Alan Jackson Walked Out on Beyonce’s 2016 CMA Performance

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Alan Jackson has been known throughout his career for putting his foot down for the integrity of country music, regardless of the ramifications. That’s what happened at the 1994 ACM Awards when Jackson instructed his drummer to play without sticks when the producers insisted his band mimic playing to a backing track. Then at the 1999 CMA Awards, Alan Jackson notoriously stopped down his rendition of “Pop A Top” to break into George Jones’ “Choices” after the producers told Jones he would only be allowed to play a shortened version of the song and Jones left in protest.

Well apparently Alan Jackson let his displeasure be known again at an awards show, though the cameras and much of the press didn’t catch it. At the 50th Annual CMA Awards on Wednesday, November 2nd—where Jackson performed with George Strait and participated in other festivities—Alan Jackson left his seat in the front row when pop star Beyonce came out on stage for her performance of “Daddy Lessons.”

Rumors that Jackson walked out on the performance have been swirling ever since the CMA’s, but it wasn’t confirmed by anyone on site until an unnamed Nashville manager who was sitting near Jackson during the awards spilled the beans to Billboard.

“I think it was a flat performance overall and a lot of industry people I have talked with were not impressed for a variety of reasons,” said the manager to Billboard. “The overall show was great, but in my opinion that seemed out of place and felt forced. It just didn’t fit the night to me, celebrating the 50 years, and the Dixie Chicks seemed like her backup band on it, without enough of a real shout-out to them. I was sitting behind Alan Jackson, and he actually stood up from the front row and walked out in middle of the performance, so I think that spoke volumes for the traditional, real country acts.

So far Jackson hasn’t publicly addressed his decision to leave during Beyonce’s performance, or made any public comments about the performance itself, though recently he’s been pushing the hashtag “#KeepinItCountry” through his social media, and right before the awards he told Chris Willman in an interview with Yahoo:

“I think it’s important to recognize the 50 years, but I wouldn’t want to be singing a song on there and some young artist who just had a #1 record would be fussing: ‘They’ve got old Alan Jackson on there and I can’t even get to do my new song!’ … Yeah, they may play some real country music. But I understand the dang television station trying to get the ratings with whatever they think is gonna prop it up, with some big event with some other type of artist on there. Yeah, hopefully it’ll be a good country music show for a change.”

Much has been made of Beyonce’s appearance since the CMA Awards last week. In the aftermath, many entertainment outlets accused the CMA’s of “scrubbing” all record of Beyonce’s performance after some racially insensitive comments were left on social media, but it was later revealed the CMA’s removed the posts at the request of the Beyonce camp. Nonetheless, accusations of racism against artists and entities who were opposed to a pop star playing the awards have continued, including against Kenny Chesney who some discerned as making a pained face during the performance and was forced to address the matter, and Travis Tritt who tweeted out his displeasure with the Beyonce choice.