Next year will mark a half a century since the first country music artist walked on stage at the Hollywood Palladium and accepted that first award. Stand out moments were collected by veteran music journalist, Lisa Lee, and the result is a 223 page coffee table book full of stunning photos, behind the scenes stories, ticket replicas, lyrics and memorabilia painting a brilliant picture of 5 decades of music history. “This is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards” opens the vault and lets you peek into some of the greatest moments in country music.
The very first award show was started to simply promote music in the western states. Merle Haggard took home the first year honor for “Most Promising Male Vocalist”. The show was low production at best until Dick Clark entered in the picture. Reba says,
I love award shows. I always have. When one was over, I lived for the next one! You’d think they are all alike but they’re not. The Academy of Country Music Awards are different because Dick Clark mixed country music stars with movie and TV, and I know this mix has to appeal to the fans too.
The stories and photographs capture moments in time so vibrantly that you relive them as you go. One can feel the outlaw movement start to dominate in the 70s. Garth Brooks, Clint Black and George Strait owned the 80s. Unlike today, the female artists had the spotlight in the 90s. Today’s country blends different sounds, focuses on collaborations, mixing Hollywood and various genres. The reader can see where we came from and get a sense of where we are headed with the digital age.
The awards often reflected what was going on in our world at the time. In the 70s, change was unfolding for African Americans, both on an off stage. Charley Pride was welcomed into the music family and nominated three times for Entertainer of the Year. Loretta Lynn kissed him on TV and that was something that hadn’t been seen in a public forum. When asked about it, Loretta confidently replied “Ill kiss him again”. The year after as Garth Brooks swept the show with a record 6 awards, he was watching the LA riots on a small backstage TV. It was hard to focus on the show when something so powerful was happening in our nation at the time. As the bus pulled out, Brooks began writing a song. The very next day he called songwriter Stephanie Davis and asked her if she had watched the news coverage. She said, “I am way ahead of you, the song is called, We Shall Be Free”
This book quite literally makes you feel the shock and emotion as Taylor Swift picked up her very first award. Now she has many awards under belt but that first one was special. She knew that she didn’t fall down the stairs and knew that Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were hugging her. It was much later that she came to realize that every person in the audience was standing. With all the success Blake Shelton has soaked up the past several years he says winning the ACM Song of the Year for “Over You” means the most to him.
“This is Country” would make a perfect holiday gift for those that love music and history. It can be found at booksellers worldwide. Proceeds from the sale go to ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the ACM.