NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Jason Aldean and newcomers The Band Perry were the big winners at the Country Music Association (CMA) awards on Wednesday.
But country music’s biggest night also belonged to Taylor Swift, and Glen Campbell, who is nearing the end of his 50-year career after announcing he has Alzheimer’s disease.
Campbell, 75, was given a standing ovation as he took the stage after a tribute by Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, who performed a medley of his three biggest hits — “Wichita Linesman,” “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get To Phoenix.”
“It was wonderful to have such a tribute from those guys,” Campbell told reporters afterward.
Taylor Swift, 21, won entertainer of the year — the CMA’s highest honor — for the second time after clinching it in 2009. Swift beat veterans Paisley, Urban, Blake Shelton and Aldean but the “Speak Now” singer was shut out of the other categories.
“I am so happy right now. This is thanks to all those fans who filled up the stadiums this year ... You have made my year,” a delighted Swift said.
Backstage she told reporters, “To win Entertainer of the Year twice was like the coolest thing ever happening to me, happening twice.”
Aldean, 34, took home his first-ever CMA trophies after a breakthrough year and a sell-out tour. He won album of the year for “My Kinda Party” and musical event of the year for his “Don’t You Wanna Stay” duet with Kelly Clarkson.
“It’s crazy. I feel like with the success of the song that we had with Kelly I felt we had a decent shot with winning award for that song, but as far as album of the year goes, that is something that wasn’t expected at all. To pull that in was cool,” Aldean told reporters backstage.
Shelton, who is also a judge on TV contest “The Voice,” won the male vocalist award for the second straight year, while his new wife Miranda Lambert made it two in a row as best female vocalist.
“I didn’t think ya’ll would let me get away with this two times,” Shelton said, saying he had no remarks prepared.
The Band Perry won two awards, for best new artist and single of the year for “If I Die Young,” while Kimberly Perry received song of the year for that tune. The Tennessee band, made up of brothers Reid and Neil Perry and sister Kimberly, released their debut album in 2010.
“We promise to keep working hard every day to continue the honor of this award,” Kimberly Perry said.
Lady Antebellum won vocal group of the year and Sugarland took the award for vocal duo.
The CMA also saw performances and appearances by mainstream singers like Natasha Bedingfield and Lionel Richie and Hollywood celebrities, including Miss Piggy of Muppets fame, in what was seen as the most pop-heavy award show in the association’s 45 year history.
Shelton sang a duet with singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins of the movie hit song “Footloose,” while country music icon Little Jimmy Dickens dressed up as teen pop idol Justin Bieber.
Co-hosts Paisley and singer Carrie Underwood sang an affectionate skit about outspoken country singer Hank Williams Jr, and comments last month in which he compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Williams, 62, a rare face at awards shows, appeared midway to join in the joke, winning cheers from the audience.
Fans also heard Faith Hill, who returned to sing after a five-year absence; Martina McBride’s moving song about cancer; and the CMA debut of teen “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery.
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh