With a predictability approaching that of celestial mechanics, Alabama for the fourth consecutive year was named Entertainer of the Year and Top Vocal Group at Monday’s 20th annual Academy of Country Music awards ceremony. The quartet also won the Album of the Year award for “Roll On.”
But while Alabama’s wins reinforced the multimillion-selling pop-country group’s hold in three top categories, major awards to the mother-daughter singing team the Judds and singer Reba McEntire were viewed by some of the winners as an industry stamp of approval for their “back to country roots” efforts.
After picking up her “Hat” award for Female Vocalist of the Year, McEntire said, “I think the industry is saying, ‘All right, go ahead and give it a good run.’ ” McEntire, whose vocals have been compared to those of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline, also won the Female Vocalist of the Year award last fall from the rival Nashville-based Country Music Assn.
Said Wynonna Judd, after picking up awards for Top Vocal Duet and Song of the Year, “I think (the awards) are going to make us work harder because this shows us that there are people who believe in us.”
Added her mother, Naomi Judd, “I know a couple of bands who have just used country to go crossover (to pop). I don’t think that’s right. You should be honest 24 hours a day.”
Alabama lead singer Randy Owen, pausing between sentences to wave to the autograph hounds and amateur photographers waiting outside Knott’s Berry Farm’s 2,100-seat Good Time Theatre following the ceremony, said he didn’t think the awards or the group’s long string of hit singles and albums would intimidate the band if it ever decides to change or move in new musical directions.
“We have to be Alabama, and that’s what we’ve always been from the very beginning,” Owen said. “We’ve still got the letters from many record companies who turned us down years ago, but we just kept going then. We didn’t quit.
“Even if we never win another award, it’s been a great career,” Owen said.
Orange County’s Bill Medley, the tall half of the Righteous Brothers, was among the five contenders for Top New Male Vocalist of the Year. The award, however, went to former Pure Prairie League lead singer Vince Gill.
New Female Vocalist of the Year winner Nicolette Larson, the country-rock singer who first came to prominence in the late ‘70s as a harmony vocalist with Neil Young, admitted that she’s not really a “new” artist.
“I’m a newcomer to the country field,” she giggled backstage. “But if you listen to the new album back-to-back with my first album, it’s not that different. People don’t realize that the flip side of ‘Lotta Love,’ (her 1978 Top 10 pop hit) was ‘Angels Rejoice,’ a great old Louvin Brothers bluegrass song.
“I was all ready to lose. I mean, I was nominated on a write-in ballot, my album just came out and I was late showing up for rehearsal because my car broke down.”
The two-hour nationally televised program, hosted by Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell and Janie Fricke, marked the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Academy of Country Music, created by West Coast country artists and fans as an alternative to the CMA. Awards are voted upon by the ACM’s 2,700 music industry members.