Academy of Country Music celebrates 11th Annual ACM Honors

Reba McEntire, Kelsea Ballerini & George Strait were among the honored

Last night (Aug 23rd), the Academy of Country Music presented the 11th Annual ACM Honors, an evening dedicated to recognizing the special honorees and off-camera category winners from the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards. Portions of the event, held at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, were taped for a two-hour special that will air on Friday, September 15th from 9-11 pm ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.

The event, sponsored by City National Bank, featured a star-studded lineup of live performances and award presentations celebrating Special Awards recipients Kelsea Ballerini (Gene Weed Milestone Award), Toby Keith (Poet’s Award), Bob Kingsley (Mae Boren Axton Service Award), Reba McEntire (Mae Boren Axton Service Award), “Nashville” (Tex Ritter Film Award), Dolly Parton (Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award), Shel Silverstein (Poet’s Award, awarded posthumously), and George Strait (Cliffie Stone Icon Award). The evening also honored winners of the Industry and Studio Recording Awards, along with Songwriter of the Year Award winner, Lori McKenna. The Academy of Country Music will present trophies to previously announced Special Awards recipients Eric Church (Merle Haggard Spirit Award) and Willie Nelson (Poet’s Award) at a later date.

Highlights from the event include:

  • Hillary Scott opened the evening with a performance of “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” and was then joined by Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild for a powerful duet performance of “Does He Love You” for which they received a standing ovation. The duo then welcomed Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman for a special performance of “Little Rock” in tribute to Reba McEntire. Fairchild, Schlapman, and Scott then presented McEntire with the Mae Boren Axton Service Award.
  • Kelsea Ballerini performed “Legends” before receiving her award, which was presented to her by Lady Antebellum. Following her acceptance speech, Ballerini performed a medley of #1 hits including “Dibs,” “Love Me Like You Mean It,” and “Peter Pan.”
  • Chris Stapleton performed “When Did You Stop Loving Me,” and Alan Jackson performed a medley of “Marina Del Rey” and “The Fireman” in tribute to George Strait before he accepted his award to a standing ovation. Following his acceptance speech, Strait took the stage and performed “Here For A Good Time” to a dancing audience to close out the evening. Reigning Entertainer of the Year Jason Aldean presented the award to Strait.
  • Chris Janson performed “A Boy Named Sue” and “Cover of the Rolling Stone” in tribute to Shel Silverstein, who received his award posthumously. Silverstein’s family friend Susan Nadler accepted the award from Janson on Silverstein’s behalf.
  • Toby Keith performed “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” and “Who’s Your Daddy?” after songwriter Jimmy Webb presented him with his award.
  • Maren Morris performed “Galveston” in tribute to the late Glen Campbell.
  • Brad Paisley performed “My Tennessee Mountain Home” in tribute to Dolly Parton.
  • Bobby Bones presented Bob Kingsley with his award, after which Thomas Rhett sang a medley of his hits “Die A Happy Man” and “Craving You.”
  • Songwriter Ross Copperman introduced Little Big Town, who performed “When Someone Stops Loving You,” written by Lori McKenna, before presenting McKenna with the award.

Additional off-camera highlights included:

  • Brett Young presented Studio Recording and Industry Award winners with their awards prior to the show taping.
  • Cassadee Pope presented the television series Nashville with the Tex Ritter Film Award. Nashville stars Clare Bowen and Charles Esten performed “Sanctuary” in a special moment before CMT’s Frank Tanki, Opry Entertainment’s Steve Buchanan, and Lionsgate’s Russell Ziecker accepted the award.

Presenters who took the stage at the event included Jason Aldean, Bobby Bones, Ross Copperman, Chris Janson, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Brad Paisley, Cassadee Pope, Hillary Scott, Jimmy Webb, and Brett Young.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: