The Country Music Association toasted its 60th anniversary with a star-studded industry party at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, September 26th. More than 20 artists, representing multiple generations of country music, helped the CMA celebrate the major milestone, along with media members, industry executives and fellow well-wishers.
Artists ranging from legendary Grand Ole Opry favorite Jeannie Seely to current stars like Lee Brice and Michael Ray performed at the gala party to salute the CMA. The organization, founded in 1958, promotes and represents all aspects of the country music industry. In 1967, the CMA began presenting the annual CMA Awards, widely considered the most prestigious honors in country music.
Former two-time CMA Male Vocalist of the Year winner Lee Greenwood provided an early highlight with his anthem “God Bless the USA,” which won the CMA Song of the Year award in 1984. Hank Williams Jr., who scored back-to-back CMA Entertainer of the Year trophies in 1987 and 1988, was evoked in a couple of performances. Hank Jr.’s daughter Hilary Williams performed her dad’s song “Old Habits,” while Brice reprised Hank Jr.’s classic “Family Tradition.” Ray and Craig Wayne Boyd paid homage to the great Merle Haggard, the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 1970, with “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” respectively.
Other crowd-pleasers included T.G. Sheppard and wife Kelly Lang harmonizing on “Islands in the Stream,” Ty Herndon performing “Living in a Moment” and RaeLynn strutting away on “Tailgate.” Mark Wills sang his version of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” which took home the CMA Song of the Year award in 1979. All of the artists joined the CMA staff for a group rendition of “Happy Birthday” as party attendees sang along.
Backstage prior to the show, several artists visited with “Sports & Entertainment Nashville.” Jamie O’ Neal revealed that she’s about to release a new five-song EP around Christmas time. Hilary Williams spoke about her debut album, “My Lucky Stars,” released this past May. “That was inspired by my car accident,” Williams noted, referring to the 2006 crash in which she and her sister Holly were severely injured. “I think people can relate to these songs.” Mark Collie explained that he looked forward to the evening gala for a variety of reasons. “I’m here to share some memories and catch up with old friends,” he said. He also had some news to share as well. “I’m recording a new concept album,” Collie said. “It’s still evolving so I can’t talk a whole lot about it yet. But we’re in the studio now.”
The party came to a rousing close as Brice took the Wildhorse stage for his hits “Songs in the Kitchen” and “I Drive Your Truck,” a CMA Song of the Year winner. Brice brought it all home with “Family Tradition” as party-goers exited on a happy note.