Americana Music Association Pulls the Plug on Americana Honors & Awards at Ryman Auditorium

John Prine
Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association

John Prine performs onstage during the 2018 Americana Music Honors and Awards at Ryman Auditorium on Sept. 12, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

This year’s nominations were announced in June. Even then, there was a note of uncertainty about whether the show at the Ryman would actually happen.

The 19th annual Americana Honors & Awards are the latest awards show to fall victim to COVID-19. The Americana Music Association, which sponsors the event, announced on Friday (Sept. 11) that this year’s show, planned for Sept. 16 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, has been canceled.

In a letter in which his disappointment was palpable, Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association, wrote:  “Despite all our hope, logistical wrangling and passion, we have concluded that it would not be safe to conduct the Americana Honors & Awards at the wonderful and historic Ryman Auditorium next Wednesday, September 16.

“We've carefully evaluated safety measures both with an audience and without. It is our conclusion that if just one person walked out of the Ryman with COVID-19, we would not be able to forgive ourselves. We are making new plans to celebrate the nominees and to proclaim the winners later this fall, and we hope to have details on that shortly.”

If the Americana Awards had gone ahead with their Sept. 16 show, it would have conflicted with the 55th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which are being held in Nashville for the first time.

This year’s nominations for the Americana Honors & Awards were announced on June 15. Even then, there was a note of uncertainty about whether the show at the Ryman would actually happen. A message from the Americana Music Association that day said “We are consistently monitoring the evolving situation regarding COVID-19 and will keep you posted as we approach the ceremony date.”

The late John Prine, who won artist of the year a record three times, is vying for a record-extending fourth award in that category. Prine died on April 7 at age 73.

Brandi Carlile, who won artist of the year last year, is also nominated in the category. She is vying to become just the third repeat winner in the category, following Prine and Buddy Miller.

The other three nominees are Brittany Howard, leader of Alabama Shakes, who released her solo debut album Jamie; Tanya Tucker, who won a Grammy for best country album for While I’m Livin’, and Yola, a Grammy nominee for best new artist.

Hilly noted that COVID-19 has thwarted the American Music Association’s fundraising efforts. “Currently, the team in Nashville is focused on our Thriving Roots: A Virtual Community Music Conference (Sept. 16-18) in hopes of bringing our tribe together online, and to help to offset the huge losses we have suffered due to the pandemic and the cancellation of AMERICANAFEST 2020. We have also initiated a fundraising campaign to support our newly created Foundation. You can read more about how to support our mission here.”

The Thriving Roots conference features 15 conversation sessions including Carlile and Yola; Jackson Browne and Mavis Staples; Emmylou Harris and documentarian Ken Burns; writer and director Judd Apatow and the Avett Brothers; and Tucker, Lee Ann Womack and Brandy Clark.

John Prine Dies at 73 From Complications of Coronavirus | Billboard News