The CMT Awards kicked off Wednesday night with a tribute to an artist who is rarely considered country, but whose influence casts a long shadow over today’s rocked-up country sound: Gregg Allman, who passed away from liver cancer last month.
The show opened with country stars Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Darius Rucker — himself a rocker-turned country — harmonizing a capella on the chorus of Allman’s classic “Midnight Rider.”
“This is for the one and only Mr. Gregg Allman,” Aldean said before the trio joined a full band onstage to finish the song. Latter-day Allmans guitarist Derek Trucks, nephew of the band’s founding drummer Butch Trucks, played slide guitar on what certainly looked like a gold-top Gibson Les Paul formerly owned by Gregg’s older brother and band cofounder Duane Allman, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1971 just as the group was becoming big.
Keith Urban was the evening’s big winner, picking up four awards after being shut out at the Grammys and Academy of Country Music awards earlier this year. He performed his hit “The Fighter” with Carrie Underwood, who padded her lead as the most-awarded act in CMT history with two wins, bringing her total to 17.
Country and non-country team-ups were a theme of the night: Peter Frampton performed with Brothers Osborne, The Chainsmokers and Florida Georgia Line performed their song “Last Day Alive,” and Earth, Wind and Fire united with Lady Antebellum to close out the show.
A complete list of winners is below:
Video of the year: Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
Male video of the year: Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”
Female video of the year: Carrie Underwood, “Church Bells”
Duo video of the year: Florida Georgia Line, “H.O.L.Y.”
Group video of the year: Little Big Town, “Better Man”
Breakthrough video of the year: Lauren Alaina, “Road Less Traveled”
Collaborative video of the year: Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood, “The Fighter”
CMT performance of the year: Jason Derulo and Luke Bryan, “Want to Want Me” (from “CMT Crossroads”)
Social superstar of the year: Keith Urban