Carrie Underwood wins country music's top award

Mon Apr 6, 2009 1:02am EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Carrie Underwood was named entertainer of the year on Sunday at the 44th Academy of Country Music awards, securing her status as country's hottest star on a night that felt like a changing of the guards.

Underwood became only the seventh woman in 39 years to win country entertainer of the year, snapping Kenny Chesney's four-year winning streak while also receiving the trophy for top female vocalist.

"I've had a lot of good moments in the past four years. This one takes the cake," a tearful Underwood, who performed twice during the show, said in accepting her entertainer of the year award.

She was the only woman nominated for the top prize and at 26 by far the youngest, and her victory -- along with the two awards claimed by 19-year-old sensation Taylor Swift -- signaled that the next generation of country stars has arrived.

"Thank you God. I never thought I'd be nominated, I never thought I would win. I don't know what to say. I've got nothing," she said before letting out an emotional scream and spinning as she walked off stage.

Underwood, a small-town Oklahoma girl who first shot to fame by winning TV's American Idol competition in 2005, has since become country music's biggest star and achieved enormous crossover success.

"I feel like I just won American Idol all over again," she said in accepting the top female vocalist award.

Backstage, she called it an honor to be only the seventh female to win, joining such country icons as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell and the night's host, Reba McEntire.   Continued...

<p>Carrie Underwood performs "I Told You So" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas April 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>