ACM Honors Pays Tribute To Singers, Songwriters & Country Legends
On top of that impressive list came significant behind-the-scenes artists, family members of legendary singers, and influential industry veterans, many of whom were receiving industry and other special awards from the Academy of Country Music that were not presented during the televised portion of the ACMs in April (see a full list of ACM Honors winners below). These included Tommy Wiggins, cofounder of the ACM, which launched in L.A. in 1964 and was first called Country & Western Music Academy; songwriter Dallas Davidson; Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams; and Lorrie Morgan, Jesse Keith Whitley and Morgan Whitley, who were there to honor the late country artist Keith Whitley.
Bentley kicked off the show with a rowdy performance of his current single "I Hold On." He didn't mask the fact that he was more comfortable singing behind a microphone than speaking, but his awkwardness as emcee only added to his charm.
ACM cofounder Wiggins was honored with the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given to an Academy member to recognize their outstanding service. Yodeling queen Janet McBride, Opry member Jeannie Seely, and reigning ACM CEO Bob Romeo were on hand, as were Gill and steel guitar master Paul Franklin, who honored Wiggins with a jaw-dropping version of Buck Owens' 1964 hit "Together Again" (which also appears on Gill and Franklin's new album Bakersfield).
Two of the three members of Lady Antebellum, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, accepted the trio's Jim Reeves International Award, honoring an artist who has helped spread country music across the globe (the band's third member, Hillary Scott, was still on maternity leave, after giving birth to daughter Eisele Kaye in July). Bentley, admittedly going off the prompter for a moment, joked, "With that touring schedule, I'm not sure how Hillary found the time to get pregnant, but she did!"
"Touring internationally, you guys have no idea how many rednecks there are in Norway," Haywood deadpanned. "What we're trying to do as a band is make music that people love, and we're just trying to continue the tradition which so many country artists in this room have set before, which is take this great genre around this world. So we're honored to be recognized for that, and we want to keep that legacy alive."
Dallas Davidson won Songwriter of the Year for the second year in a row. Kelley and Haywood returned to stage to honor the tunesmith with three of his own songs: their own "We Owned the Night," Luke Bryan's "I Don't Want This Night to End" and Jake Owen's "She Was The One That Got Away." A lot more.
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