The Academy of Country Music Special Awards are voted on by the ACM Board of Directors and are awarded during years where the board feels there are clear and deserving candidates. Industry Awards, Special Awards and Studio Recording Awards are presented to recipients at ACM Honors, a special event held annually in the fall at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
2018 Special Award Winners
ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award:
Alan Jackson has kept it country for his entire career. He earned his first Top 10 hit with the poignant single "Here in the Real World," which helped him win the 1990 ACM Top Male Vocalist trophy. That initial victory led to Single of the Year awards for "Don't Rock the Jukebox" (1991), "Chattahoochee" (1993), "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" (2001) and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (2003). The albums Don't Rock the Jukebox, A Lot About Livin' (And a Little ?€?Bout Love) and Drive also earned ACM trophies. A native of Newnan, Georgia, Jackson joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1991. He accepted the ACM Male Vocalist award for 1994, 1995 and 2001. His enduring No. 1 hits include "Where I Come From," "Remember When" and "Gone Country." Additional ACM honors include Vocal Event trophies for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere with Jimmy Buffett and "As She's Walking Away" with Zac Brown Band (2010). The Academy presented him the 2011 ACM Jim Reeves International Award. Alan Jackson has sold more than 47 million albums. One of country music's finest songwriters, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award:
Darius Rucker From his days as a multi-platinum pop star to a decade as a hit-making, Grammy-winning country artist, Darius Rucker has given his time and talent to support many charitable causes, most especially those that benefit children and education. To date, he has raised more than $1 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through the "Darius & Friends" all-star concerts and tournaments ?€“ blending his two loves of music and golf. In his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, Rucker serves on the board of the Charleston Children's Hospital and, for 15 years running, has staged the "Homegrown Concert" to raise money to buy school supplies and other necessities for local public-school children. Long a big supporter of ACM Lifting Lives, Rucker has given his time to ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp, the Lifting Lives Golf Classic and a recent Lifting Lives Omaze campaign -- where he personally hosted the winners backstage at the 53rd ACM Awards. In addition, the affable star has used his talent to raise money and awareness for Pattinson's Academy, PGA Tour Charities, Nashville's Oasis Center, Musicians on Call, Military Warrior Support Foundation and the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation, just to name a few.
ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award:
Sam Hunt Sam Hunt's single "Body Like a Back Road" was a streaming juggernaut in 2017, breaking and re-setting the genre's one-week streaming record 14 times during the year. The song set the one-year country streaming mark only six weeks after release (March 16) and was the fastest country song to earn 100m streams in history (12 weeks). Its streaming success is in addition to being the year's most downloaded country song (iTunes) and the most-heard song on country radio (Country Aircheck/Mediabase and Billboard), while spending a record 34 weeks atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
ACM Mae Boren Axton Service Award (awarded posthumously):
Mickey Christensen, Chris Christensen and Eddie Miller Nightclub owners Mickey and Chris Christensen and performing songwriter Eddie Miller, along with Country & Western performer Tommy Wiggins, co-founded the organization that became known as the Academy of Country Music. In 1964 they created the Country and Western Music Academy to promote West Coast country artists. Chris Christensen and his wife Mickey moved from Iowa to Long Beach, California, in 1941. In time, Chris acquired a stake in a jukebox company while Mickey owned and operated venues like Pike's Canteen, C&M Corral and the Red Barrel Niteclub. Two of the first musicians they hired were Buck and Bonnie Owens. West Coast entertainers started dropping by the Red Barrel, including Eddie Miller and Tommy Wiggins. A conversation led to an idea to emulate the Oscars and create an awards show. The earliest banquets took place at the Red Barrel before the first official ceremony was held at The Hollywood Palladium on February 28, 1966. An Oklahoma native and former railroad worker, Miller wrote country hits like "Release Me," (Ray Price, Kitty Wells), "I Love You Honey" (Patsy Cline), "There She Goes" (Carl Smith) and "Thanks a Lot" (Ernest Tubb). He was a co-founder of the Nashville Songwriters Association, which developed into NSAI. [Surviving founder Tommy Wiggins received this award at the 2013 ACM Honors.]
ACM Jim Reeves International Award:
Rob Potts cultivated a country music connection between Australia and the United States, paving the way for American superstars to perform Down Under for thousands of new fans. Potts and his business partner Michael Chugg established the brand of CMC Rocks leading to festivals like CMC Rocks the Snowy, CMC Rocks the Hunter and CMC Rocks QLD. The latter became the first-ever sold-out country music festival in Australia, with 18,000 tickets sold for its 2018 lineup featuring Luke Bryan. Potts had worked as a booking agent for artists like Keith Urban, Tommy Emmanuel and Lee Kernaghan. He brought country talent like Jason Aldean, Brooks & Dunn, Dixie Chicks, Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band to the Australian market. In addition, Potts managed Warner Music Nashville artist Morgan Evans. In 2016, Potts launched FanGate Music, a joint label with Sony Music Entertainment Australia, in order to seek out and develop international country artists while still paying attention to emerging local talent. A partnership with Nashville-based Dreamlined Entertainment was announced in October 2017, less than two weeks before Potts died following a motorcycle accident in Australia. He was 65.
ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award:
Dierks Bentley Across eight albums and more than 20 Top 10 singles, Dierks Bentley has proven to be a songwriter, vocalist, musician and recording artist intent on carving his own path. Balancing a hit-making sensibility with an unyielding sense of self, he's offered wide-ranging artistry since his 2003 debut. From smoldering ("Come A Little Closer," "Black") and thoughtful ("Home," "Different For Girls," "Woman, Amen") to wandering ("Free And Easy," "Every Mile A Memory") and pure fun ("Sideways," "5-1-5-0"), Bentley has never been afraid to let the music lead. This trait was most evident on his 2010 bluegrass album Up On The Ridge, a risky career move that paid dividends in re-centering his creativity and, ultimately, leading to even greater success. The Academy's 2003 Top New Artist earned Video of the Year in 2014 ("Drunk On A Plane") and hosted the ACM Awards show in 2016 and 2017. An Arizona native, Bentley broke with Nashville convention, heading west to write and record his upcoming album The Mountain in Colorado.
ACM Poet's Award:
Matraca Berg has written major country hits across four consecutive decades while maintaining the reputation as one of Nashville's most eloquent songwriters. A Nashville native, Berg and co-writer Bobby Braddock scored a No. 1 hit in 1983 with "Faking Love" by T.G. Sheppard and Karen Brooks. Berg was just 18 at the time. Four years later, Reba McEntire recorded "The Last One to Know" as the title track to her 1987 album; again, Berg notched a No. 1 single. Throughout the 1990s, Berg secured plentiful cuts from country music's top female artists. Trisha Yearwood solidified her stardom with "Wrong Side of Memphis," "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," and "Everybody Knows," while Patty Loveless boosted her career with "I'm That Kind of Girl" and "You Can Feel Bad." Berg secured an ACM Song of the Year nomination for Deana Carter's exquisite "Strawberry Wine." Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter released their rendition of "You and Tequila" in 2011, leading to another ACM Song of the Year nod. She has written singles for Suzy Bogguss, Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Linda Ronstadt, Gretchen Wilson and more. Berg was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008.
