The 52nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards are slated for this coming Sunday night (April 14) on CBS. In the five-decades-plus that the ACMs have been a part of our lives, there have been some incredible moments, collaborations, and song debuts on the yearly telecast. Here are a dozen of the biggest and best moments from the show’s glorious history – including a 2007 debut that will never be forgotten.
12. Garth Brooks Influences Medley (1994) – Though Brooks has caused much water-cooler talk with performances of his own classics, he chose to salute those who influenced him in 1994, with tips of the hat to acts such as George Jones, Glen Campbell, and George Strait – each of whom had tallied plenty of ACM metal in the past. He also saluted Johnny Horton, who passed away in 1960, leaving his mark five years before the first ACM Awards were presented.
11. Carrie Underwood & Steven Tyler (2011) – Nobody will ever confuse Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” as a country music hit, but come on… the combination of Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood has to be mentioned, if for no other factor than just the overall cool quality of the night.
10. Dwight Yoakam Salutes His Mentor (2006) – Not quite two months after Buck Owens died, the the decision was made to tip the hat to the Baron of Bakersfield with his protégé, Dwight Yoakam, leading an all-star band that included Brad Paisley, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Hollywood actor Vince Vaughn, The Byrds’ Chris Hillman, Travis Barker, longtime Buckaroos steel wiz Tom Brumley, and Owens’ son, Buddy Alan, to salute the fallen legend.
9. Toby Keith’s Fire and Fury (2002) – In 2002, America was still reeling from the shock of the events of 9/11. While Alan Jackson delivered a masterpiece with “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning),” once the initial sadness of the moment disappeared, the country was left feeling angry. In “Courtesy Of The Red, White, and Blue,” a song that summed up his feelings about the situation – and also paid tribute to his father, who recently passed, Toby Keith delivered a warning heard ’round the world.
8. John Fogerty Attracts A Crowd (2010) – When the revered CCR frontman was invited to perform on the 2010 telecast, John Fogerty shared the moment with a few friends – Underwood, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, and Miranda Lambert, who each seemed to enjoy the moment of “Travelin’ Band.”
7. George and Alan Make A Statement (2000) – The debate over the definition of country music has been discussed for years among fans and artists. In the spring of 2000, George Strait and Alan Jackson – two of the stalwarts of the traditional side of the fence – seemingly made their feelings known with “Murder On Music Row,” a song that made it to No. 38 on the charts – in spite of not being worked as a single.
6. Lady Antebellum Has Arrived (2010) – It might not have been their biggest hit single or the most relevant one in their catalog, but you could tell that Lady Antebellum was enjoying the moment for all it was worth on the 2010 broadcast. They had just released the crossover anthem “Need You Now,” and the confidence was showing as they debuted their follow-up, “American Honey.” It was a moment that they had waited on — and they were going to enjoy each and every second of it.
5. Ray and George (1984) – In an interview with longtime radio personality Ralph Emery, Ray Charles told the broadcaster that his favorite singer and song of all time was George Jones’ “A Girl I Used To Know.” When Charles recorded an album with many of country’s biggest artists in 1983, Jones was on his list. The two performed a track from Charles’ album Friendship – “We Didn’t See A Thing” – and the result was two of the greats simply doing what they did best.
4. Welcome Back, Alabama (2010) – Without a doubt, Alabama gave ACM viewers many moments to remember during the 1980s and 1990s, but their retirement in 2003 left a void in the business. Brad Paisley, for one, felt that absence, and penned “Old Alabama,” a tribute to the band that became one of the most anticipated moments of the 2010 show – resulting in the band putting on their touring shoes one more time.
3. George Debuts A Hit (1990) – On paper, there wasn’t anything too notable about George Strait performing on the 1990 ACM telecast. But, the Texan had a way of making unforgettable moments each spring on the show. A case in point was his debut of “Love Without End, Amen,” a tender ballad about a father’s love. The exposure that the show gave to the first single from his Livin’ It Up album helped the song top the Hot Country Songs chart for five weeks – his first song to achieve such a feat.
2. It’s Faith and Tim In ‘Love’ (1997) – The recent marriage of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw delighted country music fans and enchanted everyone. That attention only heightened when it was announced that Hill was expecting the couple’s first child. The snapshot in time – combined with the romantic lyrics of “It’s Your Love,” their first single together – stands as a moment that one will never forget.
1. “Hi, I’m Taylor” (2007) – Big Machine, one of the newest labels in town, had garnered a prime slot on the ACM show in 2007 for their new artist, Taylor Swift. Performing her debut single on the show, she astutely saw that the namesake of the release, Tim McGraw, was sitting nearby. The singer walked to McGraw, reached out her hand — and the result was an 11-year love affair between America and an artist who has become a part of the national consciousness.