George Strait beat out today's hottest young country music talents to take home the Entertainer of the Year trophy at the 47th annual Country Music Association awards, held last night in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was clear that Strait, who's currently out on his Cowboy Rides Away farewell tour, didn't expect the honor. Taking the stage, Strait said, 'What? Never in a million years...thank you so much....this just blows me away. I just cannot believe it."
This was Strait's third Entertainer of the Year award, but the last time he won was in 1990.
Strait, who's the only artist in music history to have a top 10 hit every year for 30 years, loomed large throughout the telecast. He and Alan Jackson teamed up to pay tribute to the late George Jones by singing Jones' signature hit, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and he was also part of the night's other major event: the Pinnacle Award presentation, which went to Taylor Swift.
Along with Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Strait was part of a group of artists who Swift had all opened for early on in her career, and they all took the stage to salute Swift's incredible achievements in bringing country music to a global audience.
Video tributes from the likes of Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon and Justin Timberlake rounded out the segment.
While Swift wasn't surprised by the Pinnacle Award, which had been pre-announced, she was clearly emotional while accepting it.
"To the CMA...to whoever made this choice [to give this to me], you not only honor my hard work and exhaustion, but the hard work and exhaustion of my family and my label, and everyone who works with me," she declared. "But most of all, my fans, who have filled stadiums: I love you!"
Wednesday night marked only the second time this award has even been given out; its first recipient, Garth Brooks, won in 2005.
Swift also performed her song "Red" on the telecast acoustically, with some help from musicians like Vince Gill and Alison Krauss, and took home two awards which had also been pre-announced: Musical Event of the Year and Video of the Year for "Highway Don't Care," which she shared with McGraw and Urban.
The CMA's also included a surprise appearance by Willie and Jase Robertson of Duck Dynasty, who were joined by their wives Missy and Korie to perform Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” The Robertson's also gave out the first award of the night to duo Florida Georgia Line for single of the year for their hit song “Cruise.”
The complete list of CMA winners:
Music Video of the Year - "Highway Don't Care" (Announced Earlier) Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban
Single of the Year - "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line
Vocal Duo of the Year – Florida Georgia Line
Musician of the Year – Mac McAnally
New Artist of the Year – Kacey Musgraves
Album of the Year – Blake Shelton "Based on a True Story"
Vocal Group of the Year – Little Big Town
Female Vocalist of the Year – Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year – Blake Shelton
Entertainer of the Year – George Strait