Norro Wilson worked in nearly every facet of the Nashville music industry, earning perhaps his greatest acclaim by composing classics for George Jones, Charlie Rich and Tammy Wynette. Wilson grew up in Kentucky and moved to Nashville as a teenager after joining a gospel group. He spent much of the next decade pursuing a performing career until a song he co-wrote, "Baby, Baby (I Know You're a Lady)," hit No. 1 for David Houston in 1970. Wilson's songwriting catalog grew to include Jones signatures like "A Picture of Me (Without You)," "The Grand Tour" and "The Door." Wilson co-wrote three of Rich's No. 1 hits: "The Most Beautiful Girl," "A Very Special Love Song," and "I Love My Friend." Wynette found success with Wilson compositions such as "I'll See Him Through," "He Loves Me All the Way," "My Man" and "Another Lonely Song." In addition, Charley Pride secured No. 1 hits in the early 1980s with "Never Been So Loved (In All My Life)" and "Night Games." In other roles, Wilson signed Keith Whitley to RCA and co-produced several Kenny Chesney albums. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996. Wilson passed away in 2017.
2017 Special Awards Winners
ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award:
George Strait With 61 No. 1 singles under his belt, George Strait has captivated the charts for longer than any other artist in any genre. Winning his first ACM Award for 1984’s Male Vocalist of the Year, “King George” went on to build his country kingdom one great song at a time. Now-classic hits like “Amarillo by Morning,” “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” “The Fireman,” “The Chair” and “Give It Away” established Strait’s smooth voice and no-nonsense style, making his live show a must-see event. Strait is one of the best-selling artists of all time with 100 million albums sold worldwide. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and was named the Academy’s Dick Clark Artist of the Decade in 2009. Though he officially retired from the road after his Cowboy Rides Away tour wrapped in 2014, Strait continues to pack houses at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with his “2 Nights of Number 1s” show featuring all his number one hits performed live.
ACM Poet's Award - Living
Willie Nelson Willie Nelson is an American treasure, and the songs he has written will stand the test of time. Writing since the age of six, the Texas native has penned tunes that are part of the very foundation of country music. His credits as a songwriter include classics for other artists including “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Funny How Time Slips Away” (Ray Price) and “Hello Walls” (Faron Young). He co-wrote the outlaw anthem “Good-Hearted Woman” with his friend Waylon Jennings. Nelson’s signature song, “On the Road Again,” won the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1980. Willie was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.
Toby Keith Toby Keith has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and is routinely cited as one of country’s top businessmen with bars, restaurants, race horses and golf courses to his name, but it’s his accolades as a songwriter than mean the most to the Oklahoma native. Keith began writing as a teenager and charted his first self-penned No. 1 with his debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Since then, he has pretty much ignored the Nashville tradition of cutting Music Row writers’ songs and personally written or co-written just about every song he’s ever recorded. Among the highlights of his two-decade hit-making career are blue-collar anthems “How Do You Like Me Now,” “Beer for My Horses,” “I Love This Bar” and “American Soldier.” A 12-time ACM Award winner, Keith was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.
ACM Poet's Award - Posthumous:
Shel Silverstein The late Shel Silverstein is known the world over as the offbeat poet and cartoonist behind beloved children’s books Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree, but he was also an accomplished songwriter. Silverstein penned inventive songs about unusual characters for a variety of artists, including “One’s On the Way” for Loretta Lynn, “Marie Laveau” for Bobby Bare and the classic rock anthem “Cover of the Rolling Stone” for Dr. Hook. He brought his madcap imagination to the song, “A Boy Named Sue,” which became a No. 1 hit for Johnny Cash. The song won the 1969 Grammy for Best Country Song. Silverstein died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 68. He was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
ACM Mae Boren Axton Award:
Bob Kingsley One of the most recognizable radio voices in the world, Bob Kingsley has been a friend to both country fans and country artists for generations. As host and executive producer of Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40, the Texas resident has been inducted into both the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame. Early in his career as a young disc jockey at KFOX in Los Angeles, Kingsley became involved with the fledgling Academy of Country and Western Music, which would eventually be called the Academy of Country Music. He won the Academy’s On-Air Personality of the Year award for 1966 and 1967. He was first elected to the Academy’s board of directors in 1967. He has since won a third ACM trophy for National On-Air Personality of the Year (2006) and continues to serve on the board today, making Kingsley the Academy’s longest-serving board member.
Reba McEntire For more than 30 years Reba McEntire has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Academy of Country Music. Hosting her first ACM Awards in 1986 at Knott’s Berry Farm, McEntire has returned to the ACM stage as a host for a record 14 times----eight of those solo. A 14-time ACM Award winner (including 7 as ACM Female Vocalist of the Year), Reba has also been an avid supporter of the Academy’s charitable efforts, donating her time and talents to numerous ACM specials and other events supporting ACM Lifting Lives. In 2017, Reba partnered with the Academy and Omaze to offer a fan a chance to meet her backstage in Vegas, with proceeds from the auction going to ACM Lifting Lives.
ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award:
Dolly Parton Dolly Parton has held many titles over her storied 50-year career – singer, songwriter, actress, legend---but philanthropist is one that is close to her heart. Since her earliest days of stardom, Dolly has used her celebrity to support the causes she loves most. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library has to date provided 100 million books to preschool children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In 2016, Parton stepped up to raise money for victims of the massive wildfires in her native East Tennessee. Hosting Smoky Mountains Rise, a three-hour telethon, Dolly helped raise more than $10 million for the Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund, which provided money for temporary housing for families that lost their homes in the fires..
ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award:
Eric Church Over 12 years and five studio albums, Eric Church has established himself as an artist who stays true to an uncompromising path. As an intense performer and songwriter, he has brought to life the eternal themes of life, love and heartbreak in his own hellraising way through songs like “Smoke a Little Smoke,” “Springsteen,” “Give Me Back My Hometown” and “Record Year.” He has also bucked convention in the way his recorded and live music is delivered. He surprised fans—and the media—with his 2015 album, Mr. Misunderstood, which landed in the mailboxes of his fan club members without any promotion first before going out to the general public and the media the next day. For the 2017 60-city “Holdin’ My Own Tour,” Church went out solo without a support act and played two sets himself. Church holds five ACM awards, including Album of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year, Video of the Year, New Solo Vocalist of the Year and the ACM Jim Reeves International Award.
ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award:
Kelsea Ballerini Kelsea Ballerini went straight to the top of the charts with her first single, 2014’s “Love Me Like You Mean It.” Her self-penned debut was just the beginning of her winning streak. Her next two singles, 2015’s “Dibs” and 2016’s “Peter Pan,” also went to No. 1, making Ballerini the first female solo artist to have three consecutive No. 1 singles from a debut album since Wynonna Judd in 1992. Ballerini was named the ACM New Female Vocalist of the Year for 2015, was nominated for Best New Artist at the 59th Grammy Awards and came in at No. 2 on the Forbes “30 Under 30 – Music” list. Having wrapped up her first headlining tour, aptly titled “The First Time Tour,” Ballerini is currently working on a new album and is hitting the road with Thomas Rhett on his 2017 Home Team Tour.
