By the Way

The big winner last night was country music — and the Cubs

Brad Paisley performs at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.
Brad Paisley performs at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

It took me about an hour, but I finally “liked” all of the Facebook posts about the Cubs winning the World Series. This is the modern day equivalent of giving your buddies a “high five” but in a very impersonal way on the internet.

I didn’t watch game seven of the Series — to be honest, I didn’t even watch game one. No, I spent my Wednesday night watching the 50th annual CMA Awards. It’s the one awards show that I still enjoy watching. I also watch the awarding of the Heisman Trophy, but that’s still a ways away.

Wednesday’s show was pretty awesome from the get-go. Vince Gill and Ben Haggard opened the show with a moving performance of the late Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” It was a lead-in to a bigger tribute to country music that included Roy Clark, Alabama, Clint Black and many more.

It was cool to see people I’ve built relationships with over the years like my friend Charley Pride and my football nemesis Charlie Daniels and Randy Owen of Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys, Gill and several others over the duration of the awards show.

But back to the opening number.

It ended with the show’s hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood singing Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Travis, who suffered a stroke in 2013, was on stage with them and sang the final “amen” by himself. There was not a dry eye between Nashville, Tennessee and Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. It was one of the more moving things I’ve seen.

It was definitely worth missing the World Series. Besides, Gill and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit gave us updates throughout the evening, so I knew the Cubs were ahead. I was very surprised when I woke up Thursday morning to learn of the rain delay drama and that the game went to extra innings. Holy Cow!

The show was a mix of old country and new country, which is how it should be. Jason Aldean joined Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn for a great version of “Brand New Man” and Alan Jackson and George Strait performed together. Entertainer of The Year winner Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood performed a medley that included “Jackson” and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” with Ms. Gayle in the audience. Trisha also had that big blowout “Nashville hair-do,” proving there’s nothing wrong with big hair.

Brooks paid tribute to his late friend Keith Whitley by singing Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” as the cameras panned over Whitley’s former wife. Lorrie Morgan. Again, the tears were falling.

The great Dolly Parton was the subject of a tribute that features Pentatonix and Jennifer Nettles, Reba and Underwood. But Kacey Musgraves stole the show with her version of Parton’s “Here You Come Again.”

There were also great performances by Miranda Lambert, who sang “Vice.” Newcomer Maren Morris gave a rousing version of her hit “My Church” with the Preservational Hall Jazz Band and Little Big Town performed the Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man.” Throw in a tribute to Willie Nelson and Ray Charles by Chris Stapleton and Dwight Yoakam, and you really had one heck of a show.

As I was watching the show, I was thinking about how fortunate we are to be able to experience all of the great music that we get on the Gulf Coast. This is a list of some of the artists that were at the CMA show that have appeared or will appear on the Gulf Coast in 2016:

It’s also worth noting that the late Merle Haggard had a show scheduled for the IP Casino Resort last summer that was canceled due to his death in April.