My notes, made during rehearsals:
4:20 p.m.The Ace in the Hole Band is on stage, tuning up and doing sound checks, rehearsing. There are only a few hundred people or so here for rehearsal. We arrived early and chose our seats on the main floor, center section. There are some Strait fans here but not many. Vince Gill is the host, and so far rehearsals have been enjoyable, Vince has been funny, but we are excited seeing the Ace on stage. 4:40 p.m.From the left rear backstage entrance to the stage I see movement. There is a slim shadow of a figure, mostly hidden by a larger figure of a stage hand walking in front of him. In a narrow shaft of light coming from the stage I see a thigh, and then the movement of his hip as he walks to the stage, and I smile, recognizing the walk of George. As he comes out of the darker shadows and into the colored lights of the stage area I see that he is wearing a dark blue MCA cap, a medium blue short-sleeved shirt, dark denim Wranglers, his silver conchoed belt with his shiny belt buckle, and of course his full ostrich-quilled Justin boots. All that Cowboy magnificence was topped off with a big Strait smile as he looked out towards us. We were already smiling and standing, waving at him. The audience saw him then, applauded and yelled hello to him. He responded as he always does, with that big smile and a wave. The Stage Director shook his hand, George said a few words to him, and the Director said something back to him, and walked away. George turned and waved as we waved back and smiled at him, so happy to see him.
George moved around the stage shaking hands with the Ace in the Hole Band before doing anything else. Obviously he had not seen them as yet there in Nashville. He strolled over to the microphone stand, took the microphone off of it, and moved the stand away a few feet. It was then the realization came to me that he would be singing this song holding the microphone, and without his guitar. George found his spot center stage, looked out at us, and started crooning “What Do You Say to That.” There was no hesitation, no vocal straining of his voice. Mr. Smooth Strait sung his song all the way through, perfectly, his body swaying, keeping time to the music, that right leg moving, boot tapping on the stage floor, his vocals right on. Those green eyes were on us, going from face to face, reaching out, turning us into mush.
Afterwards we applauded and yelled for him. He said “Thank you” to the audience then sat down on a stage prop, and waited for the sound levels to be checked and set. Then they did it again. The Director had George walk from the left rear entrance to center stage several times, with the cameraman ahead of him shooting. We ate it up, loving that Strait walk.
They did the song two more times, 3 times in all. The last time I found myself singing with him. He saw, and smiled as he sung. As he turned to walk off stage everyone was standing and applauding him. He turned to look back, waved, then took his hat off and waved it at us. That I will remember clearly, he seldom does that – a first at an awards show rehearsal for us.
I watched him leave the stage, and sighed, then wiped the tears away before anyone saw them. I heard people near us who had never seen George in person talking about him, going on about how cute he is, and how good his voice is in person, and how they need to go to one of his concerts. He had made more fans. I had come a long way to see George for a total of less than an hour, but it was well worth it. In my life it has always been worth whatever I went through to see George. (See my Additional Personal Notes below.*)
September 22, 1999Final CMA Awards Rehearsal, Nashville Tennessee
For the final rehearsal George wore Wranglers, and a rust colored long sleeved sweatshirt that hung low over his hips. He wore his Cognac Full Ostrich Quilled boots, and a dark blue cap. (Note: on CMT George did an interview with Terri Clark wearing the same clothes. The interview was funny from the beginning because Terri kept giggling. She was really “flustered” being that close to him, with him looking at her, and her interviewing him.) He sung his song flawlessly as he had rehearsed it yesterday, and with a final wave and smile he walked off stage. I watched him leave as everyone around us talked about him, how good he was and how he was unlike any of the other entertainers. George stood alone in my judgment, as he always has. Someday he would be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. There would be no way for Nashville to ignore the Texas Man. George was destined to be a legend in his own time. I was glad that I had experienced another rehearsal, and seen George without all the Awards show hoopla. We turned and left to get ready for the CMA Awards Show.
*Additional Personal Notes from my log (added October 7, 2007)
George would not win a CMA Award during this 1999 show. I was disappointed for him, but it really doesn’t matter now that I think about it. There has been lots of water under the bridge so to speak. Since 1999 Kenny Chesney has come into his own. Of the CMA entertainers in 1999 the singers that are still “around, and in the running” in 2007 are Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Reba, Martina McBride, Brooks and Dunn, and in his 26th year George Strait - with seven nominations. To me, that just says it all.
Alan Jackson made a statement during his performance, changing his song half way through to the George Jones song “Choices.” The CMA would not let Legend Jones perform the song on the show in its entirety, so Jones did not do the award show. Alan did it to honor George Jones, and along with most of the audience George applauded him for it. I saw him talking to Norma about it, shaking his head, and watching Alan as he walked off stage without a glance back at the audience. George was impressed with Alan that night.