ACM Tex Ritter Award:
Nashville Now in its fifth season, Nashville continues to tell Music Row’s stories to a world-wide audience. Airing domestically on CMT and Hulu, the hour-long drama is seen in 225 territories around the globe. Main characters Deacon Clayborne, Will Lexington, Avery Barkley, Gunnar Scott and Scarlett O’Connor have made real-life music stars out of actors Charles Esten, Chris Carmack, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio and Claire Bowen. The cast has released 17 soundtrack albums on Big Machine Records and has toured regularly, playing to sold-out crowds in both the United States and abroad. The show has been credited as part of the recent tourism boom in the city of Nashville, which has seen an amazing increase in visitors over the past five years.
2016 Special Awards Winners
Career Achievement Award:
Glen Campbell Over the course of six decades and 45 million records sold, Glen Campbell blazed a trail as one of country music’s most diverse entertainers. His blend of country and pop sounds in the "60s and "70s resulted in the classics "Gentle on My Mind,” "By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” "Wichita Lineman,” and "Rhinestone Cowboy,” just a few of his 29 Top 10 singles. His lauded career earned 10 Academy of Country Music awards, including the 1998 Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award, and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Campbell also flourished as a first-call session guitarist, performing with the Wrecking Crew, and contributing to iconic songs by the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds album), The Righteous Brothers ("You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”) and The Monkees ("I’m a Believer”). Born the son of an Arkansas sharecropper, Campbell’s combination of talent and personality made him successful as an actor in True Grit alongside John Wayne, and as host of his popular television show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. In recent years, Campbell faced his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease head-on, launching a farewell tour and documenting it in the acclaimed 2014 film, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me. A song featured in the documentary, "I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” was co-written by Campbell and won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Country Song and was also nominated for Best Original Song at the 2015 Academy Awards.
Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award:
Crystal Gayle Crystal Gayle traversed new territory as the first female country artist to achieve platinum album sales with her 1977 project We Must Believe in Magic, containing her crossover smash "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” The Kentucky native and younger sister of Loretta Lynn has been connecting with fans of country-pop for five decades, starting with the release of her debut single in 1970. Often working with hit-making producer Allen Reynolds, Gayle scored 20 No. 1 country hits during the 1970s and "80s, including "You Never Miss a Real Good Thing (Till He Says Goodbye),” "I'll Get Over You,” and "Talking in Your Sleep.” She toured worldwide and starred in several prime-time television specials. In total, Gayle’s career yielded six Gold albums and four prestigious ACM Awards.
The Statler Brothers The Statler Brothers was a pioneering quartet comprised of Harold Reid, Don Reid, Phil Balsley, original member Lew DeWitt--and later member Jimmy Fortune. The Virginia natives intertwined gospel-inspired harmonies with country songs, getting their professional break in 1964 as Johnny Cash's backing vocalists and opening act. This launched a career that would yield numerous hits in the 1960s through 1980s, including "Flowers on the Wall,” "Bed of Rose’s,” "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?,” "Elizabeth,” "My Only Love" and "Too Much on My Heart.” Many of their signature songs were helmed by producer Jerry Kennedy. The Statlers often used humor in their music and performances, leading to frequent appearances on Cash’s popular television show and their own successful program on The Nashville Network (TNN) in the early to mid-1990s. The Statlers garnered two ACM Awards and 2008 induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tanya Tucker Since the release of her debut single, "Delta Dawn,” at age 13, Tanya Tucker has been influencing generations of female artists. The 1972 hit, under the guidance of legendary producer Billy Sherrill, was the first in Tucker’s string of 56 Top 40 singles, including 10 No. 1s. Boosting her success was her willingness to address difficult topics, such as adultery and revenge in the song "Blood Red and Goin’ Down.” During the "70s and "80s, Tucker scored with "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone),” "Texas (When I Die),” "Can I See You Tonight,” and "One Love at a Time.” The 1990s marked a professional high-point for Tucker, thanks to memorable songs "Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” "Down to My Last Teardrop,” and "It’s a Little Too Late.” Tucker is the recipient of two ACM Awards. Today, more than fifty years since her first record deal, she is still actively touring and making music.
Jim Reeves International Award:
Jeff Walker Australia native Jeff Walker greatly impacted the international reach of country music, advocating on behalf of foreign-born artists as well as working to expose country artists overseas. He moved to Nashville in 1974 and established his marketing and promotions firm in 1980. Over the next 35 years, the company became known as The AristoMedia Group/Marco Music Group, and grew to encompass divisions offering publicity, web development, radio promotion, video promotion and label/distribution services. An active member of the Music Row community, Walker served on the boards of the Country Radio Broadcasters and the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Walker passed away on Aug. 24, 2015 at age 65.
Poet's Award - Living
Jimmy Webb The remarkable career of songwriter Jimmy Webb began in 1965, crossing numerous genres and sales milestones. He is the pen behind platinum-selling classics recorded by multiple artists. "Up, Up and Away” was recorded by The 5th Dimension, Nancy Sinatra and Diana Ross & The Supremes. "MacArthur Park” was recorded by Waylon Jennings, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer and Glen Campbell. Webb and fellow 2016 ACM Special Award honoree Campbell had a particularly fruitful professional relationship, resulting in the hits "Wichita Lineman,” "Galveston,” "By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and others. Among the stellar artists who have recorded or performed Webb’s compositions are Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Judy Collins, Isaac Hayes, Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon. Webb is a member of both the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. More than fifty years into his career, Webb still performs regularly.
Poet's Award - Posthumously
Eddie Rabbitt Eddie Rabbit scored country/pop crossover success starting in 1979 with hits "I Love a Rainy Night,” "Drivin' My Life Away,” "Every Which Way But Loose” and "Suspicions.” His career began in the late 1960s as a professional songwriter who penned Elvis Presley’s "Kentucky Rain" and Ronnie Milsap’s "Pure Love.” While working to build his career as an artist, Rabbitt opened for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Rabbitt also recorded duets with Juice Newton ("Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)”) and fellow 2016 ACM honoree Crystal Gayle ("You and I”). Rabbitt is an ACM Award winner and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee. He died May 7, 1998 at age 56.
Tex Ritter Award (to be presented on ACM Awards telecast, not at honors)
Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors aired on NBC in 2015, inspiring millions of viewers with its story of faith and family. Set in 1955 in the Great Smoky Mountains, the film showcases a poignant time in Parton’s childhood, as her family struggles with loss, grapples with religion, and ultimately triumphs with the healing power of love. Alyvia Alyn Lind stars as the nine-year-old singer who was given a patchwork coat made by her mother, played by Jennifer Nettles. Ricky Schroder portrays Parton’s father, along with Gerald McRaney as her grandfather. The movie was watched by more than 13 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched TV movies of all time.
