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VINCE GILL: SURPRISING THOUGHTS ON CMA’S ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR AWARD
In addition to hosting the CMA Awards for a record 12 consecutive years, from 1992 through 2003, CMA Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill has earned 18 CMA Awards, including two for Entertainer of the Year (1993 and 1994).
Like all who have hosted the show, Gill has a unique perspective on what recognition from the CMA means. And that makes his reflections on the Entertainer of the Year distinction especially interesting.
Did you watch the CMA Awards and in particular the Entertainer of the Year winners before you got into the business?
Well, of course I always watched them. I started coming to them. I moved here in ’83 and was going to the Awards and performing a time or two in group things. But I don’t know if I ever looked at it and said, “Boy, that’s the one for me.” I was just always marveling at people playing music.
When was your first Awards appearance?
I can’t remember, honestly. I remember there was something I did. … It was a long rehearsal. It was taking forever. I laid down to just rest, and somebody told me Roy Acuff made a comment; he said, “Well, I’ve seen everything out here, and I believe that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a boy sleep on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry (laughs).” We went on to be great friends; he didn’t hold it against me, I guess.
You first won the Award in 1993. Had you been nominated before that?
Oh, no, I don’t think so. That was quite a year. I won five Awards that year. That one surprised me because I looked at things somewhat logically and said, “There are people out there who have sold more tickets and sold more records and done more of this, this and this.” I could give you a laundry list of all that kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, when people got a chance to write in who they like, they picked me.
What makes the CMA Entertainer of the Year a unique honor?
Well, it seems to be a culmination of all things, of doing some business out there and showing great growth as an artist and a lot of things like that. But I’m going to probably be the only guy you talk to who will say this – I probably shouldn’t but I’m gonna (laughs). It’s the truth. Song of the Year was a bigger deal to me, only because what I value in this town is the songs. The word “Entertainer” almost conjures up shuck and jive: “Hey, I’m going to entertain you!” You think of Wayne Newton, who does exactly that: He entertains people. To me, entertainment was always somebody who just stood there, sang great and played their ass off. That was entertainment to me. That’s how I saw myself. But when I saw that I’d won that Award, I went, “I don’t know if I see myself as that, because other people do that far better than I, with more bells and whistles and everything.” I was prouder of accomplishing the Song of the Year category four different times, because the songs have more longevity. They’ll remember the songs forever, as opposed to, “You were really popular and one of the hottest things going for a year.” The song is forever. I’m probably the only idiot that will make that statement in your interview (laughs). To the business side of things, to have that moniker Entertainer of the Year, everybody looks at it as the biggest Award, even though I’m a little quirky and I don’t. But that’s just me – and I realize what a minority I am (laughs).
What about those who don’t win at the CMA Awards? How would you advise they prepare for that?
Well, you’ve heard ad nauseam that “it’s just great to be nominated.” And that’s true, but I’ve had people tell me, “You made me so mad that your song won Song of the Year and that year I had the best song I’d ever written.” But you know what? In the grand scheme of things, it ain’t that much to worry about.
FOR MORE REFLECTIONS FROM WINNERS OF THE CMA ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR AWARD, SEE THE OCT/NOV 2013 ISSUE OF CMA CLOSE UP.