Country music veterans Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson and the late Johnny Cash kick off an unseasonal country music TV flood on Saturday.

The trio feature on the 37th CMA Awards, broadcast from 1.30-3.30 p m on the Nine Network as a curtain raiser to Nu Country TV at 8 p m on C 31, nee Channel 31.

Nine has taken time out from cowboy-hatted roasts and other cultural climaxes to give country music starved fans a two-hour oasis in the TV desert.

And the time slot is at very accessible - not the graveyard shift often reserved for repeats of the show.

It's fitting that the time slot coincides with many awards going to roots country artists and less to country pop acts.

The evening's tone was set by the first two events - a Jackson drinking song and the first of three awards going to Cash who has been snubbed since 1969.

Things were righted in the country music world: the pop tilt had been corrected back toward being solidly country.

"We're honky-tonking again," host Vince Gill, a two time Australian tourist, reminded the audience.


Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett, born on Christmas Day, won his first award at the tender age of 56 for vocal event of the year with Jackson on their smash hit 'It's Five O'Clock Somewhere.'

"I put a lot of time into this town, 31 years," the singing sailor, pilot and author revealed after the Awards show.

"I came here first before I went anywhere. Actually I was a reporter, like you people, at one time. I covered this once and back in those days, it was a far-fetched idea that I'd ever be up here."

Buffett, renowned for his wit and Aussie relatives on Norfolk Island, was lavish with his praise for Jackson, now 44, who was steered to stardom by expatriate Australasians Barry and Jewel Coburn.

Buffett is now working on a new country album, Conch-y Tonkin'.

"Thank you, Alan Jackson - I'm glad I can help your struggling career,'' Buffett joked.
"It was about 31 years ago I came to this town to pursue my musical madness. I never won anything for anything and it's great to do it here.''

"Thank you, Jimmy, no problem," said Jackson, "it's just pickin' and singin' and writin' songs and that's what it's all about."

Jackson, whose Greatest Hits 111 with bonus disc was recently released here, also won entertainer and male vocalist of the year for the second straight year.
He now has 16 career CMA Awards, second only to host Vince Gill's 18.

Alan Jackson


Johnny Cash won the single, video and album of the year for his finale album American 1V and tributaries from rock song 'Hurt.'

''It's amazing my father had such a life that he could expose himself and still never lose his dignity and his charm,'' said Cash's son, John Carter Cash, who accepted the awards with Cash's daughter, Kathy Cash.

The awards, bringing Cash's career tally to a meagre nine, drew a standing ovation at the CMA's 37th Annual Country Music Show.

Cash died aged 71 on September 12 of complications from diabetes and was nominated for four CMA awards this year.

CMA voters - about 5,000 industry insiders who belong to the association - nominated him before his death.

Cash was also nominated for vocal event of the year for 'Tears In The Holston River' with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken 111.'

'The Hurt' video underscored Cash's frailty by contrasting images of a young, robust Cash from concerts and movies with new footage of the weathered, grey singer crooning, ''You can have it all, my empire of dirt.''

The sequences are stark and interspersed with clips of the crucifixion and other religious imagery.

This show includes tribute to Cash, with Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams Jr. performing his music.


The show also featured a tribute to June Carter's first ex singing spouse Carl Smith - father of Carlene Carter - and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee with the late Floyd Cramer.

Smith, who later wed fellow singer Goldie Hill and retired from music to run his ranch, was on hand to doff his white cowboy hat to an appreciative audience.

CLICK HERE for the Cash-Carter Family Tree from the Diary on September 23.
The tree will be dissected on Episode 9 of Nu Country TV on Saturday November 29.


The traditional country surge continued with Randy Travis winning the song of the year award.

'Three Wooden Crosses' was a gospel song, and gospel songs seldom if ever get country radio play.

Randy Travis hadn't seen the Top 10 of Billboard's singles country chart in over five years until he recorded 'Three Wooden Crosses' and took it to No. 1 earlier this year. Travis was not present so the award was accepted by songwriters Doug Johnson and Kim Williams.


The Dixie Chicks were dumped in the awards for their roots country sixth album 'Home' because of the backlash to singer Natalie Maines exercising her freedom of speech in London.

So was Oklahoma born chart topper Toby Keith, nominated for seven awards including a duet with Willie Nelson, who brawled with the Chicks during the fracas.

Country pop act Rascal Flatts took best group honour and offered their award to veteran group Alabama, who are retiring this year.

Alabama's Randy Owen and Mark Herndon climbed the steps to the stage to accept the trophy but appeared reluctant and uncertain and made no remarks to the crowd.


