Early Academy of Country Music Awards Winners Announced
Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award
Emmylou Harris, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs and Dwight Yoakam have been chosen to receive the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award honoring individuals who are pioneers in the country music genre.
Emmylou Harris brought a graceful delivery, beautiful harmonies and a wealth of exceptional material to her career in country music. Harris was discovered at a nightclub in Washington D.C., then provided her signature vocals to Gram Parsons' seminal recordings. On her own, she arrived on the country charts in 1975. Over the next decade, she racked up 21 Top 10 singles, including five No. 1 hits. The Trio album with talented friends Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt earned the 1987 ACM Award for Album of the Year. Harris was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Billy Sherrill produced many of country's most famous names and wrote numerous classics throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The Alabama native joined Epic Records in 1964, where his credits as both a producer and songwriter included David Houston's "Almost Persuaded," Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl" and Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man." He also served as a producer on George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (which earned Sherrill an ACM Award for Producer of the Year), as well as Johnny Paycheck's "She's All I Got" and Tanya Tucker's "Delta Dawn." He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs energized country music in the 1980s by taking his traditional sound in a lively new direction. Over that decade, the Kentucky native charted 19 Top 10 singles, including 11 No. 1 hits. Rather than writing his material, he gathered first-rate songs by the likes of Guy Clark, Bill Monroe, Webb Pierce, Mel Tillis and Cindy Walker. He was named the ACM's 1981 Top New Male Vocalist and received five ACM Awards for Touring Band of the Year. Since that time, Skaggs has focused on bluegrass music and now leads one of the most respected ensembles in the genre.
Dwight Yoakam captured the imagination of traditionalists and new listeners alike by giving hillbilly music a modern twist. Born in Kentucky but based in Los Angeles, Yoakam debuted with a twangy cover of Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man," which led him to the ACM's 1986 Top New Male Vocalist trophy. In all, Yoakam landed 14 Top 10 hits – some he wrote ("I Sang Dixie") and others he revived (Elvis Presley's "Little Sister"). Along with acclaimed albums and music videos, Yoakam proudly partnered with Buck Owens on the endearing 1988 duet, "Streets of Bakersfield." He remains active in music and film.
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award include Alabama, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, Sr., Hank Williams Jr. and Bob Wills, among others.
Crystal Milestone Award
Kenny Chesney, four-time ACM Entertainer of the Year, has sold more than 10,500,000 tickets on his 11 national tours, selling out stadiums across the country. His successful shows have promoted the entire genre to delighted fans while helping other country acts and cross-over artists gain exposure nationwide. The Academy is honoring Kenny for this remarkable achievement.
Past recipients of the Crystal Milestone Award include Garth Brooks and Jennifer Nettles.
Career Achievement Award
Vince Gill has been chosen to receive the Career Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual artist, duo, group or multiple artist collaboration who have advanced the popularity and acceptance of country music through their endeavors in the entertainment industry in multiple areas during the preceding calendar year.
Vince Gill returned to the country scene in 2011 with an appealing new album, Guitar Slinger, and the enthusiastic response proved that he had been missed. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean proclaimed an official Vince Gill Week in conjunction with the album's release. Gill also served as Grand Marshal of Nashville's Christmas parade. In addition, Gill and wife Amy Grant graced the cover of Good Housekeeping, while Sting shared the stage with him on an acclaimed CMT Crossroads. Meanwhile, the Country Music Hall of Fame member appeared on multiple talk shows and earned a Grammy nod for "Threaten Me With Heaven."
Past recipients of the Career Achievement Award include John Anderson, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins, Reba and Kenny Rogers.
Jim Reeves International Award
Alan Jackson has been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Alan Jackson's down-home music and laidback personality has translated well internationally. He played for eager audiences in Sweden and Norway in August 2011, brought back by popular demand following his 2009 shows. Jackson's album, Good Time, has also earned platinum sales in Norway. Jackson also toured Australia for the first time in March 2011. He'll play four arena shows in Canada in April 2012, as well as a summer concert at the Craven Country Jamboree in Saskatchewan. Jackson won his first ACM Award as 1990's Top New Male Vocalist, an honor that coincided with career-building tour dates in the UK and Germany.
Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Garth Brooks, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Merv Griffin, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, among others.
Mae Boren Axton Award
Gayle Holcomb has been chosen as the recipient of the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given in recognition of years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual to the Academy of Country Music.
Gayle Holcomb, a country music industry leader at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, has served as an Academy of Country Music board member for 17 years and five years as ACM chairman. During her tenure as chair, Holcomb was a driving force for the organization's rapid change and growth, including moving the Awards show from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 2003. Holcomb helped launch ACM Lifting Lives in 2005, guiding the vision for the charity as it got underway initially, and continuing her support of the organization by becoming chairman. She made the initial endowment to form the ACM Lifting Lives' Diane Holcomb Emergency Relief Fund, in honor of her mother, to enable the Fund to respond quickly to unforeseen, immediate financial needs of ACM members, staff and members of the country music community.
Past recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Award include John Dorris, Rod Essig, Jack Lameier, Marge Meoli, Ray Pilzak, Gaynelle Pitts, Gene Weed and David Young.
Bobby Braddock and Roger Miller have been selected to receive the Poet's Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Bobby Braddock is a master storyteller with more than 40 years of songwriting success. A Florida native, Braddock moved to Nashville in 1964 and worked for a time as Marty Robbins' piano player. His classic cuts include Tammy Wynette's divine "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and George Jones' iconic (and ACM Award-winning) "He Stopped Loving Her Today," as well as the famous couple's enduring duet, "Golden Ring." Braddock also earned ACM nominations as a songwriter for Tracy Lawrence's "Time Marches On," Toby Keith's "I Wanna Talk About Me" and Billy Currington's "People Are Crazy." He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011.
Roger Miller charmed listeners with characteristic wit on classics like "King of the Road" and "Dang Me." Miller, an Oklahoma native, grabbed early songwriting success with Ray Price's "Invitation to the Blues." In 1985, he earned acclaim for writing the score of the musical Big River. To honor his brilliant career, he received the 1987 ACM Pioneer Award. Miller died in 1992 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. Contemporary stars like Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson have kept his legacy alive with terrific renditions of "Husbands and Wives" and "Tall, Tall Trees," respectively.
Previous recipients of the Poet's Award include Bill Anderson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, Harlan Howard, Fred Rose, Don Schlitz and Cindy Walker.
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR
DON ROMEO TALENT BUYER OF THE YEAR – Jimmy Jay – Jayson Promotions, Inc.
NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR – Billy Bob's Texas – Ft. Worth, TX
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR – Brian O'Connell – Live Nation
VENUE OF THE YEAR – Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
MBI (MUSICIANS, BAND, INSTRUMENTAL) AWARDS:
AUDIO ENGINEER OF THE YEAR – Justin Niebank
BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Michael Rhodes
PERCUSSIONIST/DRUMMER OF THE YEAR – Shannon Forrest
GUITARIST OF THE YEAR – Kenny Greenberg
FIDDLE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Stuart Duncan
PIANO/KEYBOARD PLAYER OF THE YEAR – John Hobbs
SPECIALTY INSTRUMENT(S) PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Aubrey Haynie
STEEL GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Paul Franklin