Crystal Milestone Award
LITTLE BIG TOWN Little Big Town, the reigning ACM Vocal Group of the Year, enticed listeners with "Girl Crush,” a double-platinum single they performed on last year’s ACM Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the Grammy Awards, the Grand Ole Opry and Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel. Despite some initial controversy and confusion over the subject matter, the smoldering single told through the eyes of a jilted lover grew to become the most downloaded country song in 2015. "Girl Crush” held the top spot of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 13 consecutive weeks, setting the longest run in the top spot for a group since the Browns’ 10-week run in 1959 with "The Three Bells.” The single’s success helped Little Big Town earn its 10th nomination this year in the ACM Vocal Group of the Year category.
MAE BOREN AXTON AWARD
KEITH URBAN Keith Urban kept his Fuse burning in 2015, as that gold-certified album sparked a fifth hit single in "Raise "Em Up.” The Grammy-nominated anthem---which opened the live 50th ACM Awards---carried Urban and Eric Church straight to the top of the country airplay chart. The good-natured Australian also mentored aspiring talent on American Idol and attended the opening of a spotlight exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum about his career. Urban has given his time, talent and support to both the Academy of Country Music and ACM Lifting Lives, proving to be a great friend and advocate for both organizations for years. Since his first appearance on the ACM Awards in 2001, Urban has performed or presented on every show since then, with the exception of 2007. His remarkable achievements include ACM Awards in the categories of New Male Vocalist (2000), Male Vocalist (2004, 2005) and Album (2004, for Be Here). An extraordinary guitarist and an exceptional team player, Urban also shared wins for Vocal Event in 2008 ("Start a Band” with Brad Paisley) and 2013 ("We Were Us” with Miranda Lambert”), as well as Video ("Highway Don’t Care” with Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift). In recognition of his worldwide appeal, he was the 2009 recipient of the ACM’s Jim Reeves International Award. Following the final season of American Idol, Urban will kick off his latest world tour of arenas and amphitheaters in June.
ACM GARY HABER LIFTING LIVES AWARD
Carrie Underwood This brand new award was created by the ACM Lifting Lives Board of Directors to recognize a country music artist or industry professional who is committed to serving others, has a generosity of spirit and shows a dedication to helping those in need. Named in honor of late ACM Lifting Lives Chairman Gary Haber, the first trophy goes to two-time ACM Entertainer of the Year Carrie Underwood---one of Haber’s longtime clients and an enthusiastic supporter of ACM Lifting Lives. Underwood was one of the first artists to partner with Lifting Lives, bringing much needed musical instruments to the public schools in her hometown, Checotah, Oklahoma. This year, Carrie gave her time as a headliner for the ACM Party for a Cause Festival, as well as for a number of charitable endeavors including the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, Operation Homefront and her own C.A.T.S. Foundation, which gives back to her hometown community.
2015 Special Award Winners
Career Achievement Award:
Alabama has been chosen to receive the Career Achievement Award, honoring an individual artist, duo, group or multiple artist collaboration that have advanced the popularity and acceptance of country music through their endeavors in the entertainment industry in multiple areas during the preceding calendar year.
Alabama received the ACM Artist of the Decade award for the 1980s after winning the Entertainer of the Year award for five consecutive years. Combining their rock influences with Southern roots, the ensemble charted 51 Top 10 hits between 1980 and 1999, with 32 reaching No. 1. They also earned six consecutive ACM awards in the Vocal Group category. Alabama joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2011, original band members Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry brought their mountain music back to country radio by singing on "Old Alabama," Brad Paisley's salute to them. In 2013, the band celebrated 40 years in country music with the "Back to the Bowery" Tour and the tribute album Alabama & Friends, which featured Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line and many others. Their 2013-2014 run culminated in the September 2014 releases of the Angels Among Us: Hymns and Gospel Favorites album and the Alabama & Friends At The Ryman live CD/DVD. Also in 2014, Alabama frontman Randy Owen celebrated the 25th anniversary of his call to country radio to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. To date, the "Country Cares for St. Jude Kids" initiative has raised more than $500 million for the hospital.
Past recipients of the Career Achievement Award include John Anderson, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins, Reba, and Kenny Rogers.
Crystal Milestone Award:
Loretta Lynn has been chosen to receive the Crystal Milestone Award, which is given to an artist or industry leader to commemorate a specific, remarkable achievement.
Loretta Lynn remains one of country music's most beloved and admired artists. Celebrated for her keen songwriting and down-home personality, she was named the ACM Artist of the Decade for the 1970s, an honor bestowed after she claimed four Female Vocalist awards, four Vocal Group awards (with Conway Twitty) and ultimately 1975 Entertainer of the Year - the first woman ever to earn that distinction. Lynn joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1962 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. The film version of her life, Coal Miner's Daughter, is an Oscar-winning classic. Lynn has captivated a younger generation as well, collaborating with rocker Jack White on the Grammy-winning Van Lear Rose album and championing today's female vocalists like Miranda Lambert. In 2014, Loretta celebrated her 50th anniversary in country music. New music is expected in 2015.
Past recipients of the Crystal Milestone Award include Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Merle Haggard, Gayle Holcomb, Jennifer Nettles, and Taylor Swift.
Gene Weed Special Achievement Award:
Luke Bryan has been chosen to receive the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award, which acknowledges unprecedented, unique and outstanding individual achievement in country music.
Luke Bryan is experiencing a career rush thanks to his double-platinum project, Crash My Party. The album ushered in a record-seeting six consecutive No. 1 singles: "Crash My Party," "That's My Kind of Night," "Drink A Beer," "Play It Again," "Roller Coaster" and "I See You." In 2014, he performed for 1.7 million fans, marking his best year of touring yet. In January, he carried his music to Europe for the first time and announced a schedule of arenas and stadium concerts stateside. An exhibit on his stellar career will open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum this summer.
Past recipients of the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award include Garth Brooks, George Burns, Jeff Foxworthy, Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton, George Strait, and Carrie Underwood.
Jim Reeves International Award:
Eric Church has been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an artist for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Eric Church is proving that modern country music translates across borders, even when his biggest songs reference iconic American imagery like "Springsteen" and "Talladega." The North Carolina native introduced The Outsiders World Tour to Europe in early 2014, sharing his rugged, original music across 12 major markets and thousands of new fans. Church began his ambitious international trek in Dublin, Ireland, with dates following in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Manchester, United Kingdom; London, England; Amsterdam, Holland; Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, Germany; Malmo and Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway. His worldwide legion of fans is known as the Church Choir.
Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Garth Brooks, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Merv Griffin, Alan Jackson, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, and Rascal Flatts among others.
Mae Boren Axton Award:
Barry Adelman and Tim DuBois have been chosen as the recipient of the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given in recognition of years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual to the Academy of Country Music.
