The 58th annual Academy of Country Music Awards launched with a G.O.A.T. — both literally and figuratively.
Six-time ACM entertainer of the year winner Garth Brooks kicked off the 2023 ACM Awards by paying homage to legendary country music artists, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Charley Pride and Texas’ own “King George,” George Strait.
“These musical gods create the foundation for the next generation to stand on forever, building the legacy we so proudly call country music,” he said, welcoming the crowd to Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
“When you break it down, what makes up the G.O.A.T. [greatest of all time] — picking, singing, musicianship,” he said, noting that “adding the last category — time, length of career — I’m not so sure that last one doesn’t make the king of country music a female.”
At that, his co-host for the evening, Dolly Parton, took the stage … wheeling behind her a pink wagon holding a goat.
“A goat? This is Claire. Everybody, say hi to Claire,” Parton said. “Are you excited for the big show tonight, Claire? I think somebody needs to come take her baaack,” she added with a laugh. “I’m sorry, that was such a bad joke.”
She noted that this year marks Brooks’ first time hosting an awards show.
“You know what they say: You never forget your first time,” Parton said. “I’ll never forget when Garth came on the scene and just changed the game of country music forever. Like, in a flash, Garth became one of the biggest stars of all time. I remember when I came along, people were saying that I’m two of the biggest stars in music — I’m still milking it,” Parton joked.
The innuendos kept coming. “I saw you online telling all those nice people that I’m your hall pass,” she said, to the laughter of the audience. “I know why you are doing that GOAT thing,” she added in a nod to the co-hosts’ mutual love for Brooks’ wife and fellow country artist Trisha Yearwood. “And I heard that I’m Trisha’s hall pass as well …. I don’t know why you’re doing that GOAT thing. I think that stands for ‘Garth Organizes a Threesome.’
“I thought I couldn’t love you any more,” Brooks shot back.
“She said I could hug on you and rub on you a little, which is easy to do, because you are so sweet,” Parton added.
This year’s ACM Awards are streaming live on Amazon’s Prime Video.
The ACM Awards is produced by Dick Clark Productions. DCP is owned by Penske Media Eldridge, a Penske Media Corporation (PMC) subsidiary and joint venture between PMC and Eldridge. PMC is the parent company of Billboard.