Willie Nelson sold Bibles, hawked vacuum cleaners and spun other people’s records before he heard his own songs on the radio in the early 1960s.
Now, two decades after leaving Nashville for his outlaw roots in Texas, the industry recognizes him as a member of its Country Music Hall of Fame.
The induction was one highlight of Wednesday night’s annual Country Music Assn. Awards, where Vince Gill, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks competed for top honors.
Gill had eight nominations and Jackson seven, while Brooks, who dominated the awards the past two years, had four.
But Brooks was nominated for a third straight year as entertainer of the year. Only one act has ever won that honor three times: Alabama, in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
Brooks faced competition from Gill, Jackson, Reba McEntire and the duo Brooks & Dunn.
Vying for album of the year were Jackson’s “A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘Bout Love),” Brooks’ “The Chase,” Gill’s “I Still Believe in You,” Mary-Chapin Carpenter’s “Come On Come On” and “Hard Workin’ Man” by Brooks & Dunn.
Jackson, whose rollicking “Chattahoochee” was a summer smash, was the favorite to win top male vocalist. Gill won the award in 1992 and 1991.
Other finalists for best male vocalist were Brooks, Gill, George Strait and John Anderson. Nominees for best female vocalist were Carpenter, who was last year’s winner, Wynonna Judd, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker and McEntire.