Down With the CMA (Part 2-Corruption in Performances)
Well, if you liked Part 1 of ‘Down with the CMA’, this part is gonna blow your doors off.
In the last part we learned from Waylon Jennings about the backroom deals that go on when the CMA decides who to give awards to. Waylon also talked about how he and Ricky van Shelton were asked to cut the songs they were going to perform short for time reasons, and how Waylon and Ricky got in hot water for daring to cross paths with the CMA.
Well these weren’t the biggest altercations over performances at the CMA Awards. That distinction lies with George Jones and Alan Jackson.
Just before the 1999 CMA Awards, George Jones was asked to perform an ‘abbreviated’ version of his song ‘Choices.’ George, feeling that he wasn’t a “baby act” as he put it, refused, and boycotted the show. And in a super act of class, Alan Jackson, while preforming his song “Pop A Top,” cut his own song short, and launched into George’s “Choices.”
‘‘We were all so nervous,” Alan Jackson later recalled. “The guitarist had this solo in the middle of ”Pop a Top,’ and the song sort of modulates up at the end of the solo. I signaled to him that we were going to do it, and he just stopped. I looked over at him and he was sweating. The boy looked like he was going to bite his lip off. Then I hit that C chord to start ‘Choices.’ ”
As you can see in the above video, the crowd began to roar and rise to their feet when Jackson launched into the George Jones’ comeback hit.
Later in the Awards season, at the ACM Awards, George Jones performed “Choices” in full. Listen to what he has to say at the beginning:
But this is where the story gets juicy. So George’s boycott caused a stir that eventually exposed corruption in the way the CMA decides who gets to play on the awards show. Long story short, there is a committee of 20 major Nashville label people who decide who gets to play, and they push their performers while other performers get left behind.
“According to a report in Tuesday’s (9/14) Nashville Tennesseean, the two events relate to a controversy surrounding the make-up of the board that selects the awards show’s performers. A CMA Awards performance is considered to be one of country music’s prime gigs because exposure to a network TV audience of millions can often result in a significant spike in album sales.”
Six of the 15 members of the CMA television committee — who decide which acts are invited to perform by majority-vote — have ties to the Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) and the Universal Music Group, according to the newspaper. Of the 20 available performance slots for this year’s show, 15 were allotted to BMG and Universal acts. Jones’ current album is distributed by WEA, as is Curb’s label. (Mike) Curb was the only member of the TV committee with ties to WEA, which he reportedly feels is a major reason that Jones wasn’t asked to perform a full song.”
“Curb Records President Mike Curb announced that he will step down as a member of the Country Music Association’s television committee after this year, and has asked others with ”conflicts of interest” to resign as well…CMA Executive Director Ed Benson and others have speculated that, rather than shady label politics, Curb’s resignation had to do with the fact that Curb Records’ LeAnn Rimes wasn’t invited to perform this year. She reportedly was asked to be a presenter, but declined the invitation.”
The next year, at the 2000 CMA’s, Alan Jackson performed “Murder on Music Row” with George Strait.
Saving Country Music » Blog Archive » Down with the CMA (Part 3 - ACE & The Outlaws)
August 19, 2009 @ 9:19 pm
[…] few have commented in Part 1 & Part 2 that we should run our own awards show. Well your not the first to have this […]
April 28, 2013 @ 8:57 am
Thanks to Alan he had the balls enough to do this!
April 28, 2013 @ 10:40 am
I still think that is just the coolest thing to do. I haven’t always been a fan of all of Alan Jackson’s music. But two things are for sure: he’s country, and he’s got class.
What really amazes me though is that video. It’s amazing that people use to actually stand on the stage, play their guitar, and sing. Now they have half naked tramps running around the stage and taylor swift dressed like a circus clown. Just proves that music has gone town the tubes
April 28, 2013 @ 1:27 pm
It really is a culture shock to see what country award shows used to be, and what they are now only a decade or so later. The power of a song used to be able to carry a performance. Now it takes theatrics and pyrotechnics to draw your attention away from how poor the song is written.
April 28, 2013 @ 11:46 am
Still one of the coolest (if not THE coolest) CMA moments I’ve ever seen. 😀
In fact, I still have Chris Willman’s 2002 ‘Entertainment Weekly’ cover story on AJ, in which that incident is mentioned near the end. I love this quote:
” ‘I was sitting at home watching the show,’ says the 70-year-old Jones, ‘and when he did that, I come up out of my chair. That shows he takes up for his peers.’ The world’s greatest living country singer doesn’t think his young friend Jackson *has* many peers, at least among his generation. ‘It boils down to there only being about two of them — Alan and George Strait, of course — that are really what I call country. And the rest of this so-called country music as far as I’m concerned is nothing but middle-of-the-road and crossover and bullcrap. I’m proud of the boy.’ ”
(And thanks for the ACM clip, too, Trig — man, what a song…)
December 25, 2013 @ 12:36 pm
It was pretty cool when Charlie Rich burned that envelope too!
December 25, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
Yup. That was a few years before I was born, but that would’ve been something to see! 😀
April 28, 2013 @ 1:14 pm
Love Alan Jackson and George Jones!
I miss those days.
April 30, 2013 @ 11:10 am
I love Country Music and to me it’s all about the power of the song. It’s is sad that today the business of music has killed the song. It all sounds like rehashed, warmed over ideas that repeat each other until they have squeezed out every drop what little originality was in the song in the first place.
God love Alan Jackson and anyone who appreciates the true songwriter.
July 21, 2014 @ 11:37 am
Are there any more details about the Ricky Van Shelton/Waylon performance debacle? Where did you get the story from, Waylon’ autobiography or simply an interview? Shelton spoke in a newspaper article back in the day about how “radio consultants” were ruining the country music business: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=437&dat=19970908&id=s9QtAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-jEDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4565,2757848. I’m sure he didn’t know how right he was at the time and what it’s become.
October 11, 2014 @ 11:05 pm
I love Mark Wills’ reaction, that must have been what a lot of people were feeling.
This is very cool! Way to go, Alan!
January 28, 2016 @ 5:16 am
Country music once was much more diverse than what it is today. I collect and listen to the older country music which is basically the blues and shows great respect to African American as well as Celtic and other European traditions and fuses these to form exciting music. I am influenced by and could listen to singers like Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Moon Mullican, Roy Orbison, Bill Monroe, Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merrill E. Moore, Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan, Flatt & Scruggs, Stanley Brothers/Ralph Stanley, etc, etc, etc. forever. All of these covered so many different styles and all got their power from blues based singing.
Today is a world of country pop. Not saying anything about it. It deserves its place as do all forms of music. But it is the only thing being promoted and that is what is wrong. I am a blues based traditional country singer from Ireland and see the same in my own country: non-blues based pop country is massive but other forms are not promoted. Producers and promoters often do not understand what country music is and would not be at all familiar with most of the names I mention in paragraph 1.