Martina McBride, 34, won the nod for female vocalist of the year over Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss and Terri Clark who tours Australia in January.

McBride's new self-titled album - her eighth disc - has just been released in Australia.
Vocal duo honours went to Brooks & Dunn.

It was announced before the show although Gill hauled it out onstage to give to Brooks & Dunn after they performed 'You Can't Take the Honky Tonky Out Of The Girl.'

It was their third consecutive win in that category and also their 13th career award

Martina McBride


The Horizon Award went to the heavily favoured, strongly traditional singer Joe Nichols who had also been nominated for album of the year - a rarity for a rookie artist.
Randy Scruggs, producer of Will The Circle Be Unbroken 111, was named musician of the year in ceremonies before the telecast.


Jackson and Buffett performed 'It's Five O'Clock Somewhere' and jazz princess Norah Jones and country icon Dolly Parton duetted on Dolly's 'The Grass Is Blue.'

Martina McBride sang 'In My Daughter's Eyes' and George Strait ripped up 'Honk If You Honky Tonk.'

Patty Loveless, whose 12th album 'On Your Way Home' was released in Australia this week performed Rodney Crowell tune 'Lovin' All Night' and Alison Krauss reprised 'Every Time You Say Goodbye.

Host Gill performed the bittersweet 'Young Man's Town' with his daughter Jenny on harmony.

All the Horizon award finalists - Nichols, Gary Allan, Daryl Worley, Blake Shelton and Buddy Jewel - performed live on the show.


The Cash tribute was introduced by Gill giving Cash the CMA Irving Waugh Award for representing country music worldwide.

Gill said, "Nobody ever walked the line like the Man in Black."

Willie Nelson, wearing his years well, kicked it off with 'I Walk the Line,' segueing into Hank Williams Jr. singing 'Ring of Fire,' and Sheryl Crow and Travis Tritt blending for a soulful rendition of 'Jackson.'

Fellow Highwayman Kris Kristofferson interpreted 'Folsom Prison Blues,' giving way to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and their patented singing of 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken.' This became a group sing-along with Nelson, Tritt, Crow, Williams and Kristofferson joining for a rousing send-off to Cash.

The major irony is that the band was heavy on steel guitar - Cash never used steel guitar on his recordings or in his concerts after steel player A.W. "Red" Kernodle left Cash's Tennessee Three band shortly before their audition with Sun Records' Sam Phillips.

"Johnny was always there. June was my godmother," said Hank Jr before the show about the tribute.

"That's why I'm here tonight. This is family stuff," he said. "He was the man."


Rosanne Cash opened a tribute to her dad at the famed Ryman Auditorium this week by singing his song, 'I Still Miss Someone.'

It was the first of many Cash songs performed at the former home of the Grand Ole Opry by some of the most influential names in contemporary music.

Willie Nelson, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson sang 'Big River, and Travis Tritt performed a slow, bluesy version of 'I Walk the Line.'

Hank Williams Jr. sang 'Ring of Fire,' - penned by his manager Merle Kilgore and the late June Carter Cash.

Sheryl Crow performed 'Hurt,' a song about drug addiction that Cash recorded in 2002. The song, written by Trent Reznor of the rock group Nine Inch Nails, introduced Cash to a younger generation of fans.

"When he gave his voice to something, he dedicated his voice and his intellect," Crow said.

Larry Gatlin performed a song he said he wrote the day Cash died.

The lyrics included the maudlin phrase "a man can't live with a broken heart too long."

The song ends on the happy note that the man has joined his love in heaven and "now he's got a heart and a brand new song."

Actor Tim Robbins was master of ceremonies for the show, which was taped and will be broadcast on Country Music Television.

His stepdaughter, singer Carlene Carter said the family has struggled through a difficult year with the death of her mother, June Carter Cash in May, followed soon after by Cash's death.

Last month Carter Cash's daughter Rosey died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"This is truly a tribute," she said of the concert. "It's a way for us to celebrate the music they brought to the world."

Steve Earle, who performed 'Folsom Prison Blues,' said Cash came to Nashville as an outsider who broke conventions by writing his own songs and speaking his mind.

"He did things exactly the way he wanted to do them and stuck to his guns, and proved that that can be done and be done successfully," Earle said.

Rev. Billy Graham was among people to send recorded messages of love, saying he expects to join Cash and June Carter Cash in heaven soon.

The show ended with the entire Cash family on stage singing with the audience "We'll Meet Again" from Cash's final album, "American IV: The Man Comes Around."

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