Barry Adelman, EVP of Television for dick clark productions, has been a tireless champion of the Academy of Country Music Awards as the show's long-time writer and executive producer, and has served on the ACM Board of Directors. He is one of the most prolific producers working in Hollywood today, with credits including the Golden Globes, American Music Awards, So You Think You Can Dance and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, among many other high-profile live broadcasts. He has received multiple Emmy nominations in his role as a producer and has written speeches for Presidents Clinton, Bush and Reagan. Early in his career, he also wrote for The Sonny & Cher Show and wrote the eulogy for Elvis Presley's funeral.
Tim DuBois enjoyed a significant songwriting career before developing Arista Nashville into a powerhouse label in the 1990s. His writing credits include ACM-nominated songs such as Alabama's "Love in the First Degree," Vince Gill's "When I Call Your Name" and Jerry Reed's "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)." Under his leadership at Arista, artists like Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley and Pam Tillis picked up numerous platinum albums and industry awards. Despite his busy schedule, DuBois has given countless hours to the Academy of Country Music as an officer and a member of the Board of Directors for more than 30 years. His experience and wisdom have been instrumental in helping the Academy grow and transition. He currently serves as ACM board's Sergeant-at-Arms. Following positions at ASCAP and Vanderbilt University, he is now a partner at Artist Management Partners.
Past recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Award include John Dorris, Rod Essig, Gayle Holcomb, Jack Lameier, Marge Meoli, Paul Moore, Ray Pilzak, Gaynelle Pitts, Gene Weed, Tommy Wiggins and David Young.
Bob McDill and Felice and Boudleaux Bryant have been selected to receive the Poet's Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Bob McDill weaves his incredible stories with vivid language, memorable melodies and a wise, relatable perspective. The Texas native has written 30 No. 1 country hits since moving to Nashville in 1970. His rich catalog includes Alabama's "Song of the South," Alan Jackson's "Gone Country," Waylon Jennings' "Amanda" and Don Williams' "It Must Be Love." In addition, his ACM-nominated songwriting credits are Mel McDaniel's "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On," John Schneider's "I've Been Around Enough to Know," Dan Seals' "Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)," Pam Tillis' "All the Good Ones Are Gone" and Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes."
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant moved to Nashville in 1950 and helped established the city's songwriting industry. Boudleaux Bryant matched his talent as a professional fiddler to his wife's interest in poetry to create a winning formula. Their catalog includes the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream," as well as Eddy Arnold's "How's the World Treating You," Jimmy Dickens' "I'm Little But I'm Loud," Roy Orbison's "Love Hurts" and the Osborne Brothers' "Rocky Top." Boudleaux died in 1987; Felice died in 2003. They were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1991.
Previous recipients of the Poet's Award include Bill Anderson, Bobby Braddock, Guy Clark, Jack Clement, Hank Cochran, Dean Dillon, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, Buck Owens, Fred Rose, Don Schlitz, Cindy Walker and Hank Williams.
2014 Special Award Winners
Career Achievement Award:
Toby Keith and Ronnie Milsap have been chosen to receive the Career Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual artist, duo, group or multiple artist collaboration who have advanced the popularity and acceptance of country music through their endeavors in the entertainment industry in multiple areas during the preceding calendar year.
Toby Keith has been riding high ever since his 1993 debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” The Oklahoma native took the reins in 1999 by switching record labels and releasing the bold album, How Do You Like Me Now? Since that time, he’s won ACM Awards for Entertainer of the Year (2002, 2003), Male Vocalist of the Year (2000, 2003), Album of the Year (2000, 2003) and Video of the Year (2003, 2011). In addition to his 20 No. 1 country singles, he’s enhanced his unmistakable brand through movie roles (Beer For My Horses) and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants. Since 2002, Keith has performed on 11 USO tours in 21 countries, including Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Ronnie Milsap brought a pop and R&B sensibility to country music in the 1970s and 1980s, even as his rich, clear voice rang true as country. Forty years ago, the North Carolina native marched to No. 1 with “Pure Love,” paving the way for a total of 49 Top 10 hits on Billboard’s country chart. He won his first ACM Award as the 1982 Male Vocalist of the Year. Three years later, “Lost in the Fifties (In the Still of the Night)” claimed Song of the Year. Milsap received the 2001 Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and will release a new album in March.
Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award:
Bob Beckham has been chosen to receive the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award, honoring individuals who are pioneers in the country music genre.
Bob Beckham is remembered as a true music fan who took chances on unknown songwriters. Beckham was hired by Fred Foster at Combine Music in 1964. In time, its catalog grew to include Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” as well as Chris Gantry’s “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” and Dennis Linde’s “Burning Love.” Beckham also nurtured the talent of Larry Gatlin, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens and many more. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame recognized him with the inaugural Mentor Award in 2008. Beckham died in 2013.
Crystal Milestone Award:
Merle Haggard has been chosen to receive the Crystal Milestone Award, which is given to an artist or industry leader to commemorate a specific, remarkable achievement.
Merle Haggard became the ACM’s first Entertainer of the Year when the award was presented for 1970. That win marked the Academy’s first Triple Crown achievement, as Haggard had already accepted the Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year award for 1965 and the first of six Male Vocalist of the Year awards the following year. Two of his most celebrated songs have also collected Single Record and Song of the Year awards from the ACM: “Okie From Muskogee” (1969) and “Are the Good Times Really Over” (1982). A winner of the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and Poet’s Award, Haggard joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2014, he will celebrate the milestone of 50 years in country music.
Gene Weed Special Achievement Award:
Carrie Underwood has been chosen to receive the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award, which acknowledges unprecedented, unique and outstanding individual achievement in country music.
Carrie Underwood represents country music with class, whether she’s dazzling viewers of NFL Sunday Night Football or starring in a live broadcast of The Sound of Music. Her Blown Away Tour traveled to London’s Royal Albert Hall, followed by extensive dates across the U.S. and Canada. Upon completing the tour, she donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. She continues to support her hometown of Checotah, Okla., through her C.A.T.S. Foundation. Underwood is a rare ACM Triple Crown recipient, following wins as New Female Vocalist of the Year (2005), Female Vocalist of the Year (2006, 2007, 2008) and Entertainer of the Year (2008, 2009).
Jim Reeves International Award:
Steve Buchanan and Rascal Flatts have been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an artist for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Steve Buchanan strives to provide a gateway for fans around the globe to discover country music. A Tennessee native, Buchanan is the president of the Opry Entertainment Group. In that role, he has positioned the Grand Ole Opry to be viewed as a vital, world-class tourist destination that embraces contemporary and classic artists. After the Nashville flood of 2010, he led efforts to modernize the venue during its renovation. In addition, his executive producer role for ABC’s Nashville gives insight to the inner workings of Music Row. He is currently working on mounting a Broadway show based on the long-running TV show Hee Haw.
Rascal Flatts carried their high-energy Live & Loud Tour to Europe in July 2013, enjoying sold-out crowds, widespread television exposure and significant digital sales. The group performed a total of seven shows across Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Along with packed houses, the trio appeared on BBC’s Breakfast TV and grabbed the No. 1 spot on the UK iTunes country chart. They will return in March to Dublin and London as part of the all-star Country to Country 2014 event. Rascal Flatts will launch their Rewind Tour this spring, with dates scheduled throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Mae Boren Axton Award:
Paul Moore has been chosen to receive the Crystal Milestone Award, which is given to an artist or industry leader to commemorate a specific, remarkable achievement.
