The Six Best Moments of the 50th Annual CMA Awards

From Dolly Parton's tribute to Brothers Osborne's surprise win, the 50th Annual CMA Awards were ones we won't soon forget! 

Written by Lauren Laffer
The Six Best Moments of the 50th Annual CMA Awards
Photo courtesy Country Music Association

The 50th Annual CMA Awards were certainly a night to remember! Country music’s biggest stars, past and present, made their way to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to celebrate all of the people who made country music the amazing genre that it is today.

The two-and-a-half hour show was full of highs (and more highs!) and included one-of-a-kind performances from Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Reba, Kelsea Ballerini, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Chris Stapleton and many more.

With so many amazing moments from the half-century celebration, it was hard to narrow down our favorite moments from the historic show. However, we were able to choose several to mark down as things we’ll remember for a lifetime.

Here are our top six best moments from the 50th Annual CMA Awards…

Randy Travis’ Tear-Jerking Return to the Stage: It’s been three years since Randy Travis suffered a devastating stroke that left him in the hospital for months. Unsure of what his recovery would be, his friends, family and fans held on to the hope that he’d one day surpass the challenges he’d surely face. Travis has made an incredible recovery since and last night, he brought the room to tears when he closed out the history-making performance that included Underwood, Paisley, Gill, Charley Pride, Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Reba, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson and Roy Clark in a massive collaboration. The Texas native closed with a final “Amen” to their cover of his hit “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

Carrie Underwood’s Female Vocalist of the Year Win: It’s been eight long years since Carrie Underwood took home an award at the CMAs. But last night, the string of losses was broken when she reclaimed the Female Vocalist of the Year award. “Glory to God, thank you Jesus. Too many people to thank. My family, Mike, I love you. Isaiah, you are my heart,” Underwood said onstage. The Oklahoma native was clearly overwhelmed onstage as she claimed she’d “suddenly become stupid,” and didn’t know what else to say.

Brothers Osborne’s Surprise Win: We here at Sounds Like Nashville are huge fans of Brothers Osborne. Their debut album has been on repeat since it came out and there are no signs of it leaving our playlists anytime soon. However, their win as Vocal Duo of the Year came as just as much of a shock to us as it did to them. It’s no doubt that their fellow nominees Florida Georgia Line have had a stand-out year with a massive tour, numerous hits and a number of other accolades throughout the last year. We were already prepared to congratulate FGL with another win in a category they’ve had a strong hold on for the last several years, but it seems as if voters wanted to switch things up and go with the “21 Summer” duo. BROS took home a huge victory and their very first CMA Award.

Acceptance speeches: Along with the Brothers being unprepared for their huge moment, several other stars had incredibly memorable moments during their time in the spotlight. Maren Morris also claimed her very first CMA Award and was in tears by the time she reached the podium. She’s come a long way in the past year, especially since she wasn’t even in the arena for the show in 2015. Little Big Town also gave us a memorable moment when the group’s Karen Fairchild opened their speech with “Brothers Osborne just won!” The support for other country stars continued when Chris Stapleton stepped onstage for his Male Vocalist of the Year win, just moments after Dolly Parton received her Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Parton had claimed she had to wrap before she was able to give the speech she had written, and Stapleton quipped that he’d like to give his time to the legendary singer.

Star-studded Tribute to Dolly Parton: How better to honor Dolly Parton than with some of country music’s finest female voices? The CMA did it right when they asked Jennifer Nettles, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Martina McBride and Reba to help honor the Tennessee native with a medley of her biggest hits. Parton looked like a proud mama sitting out in the audience, singing along to “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” “Here You Come Again,” and “I Will Always Love You.” “Thanks to all of these beautiful girlfriends of mine and congratulations to all the winners tonight. Wow what a tribute wow this was so touching. I would have cried but I didn’t want to mess up my eyelashes,” Parton joked to the crowd. “This is such a great compliment it’s a wonderful, wonderful night for me. Thank you for all of that and of course now for me to be receiving the Willie Nelson award this is an absolute ‘high’ for me.”

Faith Hill fixing Eric Church’s bow-tie: While this wasn’t anything big in the grand scheme of things, the constant theme of country artists looking out for one another shined through when Faith Hill handed Eric Church his award for Album of the Year and proceeded to fix his bowtie before his acceptance speech. The moment was cute and quirky and certainly made Church’s night. “Not sure what’s better, winning the award or Faith Hill fixing my tie,” Church joked upon receiving his prize. “I think it’s Faith Hill fixing my tie.”