The 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards might be old news, but it’s still worth discussing. I’m not a huge fan of country, but CMA is what an awards show should be.
Usually, hype overshadows such a show. It’s mainly about who’s hot in the genre and getting them to perform live. Most of the time it’s not really a country music show for awards, but more so like a glorified concert or cowboy hat convention.
In recent years, I’ve tuned out long before the show was over, because I was bored. This time, CMA did it right — I was thoroughly entertained. Maybe it’s because it paid homage to many of the stars who brought country music to the masses. “Milestone Award” recipients included such legends as George Strait, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift.
Remember how the academy was so gung-ho to throw Lambert under the bus for going “pop”? It turns out, they knew it was a bad idea to diss one of the world’s most popular singers. Besides, look at all the attention she brought to the genre. It would have been foolish to not recognize her for all she has accomplished.
Swift’s mother, Andrea, presented the honor to her daughter just days after Swift had gone public with the news of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. It was a touching moment for a woman who watched her daughter go from a little girl writing songs in her bedroom to a woman with global approval.
Performances were numerous, including the return of Brooks. Reba showed how she can still command a stage and Strait can still wow the crowd, some 50 hits later.
But none of the male artists truly stood out. In fact, they all sounded the same. This is a problem. The night’s best performance, for me, goes to Lambert for her rowdy little number, “Little Red Wagon.” It’s no wonder she has swept the ACM’s female category five times. It’s because she’s different! She’s leading the pack for females in the industry because she’s setting the bar herself.
In all honesty, the night’s best moment came as a total shock to me and pretty much everyone else at the Arlington, Texas, arena or watching from home. It came as singer Lee Brice performed a little of Randy Travis’ “Forever And Ever, Amen.” Brice then spoke of Travis’ success having won Song of the Year honors three times before sharing that Randy was in the audience. Tears came to my eyes as it’s been nearly two years since I had seen Travis, who stood up and waved to fans.
In July 2013, the singer suffered a massive stroke. Travis is a favorite of my mom’s. Just a few days later, she was airlifted to a hospital with serious health issues of her own. I was asked to bring some pictures to the hospital to aid with her recovery. I grabbed some family photos and some others that would jog her memory. One of those was of her with Randy Travis. She became a hit at the hospital, needless to say, as the photo made its rounds.
What was even cooler was hearing her talk of the time they met. It was right before one of his shows that she was accompanying me. I had press passes, but he was running late. Time was of the essence that day, as she bolted down the steps to a room where he was, to say, “I’m with the press.” Travis walked over to her and the only thing my mom could say was, “Who the hell is George Strait when you’ve got Randy Travis standing right in front of you!”
Travis cracked up and took the time to meet with us telling the stage managers they were going to have to wait. I’ll never forget how genuine he was to us.
Both Travis and my mom have become very inspirational to many. It was so nice to see him back in the house that he helped build.
David T. Farr is a Sturgis Journal correspondent. Email him at email@example.com.