looked as much at home on a rock and roll show as up there at the Grand Ol' Opry.
But what would a country music show be without at least a few nods to tradition?
So it was probably appropriate that when George "No Show" Jones won the Vocal Event award, they couldn't find him. ("He's in the bathroom, I promise," said his wife, accepting for him.)
And in a fine show of solidarity, Willie Nelson -- who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame -- made sure to mention some of the greats who haven't been admitted yet. Among the stars he mentioned were songwriters and musicians like Harlan Howard, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Faron Young and Ferlin Husky. And there was no denying that each of them was as deserving as he.
"So if you think I'm going to accept this award when all these
guys are just as deserving -- you're damned right I am," Nelson said with a laugh.
Here are the winners in last night's 27th Annual Country Music Awards:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR:
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
, "Chattahoochee" Alan Jackson
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
3' "I Still Believe in You" Vince Gill
SONG OF THE YEAR
"I Still Believe in You" Vince Gill and John Barlow Jarvis, songwriters
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
% Mary-Chapin Carpenter
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR
Brooks & Dunn
VOCAL EVENT OF THE YEAR
George Jones with Vince Gill, Mark Chestnutt, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Alan Jackson, Pam Tillis, T. Graham Brown, Patti Loveless and Clint Black -- "I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair"
MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
& Mark O'Connor (fiddle)
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR
D8 "Chattahoochee" Alan Jackson; Martin Kahan, director