CMA Awards Show Highlights During the 1980s

Photo Courtesy of Artist

1980

• Barbara Mandrell and Mac Davis began a three-year run as hosts.

• Mandrell was named Entertainer of the Year.

• Burt Reynolds joined Jerry Reed in announcing the Male Vocalist of the Year Award, which went to George Jones.

• Johnny Cash, Connie B. Gay and the original Sons of the Pioneers (Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman, Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer) were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


1981

• The Horizon Award was presented for the first time with Terri Gibbs taking the honor.

• Barbara Mandrell became the first performer to repeat as Entertainer of the Year and she won her second Female Vocalist Award.

• Alabama made their first appearance on the CMA Awards.

• Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind" captured Single and Album of the Year.

• Vernon Dalhart and Grant Turner were named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Alabama Photo Courtesy of RCA Records

1982

• Alabama became the first group to win Entertainer of the Year.

• Single, Song and Album of the Year trophies were dominated by Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind."

• Lefty Frizzell, Roy Horton and Marty Robbins were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


1983

• "The 17th Annual CMA Awards" introduced a technological first – a synchronized, stereo/radio simulcast, distributed by satellite. The radio broadcast included the airing of a Pre- and Post-Awards Show special featuring interviews with winners and nominees.

• Friends of Kris Kristofferson honored him with a medley of songs written by the legend.

• Two memorable CMA Awards performances took place: Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing "Islands in the Stream;" and Willie Nelson joined by Julio Iglesias performing "To All the Girls I've Loved Before."

• Little Jimmy Dickens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

• The Irving Waugh Award of Excellence was presented for the first time to Waugh, who served as executive producer of the CMA Awards for more than 25 years.

Reba McEntire Photo Courtesy of MCA Records

1984

• Alabama was named Entertainer of the Year an unprecedented third time.

• Lionel Richie was a surprise duet partner with Kenny Rogers on "Lady."

• Ray Charles, who was nominated for Horizon Award, performed a medley from his Friendship album.

• Reba McEntire won her first Female Vocalist of the Year Award and Lee Greenwood won his second Male Vocalist trophy.

• Ralph Sylvester Peer and Floyd Tillman were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

1985

• Anne Murray and Kris Kristofferson hosted "The 19th Annual CMA Awards" gala.

• The Music Video of the Year Award was presented for the first time to Hank Williams Jr. for "All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin' Over Tonight."

• Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price and Juice Newton paid tribute to songwriter Willie Nelson.

• New traditionalist Ricky Skaggs won Entertainer of the Year.

• George Strait won his first Male Vocalist of the Year Award.

• Flatt and Scruggs (Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs) were inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame.

Willie Nelson Photo Courtesy of Lost Highway Records

1986

• Hosted by Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

• Collaborations made for a memorable show including Amy Grant and Ricky Skaggs for "Walking in Jerusalem;" Alabama and Lionel Richie on "Deep River Woman;" Anita Pointer and Earl Thomas Conley reprised their "Too Many Times;" and The Trio of Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris performed "Dear Companion."

• Songwriters Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet earned Song of the Year honors for Randy Travis' "On the Other Hand."

• Reba McEntire won Entertainer of the Year.

• Benjamin F. Ford and Wesley H. Rose were named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.


1987

• Kenny Rogers hosted.

• Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet repeated as winners of Song of the Year for the Randy Travis classic, "Forever and Ever, Amen."

• The CMA Awards were first broadcast in Canada.

• Hank Williams Jr.'s anthem "Young Country" spotlighted emerging talents Lyle Lovett, Nancy Griffith, K.T. Oslin and others.

• Williams won his first of two consecutive Entertainer of the Year Awards.

• Reba McEntire won an unprecedented fourth consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year Award and Randy Travis won Male Vocalist of the Year.

• Rod Brasfield was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Dolly Parton photo courtesy of Sugar Hill Records

1988

• "The 22nd Annual CMA Awards" marked the first two-hour broadcast on the CBS Television Network.

• Dolly Parton hosted the gala event for the first time.

• The Vocal Event of the Year Award was introduced for the first time to recognize the collaboration of two or more individual acts. It was presented to The Trio (Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris). k.d. Lang was joined by Kitty Wells, Brenda Lee and Loretta Lynn to reprise their "Honky Tonk Angels."

• K.T. Oslin ended Reba McEntire's four-year reign as Female Vocalist of the Year. Her selfpenned anthem, "80's Ladies," also won Song of the Year.

• Kraft ended its 20-year partnership with the CMA Awards.

• Mother/daughter duo The Judds won their first Vocal Duo of the Year Award.

• The Country Music Hall of Fame welcomed Loretta Lynn and Roy Rogers, who was inducted for his solo career. Rogers was already a member of the Hall of Fame as part of the original Sons of the Pioneers


1989

• Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers hosted the gala event.

• Dolly Parton electrified the audience with "He's Alive," backed by a 100-member choir.

• Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. II captured Album of the Year honors, and many of the participants, including Roy Acuff and John Hiatt, joined The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the performance.

• George Strait won the first of two consecutive Entertainer of the Year Awards.

• Hank Thompson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

• Sponsors of the 1989 CMA Awards included Chevrolet Trucks, Kellogg's and McDonald's.

• The CMA Awards broadcast won its time slot in the ratings race.

• Jack Stapp, Cliffie Stone and Hank Thompson were all added to the list of industry and artist legends in the Country Music Hall of Fame.