ACE & The Outlaws vs. The CMA
The year was 1974. ‘The Outlaws’ of country music were on the rise, and had already taken over Texas. Willie Nelson had put together the ‘Dripping Springs Reunion’ that featured new Outlaw acts right beside legacy acts like Tex Ritter and Earnest Tubb, showing that these Outlaw newcomers didn’t want to replace the legends, but rather embrace them.
But on Music Row in Nashville, the story was a little different. At the 1974 CMA Awards, none other than Olivia Newton John, clearly a pop performer, won best female vocalist. REAL country music performers were outraged. And they did something about it.
At the time, Tammy Wynette and George Jones were hitched, and in Tammy’s house, REAL country music artists formed their own organization, the “Association of Country Entertainers,” or ACE, and threw their own awards ceremony. Members along with George and Tammy included Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Jim Ed Brown, Dottie West, Brenda Lee, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, and Dolly Parton.
Unfortunately ACE never really got off the ground. But the Outlaws finished what ACE started. The next year in 1975 is when Waylon Jennings walked out of the CMA’s, and a liquored-up Charlie Rich pulled out his zippo and lit fire to the envelope that held the name of John Denver for Best Male Vocalist. The Nashville oligarchy had tried to turn country into a form of pop music to increase sales, and traditional country artists were in outright revolt.
1976 is when the album Wanted! The Outlaws came out, and became the first certified platinum country album ever. Nashville label executives had brought country to the brink of becoming just another pop genre, and the Outlaws had saved it. The sheer numbers The Outlaws had behind them could not be denied even by the CMA, and The Outlaws virtually swept the awards show.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson are named vocal duo of the year and win single of the year for “Good Hearted Women. Wanted! The Outlaws earns album of the year honors for Jennings, Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter.
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I speak up against many of the Nashville institutions like the major record labels, the CMA, the Grand Ole Opry, etc. But there’s one I always sing the praises of: The Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame has a theme: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
(From the Hall itself)
The circle is country music, and it’s always changing style and mood. But no matter how far country has gone towards pop, the roots of country always rise up and put in back on the right path: completing the circle, not allowing it to be broken.
Tonight, country music is in the same state as it was in 1974, with people like Kid Rock and Taylor Swift performing. It is our duty as REAL country music fans and performers, to organize and revolt against these people trying to steal our music and culture away from us.
The circle cannot allowed to be broken.
This is my last installment of this series of blogs. I could probably write one or two more, but maybe next year.
I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has read. The response to these blogs has been amazing. I have the best readers on the whole earth planet.