Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, once struggling solo artists before teaming up, were named Wednesday as the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year.
In addition to the top honor at the 30th annual CMA Awards, Brooks & Dunn won their fifth consecutive award for best vocal duo.
“We’re going to be a duo for as long as you let us be a duo,” Dunn said during ceremonies at the Grand Ole Opry House.
Alan Jackson, last year’s entertainer of the year, did not win an award. Nor did 14-year-old LeAnn Rimes, nominated for two awards following instant stardom this year with her Patsy Cline sound-alike hit “Blue.”
Steady hitmaker George Strait was the evening’s sentimental favorite, winning his first CMA awards since 1990. He was named by industry voters as best male vocalist, and won for best album and single for “Blue Clear Sky” and “Check Yes or No.”
“It has been a lot of years, and that makes it more special tonight,” Strait said after accepting the trophy for best male vocalist - a category dominated by Vince Gill for the previous five years.
Strait’s last CMA award in 1990 was for entertainer of the year. He also was best male vocalist in 1985-86.
“What a night! Yeah!” Strait said.
The other major awards went to The Mavericks for best group, and Patty Loveless for best female vocalist. Buck Owens, Ray Price and the late Patsy Montana were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“It’s about time,” Price said. The CMA, saying there were many deserving candidates, began this year inducting three performers a year instead of one.
Bryan White took the Horizon Award, beating out Rimes and multi-platinum star Shania Twain. Twain went home empty-handed despite two nominations, for best song (“Any Man of Mine”) and best female vocalist.
xxxx THE WINNERS Top winners of the 1996 Country Music Association awards, as announced Wednesday:
Entertainer of the Year: Brooks & Dunn. Female Vocalist of the Year: Patty Loveless. Male Vocalist of the Year: George Strait. Single of the Year (for singer): “Check Yes or No,” George Strait. Album of the Year: “Blue Clear Sky” by George Strait.