6 Memorable CMA Award Show Performances Since American Songwriter Began in 1984

With the 2023 CMA Awards on the horizon (November 8), and Peyton Manning and Luke Bryan readying to take the hosting reigns, American Songwriter was getting a little nostalgic. The first issue of American Songwriter kicked off in 1984 and we wanted to look back at past CMA Awards and the amazing performances that came from the show.

While the shows started in 1967, before our time, we are taking it back to our inception in 1984 and looking at 6 performances that stood out over the decades. While there are many more that we took notice of, we narrowed it down to these 6 memorable moments in CMA Award show history. Enjoy.

Videos by American Songwriter

6. Dolly Parton’s opening performance of “Tennessee Homesick Blues” in 1984

5. Little Richard duets with Tanya Tucker on “Something Else” in 1994

The CMA Awards show always likes to mix it up with artists outside the genre making special appearances and 1994 was no exception. Little Richard sat behind his signature piano pounding the keys as Tanya Tucker, decked out in black leather, showed off her moves and entertained the audience with a rousing rendition of “Something Else.”

4. Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, and Carrie Underwood Honor Loretta Lynn in 2022

Following the death of Loretta Lynn a month prior (October 2022), country music rounded up the troops to put together a down-home tribute to the Queen of Country Music. Country’s female heavy hitters, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Reba McEntire took the stage to remember the legendary artist. The ladies took turns singing Lynn’s songs, “You Ain’t Women Enough,” Don’t Come Home a Drinkin,'” and “You’re Looking at Country,” before joining forces on “Coalminer’s Daughter” for a well-deserved honor.

3. 14-year-old LeAnn Rimes performs “Blue” in 1996

Only 14 years old, LeAnn Rimes took the CMA stage in 1996 like a pro. She not only kept her composure she wowed a room full of adults with her powerhouse vocals, sending her on the way to instant success. While the song “Blue” was originally written in 1958 by Bill Mack, and pitched to Patsy Cline, who never recorded it, LeAnn Rimes took it to a new level 40 years later, making it her own.

14 LeAnn Rimes singing Blue @ CMA Awards Show Oct.2nd,1996. from LeAnn Rimes Classic on Vimeo.

2. Alan Jackson performs “Pop a Top/Choices” in 1999

In a chill bump-inducing moment, Alan Jackson took a stand for his friend George Jones by stopping his performance of “Pop a Top” and breaking into Jones’ “Choices.” Jones had a hit on his hand with the song in ’99 but the CMA Awards would only allow him to play an abridged version of the song. Jones refused and did not appear. Jackson, without the CMA knowing, cut his song short to pay tribute to Jones in what is now a great CMA moment,

1. Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake duet on “Tennessee Whiskey/Drink You Away” in 2015

What could be classified as one of the greatest performances in CMA Award show history, Justin Timberlake not only surprised the viewers with his appearance but wowed them as well in this dynamic performance of both “Tennesee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away” with powerhouse Chris Stapleton in 2015.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

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