I remember Shania Twain singing her song during one of the awards shows, can't remember if it was this one or not. I'll have to watch my tapes. She was turning on her charm, looking down at George as he was seated right in front of her. George sat there, his long legs stretched out, hand on his chin, watching her without any apparent reaction as she sung right to him. That is until son Bubba leaned over his Mom and said something to his Dad, which made all three of them break out in laughter. I have often wondered what Bubba said, it was a priceless moment.
Going to rehearsals was a priceless experience that I am very glad I took advantage of. When I first went to the CMAs in 1996 we didn't have tickets. We wanted to visit Nashville, and thought it would be a great time to be there. There weren't that many fans that were able to get in for rehearsal, it was mostly CMA people and their families.
My friend and I were standing outside the fence which surrounded the back entrance, and which secured the entertainer's buses. We were able to see singers such as Trace Adkins came out of his bus and go into rehearsal. We were still standing there as rain started to fall. I held my friend's umbrella over us as she focused her camera on George's beautiful white bus, 'Roper One.' The rain was a gentle rain, and it added to the experience I was thinking. Just then the door to George's bus opened, and remained open for a few minutes, before it closed. It was in shadow so we couldn't make out who it was in the doorway, but I had the definite feeling we were being watched. We must have looked pretty sad, standing there in the rain on the other side of the fence I thought, kind of like a lonely puppy being held back from a loved one. Less than minutes later a golf cart came tearing around the corner, and came to a stop behind us. We thought we were going to be chased away but the security guard was smiling, said hello, and that he had two tickets for us to go into rehearsals. He handed them to us, and would not answer any questions. He said to hurry up and we would be able to see George Strait's rehearsal. That answered the question I had wanted to ask.
Thanks to my friend Kitty I have a copy of the above CMA Awards show on tape. (thank you Kitty!) When time permits I will have to watch it, save it to DVD, and make some pictures for this page. I will make a note on my Staitfever webpage when I have been able to do that.
Going to CMA rehearsals stopped after 9-11. For several years they would not allow anyone into rehearsals but the artists, there was high security. Now fans can buy tickets to the CMA Awards which has been moved to a larger building. Go to www.CMA.com for more information.
Like many things since 9-11, the CMA and rehearsals hasn't been the same. Nothing can replace the feeling and experiences I had during those years I was able to attend rehearsals. The Ace in the Hole Band made it special, and I will forever love them for this: During a break in George's rehearsal as he was sitting down speaking with the stage director they started playing "Take Me Back to Tulsa," instrumentally. We were enjoying it so, it was such a surprise. George didn't take long to join in. He got up and strolled over, looking at his band, smiling. Even the director was clapping his hands as George and the Ace showed everyone what Texas Swing is. They were the only act in that show to sing a additional song during rehearsal that had no place in the show. Ronnie and the guys knew how much we loved them doing Western Swing, and we let them know we appreciated it. When George watched them, then got up and strolled over, smiling, I knew he was going to join in. It was wonderful, and the small rehearsal crowd that was there applauded and yelled as George and the guys left the stage, waving back at us. We had a great time, it was another wonderful memory to keep close to my heart, and the live CMA show was still hours away.
Pre-Awards Show Article:
"THE 33RD ANNUAL CMA AWARDS" BOASTS TOP TALENT
George Strait, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina And Dwight Yoakam Added To List Of Performers
NASHVILLE – "The 33rd Annual CMA Awards" has added more performers to its stellar talent lineup, including George Strait, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina and Dwight Yoakam. The three-hour gala event will be telecast live on the CBS Television Network, Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. (EDT) from the Grand Ole Opry House.
George Strait has served as a musical inspiration to fans and fellow performers alike throughout his astounding career, amassing 43 number-one singles. This year, he also marked the second run of the "George Strait Country Music Festival," with close to one million people attending across the nation. Strait is nominated for Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist and Album of the Year for ALWAYS NEVER THE SAME. Strait also served as co-producer for the album, along with Tony Brown. He plans to perform his latest release, "What Do You Say To That."
With over 24 million albums sold and 24 number-one hits, Alan Jackson has earned a reputation as one of Country Music’s top performers. Jackson is nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year and Music Video of the Year for "I’ll Go On Loving You."
Jo Dee Messina, who’s nominated for the Horizon Award and Female Vocalist, has set records with her sophomore album, I’M ALRIGHT. Messina recently became the first female Country singer to have three consecutive multi-week number ones from one album – "Bye, Bye," "I’m Alright and "Stand Beside Me." She’ll perform her latest hit from the album, "Lesson In Leavin’."
Dwight Yoakam has achieved a unique status in the entertainment world, attaining success not only as a singer and songwriter, but as an actor and screenwriter as well. Musically speaking, he’s sold over eight million records, and this year, he’s nominated for Vocal Event of the Year for his contribution to "Same Old Train." He will perform "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," from his latest release, LAST CHANCE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS: DWIGHT YOAKAM’S GREATEST HITS FROM THE ‘90s.
Artists previously announced to perform include Alabama, joined by pop group ‘N Sync, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, joined by multi-platinum pop star Jewel, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, The Wilkinsons, Shania Twain, Steve Wariner and Chely Wright.