Paul Moore has been an integral part of the William Morris team in Nashville for more than 35 years. He began his career there in 1978 as a secretary to the head of the office. In time, he became part of the management team for William Morris and later William Morris Endeavor. For 23 years, he was co-head of the agency’s Nashville office. He remains involved in booking concert dates for WME clients at major fairs, rodeos, outdoor events and festivals, and oversees tour commitments for numerous country legends. Moore is a longtime board member for the Academy of Country Music and currently serves as parliamentarian.
Poet's Award - Living
Kris Kristofferson and Dean Dillon have been selected to receive the Poet’s Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Kris Kristofferson emerged as a songwriting force in the 1970s. He used his widely varied experiences---from Rhodes Scholar to Army helicopter pilot to janitor at Nashville’s Columbia Studios—to craft some of the most emotionally compelling story songs ever written. His composition “For the Good Times,” recorded by Ray Price, received 1970 ACM Awards for Single Record and Song of the Year. In addition to solo success with “Why Me,” Kristofferson’s songs have been immortalized by Johnny Cash (“Sunday Morning Coming Down”), Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobbie McGee”), Ronnie Milsap (“Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends”) and Sammi Smith (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”). Born in Texas, Kristofferson joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award in 2005.
Tennessee native Dean Dillon hitchhiked to Nashville to pursue a music career as a recording artist, but he found his biggest successes as a prolific songwriter. He penned hits for George Jones (“Tennessee Whiskey”), Keith Whitley (“Miami My Amy”), Toby Keith (“A Little Too Late”) and Kenny Chesney (“A Lot of Things Different”). Dillon truly found his muse in George Strait, who built his legendary career on Dillon’s unique songs, including his debut single “Unwound” followed by “The Chair,” “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her,” “It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Marina Del Rey” and “If I Know Me” to name a few. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
Poet's Award - Posthumously
Jack Clement and Buck Owens have been selected, posthumously, to receive the Poet’s Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
“Cowboy” Jack Clement’s career stretched back to Sun Records, where the Memphis native mixed 1950s recording sessions by Johnny Cash. Two of Cash’s early hits were written by Clement: “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess Things Happen That Way.” A few years later in Texas, George Jones cut Clement’s “A Girl I Used to Know.” In Nashville, Clement opened a publishing company and signed Bob McDill, Allen Reynolds and Don Williams. Clement joined the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in April 2013, four months before his death.
Buck Owens’ boisterous single “Love’s Gonna Live Here” spent an astonishing 16 weeks atop the country airplay chart in 1963. He followed that composition with more original material like “My Heart Skips a Beat,” “Together Again” and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail,” writing the latter with Harlan Howard. An icon in the Bakersfield, Calif., country scene, Owens received the 1965 ACM Award for Male Vocalist of the Year and his band The Buckaroos won three consecutive ACM trophies. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and accepted the ACM Pioneer Award in 1988. Owens died in 2006.
2013 Special Award Winners
Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award:
Keith Whitley and The Judds have been chosen to receive the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award, honoring individuals who are pioneers in the country music genre.
Keith Whitley brought a blend of traditional bluegrass, classic country and contemporary songwriting influences to his timeless recordings. Although his catalog is regrettably small, this Kentucky native stands as one of the most respected vocalists of his era, thanks to a rich baritone that effortlessly conveyed the emotion of any song. Whitley first entered the Top 10 in 1986 with “Ten Feet Away,” setting the stage for enduring ballads like “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing at All” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” all of which reached No. 1 before Whitley died in 1989 at age 33.
The Judds gave country music an acoustic boost in the 1980s, ultimately racking up 20 Top 10 hits. They picked up seven consecutive ACM Awards in the Vocal Duet category, as well as a Song of the Year trophy for “Why Not Me.” Their winning streak began in 1984 with “Mama He’s Crazy,” the first of 14 No. 1 hits. Fans also identified with the ups and downs of Naomi and Wynonna’s mother-daughter relationship, adding another dimension to modern classics like the nostalgic “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” and the empowering “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award include Alabama,Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs, Mel Tillis,Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Wills and Dwight Yoakam, among others.
Crystal Milestone Award:
Jason Aldean has been chosen to receive the Crystal Milestone Award, which is given to an artist or industry leader to commemorate a specific, remarkable achievement.
Jason Aldean soared to stadium headliner status in 2012. He sold out his first stadium show last year, moving more than 27,000 tickets for Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. All tickets were purchased more than two months in advance. Aldean’s arena show tickets went quickly too. He sold 24,000 tickets in two minutes for his Indianapolis show, along with 20,000 seats in just four minutes in St. Louis. Aldean is now swinging for the rafters with his “Night Train Tour.” Stadium shows on the itinerary include Wrigley Field in Chicago, Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA, and Boston’s Fenway Park—which sold out in seven minutes, setting a venue record and making Aldean the first country act to headline the historic ballpark. The Academy is honoring Aldean for this remarkable achievement.
Past recipients of the Crystal Milestone Award include Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Gayle Holcomb, Jennifer Nettles and Taylor Swift
Gene Weed Special Achievement Award:
Blake Shelton has been chosen to receive the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award, which acknowledges unprecedented, unique and outstanding individual achievement in country music.
Blake Shelton stepped into his role on NBC’s The Voice as a well-known figure in country music circles. Now he’s a household name to millions of viewers who appreciate his lively personality, his honest approach toward aspiring talent and his camaraderie with pop stars like Christine Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine. That broad appeal paved the way for a network special to coincide with his first holiday album, Cheers, It’s Christmas. A three-time ACM Awards co-host, Shelton is climbing the charts with “Sure Be Cool If You Did.” Look for his “Ten Times Crazier Tour” starting in July.
Past recipients of the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award include Garth Brooks, George Burns, Jeff Foxworthy, Willie Nelson and George Strait.
Jim Reeves International Award:
Lady Antebellum has been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an artist for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Lady Antebellum seized the day with their “Own the Night World Tour,” ultimately performing to more than a million fans in 11 countries and three continents. Along with packing venues in the U.S. and Canada, the trio sold out three shows at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Band members Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott also accepted the honor of opening for a musical hero, Bruce Springsteen, at London’s Hard Rock Calling. A three-time winner in the ACM Vocal Group category, Lady Antebellum will release its fourth studio album, Golden, in May, likely taking their newest hit “Downtown” around the globe.
Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Garth Brooks, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Merv Griffin, Alan Jackson, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, among others.
Mae Boren Axton Award:
Tommy Wiggins has been chosen as the recipient of the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given in recognition of years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual to the Academy of Country Music.
