The CMA Awards' Golden Anniversary: 50 Years, 50 Highlights

Justin Timberlake Chris Stapleton
Terry Wyatt/WireImage

Justin Timberlake performs with Chris Stapleton at the 49th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

George Strait, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift and even a former president are part of the trophy's history.

From Jack Greene’s triple play in the first year to Chris Stapleton’s career-making appearance at the 49th installment, the Country Music Association Awards have become a defining moment on the calendar every fall.

In recognition of the 50th annual CMA Awards to be held Nov. 2, here’s a year-by-year sweep of almost 50 highlights in 50 years:

• 1967 — Jack Greene is a triple winner behind single of the year “There Goes My Everything.”

• 1968 — Glen Campbell wins entertainer and male vocalist as NBC tapes the show for a November telecast.

• 1969 — Johnny Cash wins a record-setting five times at the Ryman Auditorium, the same venue where he shoots his ABC-TV series The Johnny Cash Show.

• 1970 — “Okie From Muskogee” propels Merle Haggard to four trophies, including entertainer and male vocalist.

• 1971 — The CMA takes pride in the genre’s first African-American singing star: Charley Pride cops entertainer and male vocalist.

• 1972 — Loretta Lynn becomes the first woman to win entertainer and shares the vocal duo award with Conway Twitty for the first of four straight years.

• 1973 — Chet Atkins, 49, becomes the second living person younger than 50 to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, following 1966 inductee Eddy Arnold.

• 1974 — Seven months after the Grand Ole Opry House opens, the venue hosts the awards for the first time. “Country Bumpkin” claims single for Cal Smith and song for songwriter Don Wayne.

• 1975 — With a segment of country’s artists inflamed about non-Nashville acts encroaching on the genre, presenter Charlie Rich lights fire to the envelope that reveals John Denver as entertainer of the year.

• 1976 — Vocal duo of the year Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson also share single (“Good Hearted Woman”) and album (Outlaws, which also featured Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser). The next summer, Nelson and Jennings unsuccessfully request to be removed from the ballot, believing a competition is antithetical to the spirit of artistic endeavor.

• 1977 — Fourteen months after recording Ronnie Milsap Live at the Opry House, Milsap returns to the same stage to take album of the year, plus entertainer and male vocalist.

• 1978 — Dolly Parton’s dress splits before she collects entertainer of the year.

• 1979 — Kenny Rogers hosts the show, giving him a short walk to collect his three trophies. They include album of the year, for The Gambler. The title track earns song of the year for composer Don Schlitz.

• 1980 — George Jones wins his first two trophies: male vocalist and single of the year for “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

• 1981 — Barbara Mandrell becomes the first act to repeat as entertainer of the year.

• 1982 — Alabama lays claim to three honors, including the first of three straight entertainer victories.

• 1983 — “Always on My Mind” becomes the last of three titles allowed to win song of the year twice. Its predecessors: “Easy Loving” (1971-1972) and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980-1981).

• 1984 — Anne Murray is the first woman to receive album of the year, for A Little Good News. The title track is also recognized as single of the year.

• 1985 — Four weeks after The New York Times pronounced country music “dead” in a front-page story, bluegrass-based Ricky Skaggs reigns as entertainer of the year.

• 1986 — Entertainer winner Reba McEntire takes female vocalist for the third of four straight years in the 20th annual ceremony.

• 1987 — Randy Travis accrues three of his five lifetime CMAs during this edition, thanks in no small part to “Forever and Ever, Amen,” the single of the year.

• 1988 — The Trio album christens the brand-new vocal event category, bringing Linda Ronstadt her only CMA Award, shared with Parton and Emmylou Harris.

• 1989 — Hank Williams died 14 years before the first awards were handed out, but he appeared twice on the winners list when technology allowed him to duet with son Hank Williams Jr. on “There’s a Tear in My Beer,” the vocal event and music video of the year.

• 1990 — The Kentucky HeadHunters set the stage for a new infusion of rock in the format as they claim vocal group and album of the year, for Pickin’ On Nashville.

• 1991 — George H.W. Bush becomes the first sitting president to attend the awards, watching as Garth Brooks makes four acceptance speeches, including the first of four as entertainer of the year.

• 1992 — Eight weeks before the birth of Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus snags his only CMA trophy: single of the year for the controversial “Achy Breaky Heart.”

• 1993 — While hosting for the second of 12 straight years, Vince Gill trots to the podium five different times, thanks in large part to song of the year “I Still Believe in You.”

• 1994 — It’s the year of the tribute album. Three of the five finalists pull together as many as 21 acts: Asleep at the Wheel’s Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Rhythm Country & Blues and the ultimate winner, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles.

• 1995 — Bluegrass rules again, as Alison Krauss wins four times.

• 1996 — Fifteen years after his first hit, George Strait takes three trophies, including the third of his five total male vocalist honors.

• 1997 — At 15, LeAnn Rimes becomes the youngest-ever winner as she claims the Horizon Award.

• 1998 — Steve Wariner becomes the first person to write, produce and perform the single of the year, “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” which also snags song of the year.

• 1999 — Shania Twain owns just one CMA trophy, but it’s a biggie: the last entertainer of the year trophy of the 20th century.

• 2000 — The three Dixie Chicks snag four honors, including entertainer and album of the year, the latter picked up on the Fly.

• 2001 — The rootsy O Brother, Where Are Thou? soundtrack collects album of the year while The Soggy Bottom Boys’ “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” is the first non-radio hit named single of the year.

• 2002 — A year after debuting “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” on the CMAs, Alan Jackson wins a record-tying five times.

• 2003 — Rascal Flatts begins a six-year run as vocal group of the year.

• 2004 — Kenny Chesney lands the first of four entertainer victories.

• 2005 — Lee Ann Womack wins three trophies as the awards relocate to New York for one year.

• 2006 — Hosts Brooks & Dunn lock down three trophies as the 40th installment marks a shift to the Bridgestone Arena.

• 2007 — Carrie Underwood nabs the female vocalist trophy and single of the year, for “Before He Cheats.”

• 2008 — Mac McAnally scores musician of the year, launching what becomes a record eight straight wins.

• 2009 — Taylor Swift, 19, becomes the CMA’s youngest entertainer of the year, winning four times during the night.

• 2010 — “The House That Built Me” spurs Miranda Lambert to three wins, including the first of six consecutive female victories.

• 2011 — The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” earns single and song of the year, while the trio walks off with new artist.

• 2012 — The Voice leads Blake Shelton to three wins, including entertainer and the third of five consecutive male vocalist honors.

• 2013 — Florida Georgia Line rides a “Cruise” to single and vocal duo of the year.

• 2014 — Song of the year “Follow Your Arrow” puts a progressive spin on the usually conservative country genre.

• 2015 — Chris Stapleton’s three trophies and his performance with Justin Timberlake lift him to national prominence.

• 2016 — TBD