LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - It was a night for married couples at the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday as husband and wife Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won several honors and a couple of country music fans married during the show.
The show spanned the years of country music with 22-year-old sensation Taylor Swift winning the top honor, entertainer of the year, and audience members paying tribute to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, who died last week in Nashville at age 88.
“I am so amazed that the fans keep doing such incredibly nice things for me. I just want to hug them all the time and thank them for everything - it really blows my mind,” Swift told reporters backstage about the award, which fans vote for.
But Shelton and Lambert, who married last year, were the big winners, taking home three trophies between them including best male vocalist for him and two trophies for her, female vocalist and album of the year for “Four the Record.”
Shelton, who co-hosted the program, seemed genuinely surprised, saying he’d been waiting in the wings and hadn’t even been thinking of the award when his name was called. “I didn’t see that coming, at all,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Accepting her trophy for “Four the Record,” Lambert called her albums her “babies.”
“That’s why I wake up in the morning,” she said.
Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson also walked off with two awards, single record of the year and vocal event of the year for their duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”
Lady Antebellum, fresh off their smash hit “Need You Now,” was named best vocal group - the fourth time it had won the award in recent years. The Eli Young Band took song of the year honors with “Crazy Girl.”
“I have dreamed about this moment my whole life,” Mike Eli said. He told aspiring artists: “Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and do it.”
Former “American Idol” contestant Scotty McCreery, 19, who recorded the hit single “Water Tower Town,” was named best new artist. Among honors announced backstage, video of the year went to Toby Keith for his popular party song, “Red Solo Cup.”
Keith had one of the night’s memorable performances singing the song in the packed MGM Grand Arena while audience members swayed to the music and held red cups in the air.
Hosted by Shelton and Reba McEntire, the Academy of Country Music Awards is among the biggest events in country music.
Toward the end of the show, a pair of country music fans got married on stage, in what was billed as the first live wedding on a televised awards show.
Christina Davidson, 31, and Frank Tucci, 33, exchanged vows while Martina McBride and Train’s Pat Monahan sang a duet of the hit song, “Marry Me.”
Davidson lost her husband Paul in a drowning accident in 2009, and later founded a support group for young widows and widowers in New Jersey, where she met Tucci, whose wife lost her life to cancer.
The show featured numerous performances. Carrie Underwood started off the program with her rocking song “Good Girl,” and Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw belted out “Feel Like a Rock Star.”
Not to be outdone, Keith Urban put on an electric guitar show with “For You,” and in keeping with tradition, the Academy of Country Music invited stars from other musical genres to appear, including U2 singer Bono and the members of KISS.
But the old days of country were not forgotten, either. In perhaps the most poignant moment of the night, the star-filled audience gave a standing ovation for banjo picker Earl Scruggs, whose funeral was held in Nashville on Sunday.
Reporting by Vernell Hackett; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Stacey Joyce