Tommy Wiggins co-founded the organization that is now the Academy of Country Music. While pursuing opportunities performing on radio and on stage, Wiggins lived in Tucson and Nashville before relocating in 1960 to Los Angeles, where he appeared on local television shows. Along with releasing several singles on Stadium Records, Wiggins launched a radio industry publication titled D.J.’s Digest. In 1964, he teamed with songwriter Eddie Miller and club owners Mickey and Chris Christensen to stage a Los Angeles-based awards show and form the Country Western Music Academy--later renamed the Academy of Country Music--to draw attention to country artists based on the West Coast.
Past recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Award include John Dorris, Rod Essig, Gayle Holcomb, Jack Lameier, Marge Meoli,Ray Pilzak, Gaynelle Pitts, Gene Weed and David Young.
Guy Clark and Hank Williams have been selected to receive the Poet’s Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Guy Clark has earned the respect of countless songwriters by crafting his compositions with wit, wisdom and warmth. This native Texan made a lasting impression with his 1975 debut album Old No. 1. His extensive songwriting catalog includes cuts by Johnny Cash (“Texas 1947”), Kenny Chesney (“Hemingway’s Whiskey”), Rodney Crowell (“She’s Crazy for Leaving”) and Ricky Skaggs (“Heartbroke”). Meanwhile, his own recordings of “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train” make listeners feel as though they know him personally. The 2011 collection, This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, received a Grammy nomination for best folk album.
Hank Williams remains one of the most revered songwriters in history. A native of Alabama, Williams’ commercial style found a champion in music publisher Fred Rose in 1946. Despite a brief career, Williams catalog includes “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” His compositions have been recorded by Tony Bennett, Jimmy Buffett, Norah Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride, Linda Ronstadt and Hank Williams Jr., among many others. The legendary figure was found dead on Jan. 1, 1953. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 and received the 1973 ACM Pioneer Award. Hank Williams will be inducted posthumously.
Previous recipients of the Poet’s Award include Bill Anderson, Bobby Braddock, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, Harlan Howard,Roger Miller, Fred Rose, Don Schlitz and Cindy Walker.
2012 Special Awards Winners
Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award:
Emmylou Harris, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs and Dwight Yoakam have been chosen to receive the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award honoring individuals who are pioneers in the country music genre.
Emmylou Harris brought a graceful delivery, beautiful harmonies and a wealth of exceptional material to her career in country music. Harris was discovered at a nightclub in Washington D.C., then provided her signature vocals to Gram Parsons’ seminal recordings. On her own, she arrived on the country charts in 1975. Over the next decade, she racked up 21 Top 10 singles, including five No. 1 hits. The Trio album with talented friends Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt earned the 1987 ACM Award for Album of the Year. Harris was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Billy Sherrill produced many of country’s most famous names and wrote numerous classics throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The Alabama native joined Epic Records in 1964, where his credits as both a producer and songwriter included David Houston’s “Almost Persuaded,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl” and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.” He also served as a producer on George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (which earned Sherrill an ACM Award for Producer of the Year), as well as Johnny Paycheck’s “She’s All I Got” and Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn.” He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs energized country music in the 1980s by taking his traditional sound in a lively new direction. Over that decade, the Kentucky native charted 19 Top 10 singles, including 11 No. 1 hits. Rather than writing his material, he gathered first-rate songs by the likes of Guy Clark, Bill Monroe, Webb Pierce, Mel Tillis and Cindy Walker. He was named the ACM’s 1981 Top New Male Vocalist and received five ACM Awards for Touring Band of the Year. Since that time, Skaggs has focused on bluegrass music and now leads one of the most respected ensembles in the genre.
Dwight Yoakam captured the imagination of traditionalists and new listeners alike by giving hillbilly music a modern twist. Born in Kentucky but based in Los Angeles, Yoakam debuted with a twangy cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man,” which led him to the ACM’s 1986 Top New Male Vocalist trophy. In all, Yoakam landed 14 Top 10 hits – some he wrote (“I Sang Dixie”) and others he revived (Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister”). Along with acclaimed albums and music videos, Yoakam proudly partnered with Buck Owens on the endearing 1988 duet, “Streets of Bakersfield.” He remains active in music and film.
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award include Alabama, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, Sr., Hank Williams Jr. and Bob Wills, among others.
Crystal Milestone Award:
Kenny Chesney, four-time ACM Entertainer of the Year, has sold more than 10,500,000 tickets on his 11 national tours, selling out stadiums across the country. His successful shows have promoted the entire genre to delighted fans while helping other country acts and cross-over artists gain exposure nationwide. The Academy is honoring Kenny for this remarkable achievement.
Past recipients of the Crystal Milestone Award include Garth Brooks and Jennifer Nettles.
Career Achievement Award:
Vince Gill has been chosen to receive the Career Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual artist, duo, group or multiple artist collaboration who have advanced the popularity and acceptance of country music through their endeavors in the entertainment industry in multiple areas during the preceding calendar year.
Vince Gill returned to the country scene in 2011 with an appealing new album, Guitar Slinger, and the enthusiastic response proved that he had been missed. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean proclaimed an official Vince Gill Week in conjunction with the album’s release. Gill also served as Grand Marshal of Nashville’s Christmas parade. In addition, Gill and wife Amy Grant graced the cover of Good Housekeeping, while Sting shared the stage with him on an acclaimed CMT Crossroads. Meanwhile, the Country Music Hall of Fame member appeared on multiple talk shows and earned a Grammy nod for “Threaten Me With Heaven.”
Past recipients of the Career Achievement Award include John Anderson, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins, Reba and Kenny Rogers.
Jim Reeves International Award:
Alan Jackson has been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Alan Jackson’s down-home music and laidback personality has translated well internationally. He played for eager audiences in Sweden and Norway in August 2011, brought back by popular demand following his 2009 shows. Jackson’s album, Good Time, has also earned platinum sales in Norway. Jackson also toured Australia for the first time in March 2011. He’ll play four arena shows in Canada in April 2012, as well as a summer concert at the Craven Country Jamboree in Saskatchewan. Jackson won his first ACM Award as 1990’s Top New Male Vocalist, an honor that coincided with career-building tour dates in the UK and Germany.
Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Garth Brooks, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Merv Griffin, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, among others.
Mae Boren Axton Award:
Gayle Holcomb has been chosen as the recipient of the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given in recognition of years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual to the Academy of Country Music.
Gayle Holcomb, a country music industry leader at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, has served as an Academy of Country Music board member for 17 years and five years as ACM chairman. During her tenure as chair, Holcomb was a driving force for the organization’s rapid change and growth, including moving the Awards show from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 2003. Holcomb helped launch ACM Lifting Lives in 2005, guiding the vision for the charity as it got underway initially, and continuing her support of the organization by becoming chairman. She made the initial endowment to form the ACM Lifting Lives’ Diane Holcomb Emergency Relief Fund, in honor of her mother, to enable the Fund to respond quickly to unforeseen, immediate financial needs of ACM members, staff and members of the country music community.
Past recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Award include John Dorris, Rod Essig, Jack Lameier, Marge Meoli, Ray Pilzak, Gaynelle Pitts, Gene Weed and David Young.
