NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Kenny Chesney grabbed the lead with nine award nominations on Thursday from the Academy of Country Music, which hands out its prizes on April 1 in Las Vegas.
Jason Aldean was the runner-up with six nods and trio Lady Antebellum had five.
Chesney will have plenty of competition for the fan-voted Entertainer of the Year trophy from nominees Aldean, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and last year’s winner Taylor Swift.
Fans can vote for entertainer of the year and new artist of the year beginning on March 19. Voting for the top prize continues through the third hour of the live broadcast of the 47th edition of the awards show.
One of the veteran performers on the list of nominees, Chesney also received his 10th nomination for top male vocalist.
Aldean, whose career has taken off in the past few years, received his second nominations for entertainer of the year and top male vocalist.
The trio of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, collectively known as Lady Antebellum, is up for vocal group of the year, an award they have won for two consecutive years.
Brad Paisley was nominated again for top male vocalist, which he has won every year since 2006.
Toby Keith’s runaway hit “Red Solo Cup” brought him three nominations, including video and single of the year. He took home the top video award in 2003 for “Beer For My Horses,” which featured Willie Nelson.
Swift received her third nomination for the top prize of entertainer of the year and for the fifth time for top female vocalist. She received her third nod for best video.
Newcomer Grace Potter will be up for three awards, based on her performance with Chesney on their hit, “You and Tequila.”
A relatively new group, the Eli Young Band, was nominated in three categories including vocal group of the year and top single and song for “Crazy Girl.”
Most of this year’s nominees are from the crop of country performers who have come along in the past 10 to 15 years. Swift, 22, is the youngest nominee.
The band Alabama, nominated with Paisley for vocal event of the year, has not toured together since 2004.
Other veteran nominees include Vince Gill, who began his solo career in 1983; and Martina McBride, who worked behind the scenes for Garth Brooks until she signed her first label deal in 1991.
Reba McEntire, one of the most successful country singers of the 1980s and 1990s, acted as master of ceremonies for the announcement, with the nominations revealed for the first time via a digital format on the Academy of Country Music’s Facebook page.
That gave fans a chance to lodge comments, including one bleat that Gill should not have been left off the list of nominees for top guitarist.
Fan voting will determine the finalists for new artist of the year, to be announced at the end of the month. Voting for the winner of that award will begin on March 19 and close before the show begins on April 1.
McEntire and Blake Shelton will co-host the live CBS broadcast for the second consecutive year from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Last Vegas.
Reporting By Vernell Hackett; Editing by Andrew Stern and Vicki Allen