NASHVILLE — Garth Brooks was named best entertainer by the Country Music Assn. Wednesday, and industry voters took a long gulp of Deana Carter’s “Strawberry Wine.”

“Strawberry Wine,” a song about a teenager’s first love affair, won for country music single and song. The latter award went to writers Gary Harrison and Matraca Berg, while singer Deana Carter got the trophy for single.

George Strait was named best male vocalist, and his “Carrying Your Love With Me” won for album.

Industry voters finally acknowledged two of country music’s best-selling female singers, Trisha Yearwood and LeAnn Rimes. Rimes won her first nod from the association, the Horizon Award for career progress.

Yearwood was named female vocalist, the first major Country Music Assn. award of her career. Her only other nod from the association came in 1994 as part of an ensemble that sang on an Eagles tribute album.

Presenter Tanya Tucker announced multimillion-selling duo Brooks & Dunn as the winner of the duo award before looking at the results. She was right. The duo has now won the award for six straight years.

“This means a little bit more to us every year that this happens,” said Kix Brooks.

Kathy Mattea won for video for her “455 Rocket.” Diamond Rio was named top vocal group. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who are married, won the vocal event award for their duet, “It’s Your Love.”

“I’ve never won one of these before,” Hill said. “It’s better than winning it by myself, winning it with my husband.”

Songwriters Harlan Howard and Cindy Walker were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the show, as was singer Brenda Lee.

Mason trophy

Sting showed up to sing a duet with Toby Keith on “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” a song on Keith’s latest album that Sting wrote. The ex-member of the Police helped introduce the nominees for best musician, a category won by guitarist Brent Mason.

“Can we call you Stang?” quipped host Vince Gill.

Shania Twain and Alan Jackson also performed, but the highlight performance was by “Strawberry Wine” co-writer Berg. Her performance of the ballad “Back When We Were Beautiful” from her upcoming album brought down the house.

About 7,000 country music industry workers nominate and vote on who to award. The Academy of Country Music stages a similar show in California in the spring, and each summer the fan-voted “TNN Music City News Awards” are presented.

Brooks, who was in Lincoln, Neb., for a performance, wasn’t present at the ceremony at the Grand Ole Opry House. Named best entertainer in 1991 and 1992, Brooks hadn’t won a CMA award since 1993.

Presenter Barbara Mandrell accepted on Brooks’ behalf.

Carter jumped up and down in glee on the stage, before leaping into presenter Ricky Skaggs arms.

She later offered a public apology to Skaggs’ wife. “I was just excited by it (the award),” she said.

Yearwood accepted the award with a tribute to girlhood inspiration Reba McEntire. She said she once saw McEntire say while accepting a CMA Award that dreams could be attained with hard work.

“And I believed you, Miss Reba,” Yearwood addressed McEntire in the audience.

Associated Press

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