Due to COVID-19, there was no audience on hand for the 54th Annual CMA Awards — just the stars and their guests — but the all-star opening number made viewers at home feel the power of the moment.
Daniels passed away in July after suffering a stroke at the age of 83, but his legacy lives on in the genre’s current stars and each performer proved the point. Bentley kicked things off with spirited rendition of “Long Haired Country Boy” before Brothers Osborne jumped in to share time on “Trudy.” Then it was McBryde’s turn to join the Bros for a twangy run through Texas, and Aldean wrapped up with a fiery finale. Delivering Daniels’ signature hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — complete with a fiddle-sawing solo which unfortunately did not include reigning CMA Musician of the Year Jenee Fleenor, who had to drop out at the last minute after testing positive for the coronavirus — the Georgia native showcased Daniels’ lasting influence.
“I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kiddo, so of course I said yes,” McBryde told The Boot before the show, echoing the sentiment. “And when you’ve been listening to country music your whole life and you’re my age, there’s zero percent chance of you not being influenced by Charlie Daniels, especially from a rock ‘n’ roll standpoint.”