2011 Poet's Award
Bobby Braddock and Roger Miller have been selected to receive the Poet’s Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Bobby Braddock is a master storyteller with more than 40 years of songwriting success. A Florida native, Braddock moved to Nashville in 1964 and worked for a time as Marty Robbins’ piano player. His classic cuts include Tammy Wynette’s divine “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and George Jones’ iconic (and ACM Award-winning) “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” as well as the famous couple’s enduring duet, “Golden Ring.” Braddock also earned ACM nominations as a songwriter for Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On,” Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me” and Billy Currington’s “People Are Crazy.” He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011.
Roger Miller charmed listeners with characteristic wit on classics like “King of the Road” and “Dang Me.” Miller, an Oklahoma native, grabbed early songwriting success with Ray Price’s “Invitation to the Blues.” In 1985, he earned acclaim for writing the score of the musical Big River. To honor his brilliant career, he received the 1987 ACM Pioneer Award. Miller died in 1992 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. Contemporary stars like Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson have kept his legacy alive with terrific renditions of “Husbands and Wives” and “Tall, Tall Trees,” respectively.
Previous recipients of the Poet’s Award include Bill Anderson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, Harlan Howard, Fred Rose, Don Schlitz and Cindy Walker.
2011 Special Awards Winners
2011 Career Achievement Award
Reba has been chosen to receive the Career Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual artist, duo, group or multiple artist collaboration who have advanced the popularity and acceptance of country music through their endeavors in the entertainment industry in multiple areas during the preceding calendar year.
Reba is still going strong in the third decade of a magnificent career and continues to thrive in country music with her winning formula of expressive singing, well-chosen songs and approachable charm. A previous winner in the Entertainer of the Year category, she has won the ACM Female Vocalist award seven times, the most of any artist. In addition, this is her 13th year to host the ACM Awards. Along with actively pursuing opportunities on Broadway, television, film and fashion, Reba remains one of the best-selling country artists in history, with record sales approaching 57 million.
Past recipients of the Career Achievement Award include John Anderson, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins and Kenny Rogers.
2011 Jim Reeves International Award
Taylor Swift has been chosen to receive the Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an individual for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of country music throughout the world.
Taylor Swift has encouraged fans around the world to discover country music. In addition to multiple gold and platinum awards from dozens of countries, Swift has already performed numerous dates in Europe and Asia this year. She is the top-certified artist for digital singles in the last decade. Her multi-platinum certifications include "Love Story," "You Belong With Me," "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song." Swift will embark on an extensive North American tour in May. Her latest album, Speak Now has sold more than three million copies since its release late last year.
Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Garth Brooks, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Merv Griffin, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton and Keith Urban, among others.
2011 Tex Ritter Film Award
Country Strong has been chosen as the recipient of the Tex Ritter Award, which is given to a movie released and/or receiving major exposure during the preceding calendar year, featuring or utilizing country music.
Country Strong (Produced by Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Entertainment.) is a drama film starring Oscar® winner Gwyneth Paltrow as a country superstar staging a comeback, while two-time ACM male vocalist winner Tim McGraw played her husband and manager. Meanwhile, rising stars Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester portrayed the challenges and rewards of building a career as a performing songwriter. The accompanying soundtrack featured strong performances by the film's four leading characters, along with country stars like Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Ronnie Dunn, Patty Loveless, Hank Williams Jr., Lee Ann Womack and Chris Young.
Past recipients of the Tex Ritter Award include Beer For My Horses, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Crazy Heart, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Sweet Dreams and Walk the Line, among others.
2011 Mae Boren Axton Award
John Dorris has been chosen as the recipient of the Mae Boren Axton Award, which is given in recognition of years of dedication and service by an outstanding individual to the Academy of Country Music.
John Dorris launched Hallmark Direction Company in1983 with Don Williams as his first client. Since then, Dorris has worked with numerous country artists, including ACM winners Montgomery Gentry and Blake Shelton. Prior to that enterprise, he established himself at one of Nashville's most successful independent record labels and publishing companies, Monument Records and Combine Music Publishing, aiding the careers of artists like Roy Orbison, Kris Kristofferson, Larry Gatlin, Billy Joe Shaver, Billy Swan and others. A champion of songwriters as well as an expert in tax accounting, he currently serves on the ACM Board of Directors as Treasurer.
Past recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Award include Rod Essig, Jack Lameier, Marge Meoli, Ray Pilzak, Gaynelle Pitts, Gene Weed and David Young.
2011 Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award
Garth Brooks and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers have been chosen to receive the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award honoring individuals who are pioneers in the country music genre.
Garth Brooks combined an electrifying stage presence with exceptional catalog of songs to become a true country music superstar. Twenty years ago, Brooks conquered the ACM Awards with trophies for Album (No Fences), Single, Song and Video ("The Dance"), Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the year. A six-time winner in that top category, the Oklahoma native was named the ACM's Artist of the Decade for the 1990s, while his ambitious concerts raised the bar for live shows across all genres. With 128 million albums sold, Brooks has earned 19 No. 1 hits, including the iconic "Friends in Low Places."
The close family harmonies of Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers gave this trio a signature sound that led to country classics like "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)." They won a GRAMMY® for their 1976 breakthrough hit, "Broken Lady," and reached No. 1 with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love" two years later. Along with five career nominations for the ACM Vocal Group, the Gatlin Brothers picked up three 1979 trophies - Single ("All the Gold in California"), Album (Straight Ahead) and Male Vocalist for Larry Gatlin, also a talented songwriter who composed all of their singles.
Past recipients of the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award include Alabama, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, Sr., Hank Williams Jr. and Bob Wills, among others.
2011 Poet's Award
Tom T. Hall and Hank Cochran have been selected to receive the Poet's Award, which honors songwriters for outstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their careers in the field of country music.
Tom T. Hall With a keen eye on ordinary people, Tom T. Hall has created an extraordinary body of music. His detailed, yet plainspoken, songs have earned him his nickname of "The Storyteller." With a background in local radio and a stint in the Army, the Kentucky native moved to Nashville in 1964. His substantial catalog includes Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley P.T.A." and Alan Jackson's "Little Bitty," as well as 21 of his own Top 10 hits, such as "I Love" and "Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine." He and his wife, Dixie, continue to write for numerous bluegrass artists.
Hank Cochran (1935-2010) A beloved Nashville songwriter for 50 years, Hank Cochran landed memorable cuts with countless classic country artists. The Mississippi native established himself in the 1960s with hits for Eddy Arnold ("Make the World Go Away") and Cline ("She's Got You," "I Fall to Pieces"), among many others. Merle Haggard landed a No. 1 single with "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)" while Strait scored instant classics with "The Chair" and "Ocean Front Property." Other favorites from his catalog include Vern Gosdin's "Set 'Em Up Joe" and Keith Whitley's "Miami, My Amy." Cochran died on July 15, 2010.
Previous recipients of the Poet's Award include Bill Anderson, Merle Haggard, Harlan Howard and Fred Rose, Don Schlitz and Cindy Walker.