Sunday’s red carpet revue at the Academy of Country Music Awards began quietly, save for occasional whoops from fans in nearby galleries. But it soon gave way to a parade of flashy jackets, sparkly dresses, young turks and country legends, all under a Texas sky blessed with beautiful weather after two days of storm-plagued ACM events.
The carpet was also flush with fresh faces — many from Texas.
For Arlington’s Mickey Guyton, a young female singer whose single Better Than You Left Me was just reviewed by The New York Times, AT&T Stadium was almost full circle.
“I wanted to be a professional singer at that ballpark back there,” she said, pointing to Globe Life Park just to the east. “I was 9 years old, and my family drove from Waco, where we lived at the time, to Arlington to see a Texas Rangers baseball game. LeAnn Rimes was 10 years old, singing the National Anthem before Blue even came out, and I fell in love with her. That’s why this is so nostalgic for me.”
Sunday’s festivities were only part of a busy weekend for Guyton. “In the middle of all this going on, I threw my sister a bridal shower down the street from my hotel,” Guyton said. “It’s great that this is happening here.”
Craig Wayne Boyd, a winner in The Voice back in December, was enjoying his first ACM Awards show, his first big walk on a red carpet, “and it’s my hometown,” said the Mesquite native.
He is the subject of a new Country Music Foundation exhibit on making it in country music that includes a pair of boots he wore to Nashville, and another pair he bought when his first single, My Baby’s Got a Smile On Her Face, debuted at No. 1.
“If those boots could talk,” he said.
Lubbock’s Josh Abbott also relished his first time on a red carpet “and our debut at an awards show.”
“Even though we’re not playing or anything, it’s great for the Texas guys to get in with the Nashville guys,” he said. “Hopefully one day we will [perform].”
Many of the young stars shared a devotion to vintage country music stretching back through the decades.
One was Chase Bryant, who played for the ACM’s Party for a Cause, has had a big it with Take it on Back and has a new single, Little Bit of You.
“I grew up on it,” he said. “My grandfather played with Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, and my uncle formed the group Ricochet.”
Down in Eustis, Fla., Michael Ray, whose debut single Kiss You In The Morning is climbing the charts, counts California’s Gary Allan as his biggest influence.
“I grew up listening to Earl Thomas Conley, Ray Price, Porter Waggoner and Merle Haggard,” Ray said. “There won’t be anything like that generation again.”
Singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton co-wrote Luke Bryan’s hit Drink a Beer, which won an ACM Song of the Year nomination, and his own solo album is about to be released.
“I’ve been a songwriter as a profession since 2001,” Stapleton said on the red carpet. “This is wonderful. How would you have any butterflies about it? That would feel pretentious to me.”
Old-time country stars
Veteran country stars also walked the red carpet.
“This is for us,” said Janie Fricke, a hitmaker of the 1980s and ’90s who lives south of Dallas and was thrilled to have the mammoth show here. “We just jumped in the truck and came over here.”
Mickey Gilley, the 2015 ACM Triple Crown Award winner, was honored at the Superstar Duets special Friday.
“To get an award of excellence at 79 years old and to still be performing, that’s the icing on the cake,” he said. But the legendary performer said this will be his last year in residence at his theater in Branson, Mo.
Jim Ed Brown, recently named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, said the honor was “one of the greatest thrills I’ve ever had.” He will be installed at the Country Music Association Awards in the fall.
Fan came from Minnesota
A crowd of fans near the head of the red carpet were in prime position to see stars exit their limos.
Many of them won tickets through DFW country radio station KPLX/99.5 FM “The Wolf.”
“You had to be caller 99, and I just happened to call at the right time,” said Tiffany Leffke of Frisco. “This is awesome. I mean it’s the first year in Dallas and the 50th awards, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Some of the people who won tickets from the Wolf don’t even live in DFW. Sunday Nelson of San Antonio, an online listener, also scored tickets.
“We found out about it through social media,” Nelson said. “Twitter’s a good resource.”
Other fans came up from Austin and Houston, but a winner for distance driving was Carly Wolf, who came from Adrian, a small town in Minnesota.
“My cousin scored this for me,” Wolf said. “Me and my parents drove 13 hours to get here. Florida Georgia Line would be my favorite. Adrian’s in the southwest corner of Minnesota. It’s only 1,200 people, so it’s not very big. [Country music] is pretty big up there.”