Winners of "The 33rd Annual CMA Awards" will be voted on by the nearly 6,000 professional members of the Country Music Association. Ballots are tabulated by the international accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche LLP.
"The CMA Awards" was the first music awards special to be carried on network television, and has consistently earned top ratings. Going head-to-head against ABC, NBC and Fox season premiere week, the 1998 CMA Awards placed first for the night in households, viewers and all adult demographics.
Post Awards Release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sep. 22, 1999
DIXIE CHICKS AND TIM MCGRAW MULTIPLE CMA AWARD WINNERS
SHANIA TWAIN NAMED ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
NASHVILLE – The Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw were this year’s top award winners with three CMA Awards each during “The 33RD Annual CMA Awards” televised live on the CBS Television Network tonight. The Chicks won for Vocal Group of the Year, Single of the Year and Music Video of the Year for “Wide Open Spaces.” Tim McGraw captured wins for Male Vocalist of the Year and for Album of the Year for A PLACE IN THE SUN, along with Byron Gallimore and James Stroud for the album’s producer.
Shania Twain took home the Entertainer of the Year award for the first time. It marks the first time a female artist has won in that category in the past 13 years. Upon receiving the Award, Shania gave the emotional response, “I’m embarrassed that I’m crying, but I’ve been presented this Award by one of the most fabulous entertainers of our time, Reba McEntire.”
For the eighth consecutive year Brooks & Dunn won Vocal Duo of the Year, setting a record for the most wins in that category.
More than 40 Country luminaries, featuring a broad spectrum of the industry, appeared during the three-hour telecast. The night of excitement opened with the Dixie Chicks in a riveting Celtic performance of “Ready To Run.”
The night was full of standing ovations, collaborations and many surprises. Martina McBride received a standing ovation for her Female Vocalist of the Year win. This was her first win since 1994, when she took home the trophy for Music Video of the Year with “Independence Day.”
Alan Jackson brought the audience to its feet with his surprise acknowledgement of George Jones’ “Choices” during his own featured performance. Hall of Fame member Merle Haggard and multi-platinum pop artist Jewel also received a standing ovation for Merle’s classic hit “That’s The Way Love Goes.” Collaborations continued to be a theme as pop sensation ‘N Sync joined Alabama for their hit single “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You.”
Faith Hill gave the first television performance of her next single “Breathe,” while Dwight Yoakam, along with the help of 16 dancers called the “local Yoakam line dancers,” lit up the stage with his popular rendition of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Johnny Bond, Dolly Parton and Conway Twitty became the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. As Kenny Rogers introduced Parton to accept her honor, the audience gave her a standing ovation. She exclaimed, “I feel like I died and went to hillbilly heaven!” She went on to say, “Porter Wagoner played a big part in my life. A lot of wonderful things happened to me because he gave me my first big break.” The audience also acknowledged the late Conway Twitty for his honor with a standing ovation.
After Shania Twain performed the title track from her multi-platinum album COME ON OVER she was surprised with the presentation of the CMA International Artist Achievement Award which recognizes global impact. Twain was honored because of her phenomenal record sales, tremendous airplay and the success of her tours.
The 1999 broadcast of the CMA Awards marked the eighth consecutive hosting stint for Gill. The multi-talented vocalist, songwriter and musician added one more award to his list, for Vocal Event of the Year with Patty Loveless for “My Kind Of Woman/My Kind Of Man.” The duet was the second consecutive win for Loveless in that category. Patty, on vacation with her husband and producer Emory Gordy, was not present to accept the honor. For the final musical performance of the evening, Dolly Parton joined Vince for the song. Dolly exclaimed as the song ended, “I’m no Patty Loveless, but you’re no Porter Wagoner either.” The award gives Gill 18 CMA Awards – more than any other artist.
“The CMA Awards” was the first music awards special to be carried on network television, and has consistently earned top ratings. Going head-to-head against ABC, NBC and Fox season premiere week, the 1998 CMA Awards placed first for the night in households, viewers and all adult demographics.
Fans throughout North America received extraordinary access to preparations for “The 33rd Annual CMA Awards” through “CMA Awards Backstage Pass,” the first-ever pay-per-view preview of an awards event which broadcast live September 21st from 8 – 11 p.m.
Hosted by noted comic Bill Engvall and Mercury recording artist Terri Clark, the three-hour special provided an “insider’s look” at preparations for Country Music’s biggest night, and great moments from past CMA Awards telecasts. Viewers were also treated to live performances from CMA Award winners Mary Chapin Carpenter and Deana Carter from Nashville’s 328 Performance Hall.
This year’s broadcast was produced by Walter C. Miller and directed by Paul Miller. Donald K. Epstein wrote the script. A stereo-radio simulcast of the gala event was satellite-delivered by MJI Broadcasting. The program will also be televised via tape around the world, including the UK by BBC 2. For more information on the CMA Awards, Internet users can locate the CMA website using the address www.CMAawards.com.