Country hat’s off to McGraw

Strait, Yearwood also pick up nods

Tim McGraw was the big winner Wednesday night at the 33rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards with four wins, including the coveted song of the year trophy for “It’s Your Love,” the ballad performed by McGraw and Faith Hill.

The tune, from McGraw’s Curb Records disc “Everywhere,” also won top single, video and vocal event trophies. The vocal event trophy was the evening’s first award, and set the stage for McGraw’s multiple wins. He was up for seven trophies, which are dubbed “Hats” by the 3,000 member ACM.

MCA Records Nashville country stalwart George Strait nabbed a top male vocalist Hat for a second consecutive year, and his disc “Carrying Your Love With Me,” which bowed at the top of the pop charts when it was released last year, won the album of the year trophy, also a second consecutive win in that category.

Strait bested McGraw, who had been widely expected to nab the album category, and Garth Brooks’ Capitol Nashville disc “Sevens,” for the honor.

MCA Records’ artist Trisha Yearwood picked up top female vocalist honors. It was her lone win, despite being nominated in four categories.

Arista Records duo Brooks & Dunn won the top duo or group award, marking their seventh consecutive honor. Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks, who are currrently touring with Reba McEntire, performed “If You See Her/If You See Him,” later in the broadcast.

“We were certainly never taking it for granted,” Brooks said backstage. “We never expected to win.”

Top new artist award winner, BNA Records crooner Kenny Chesney, remarked backstage that he’s been making records for more than five years. Decca/MCA artists Lee Ann Womack wore the Hat for top new female vocalist.

The festive atmosphere was temporarily put on hold while artists paid tribute to members of the country music community who died recently, including Tammy Wynette, Carl Perkins and John Denver.

Garth Brooks won the entertainer of the year award — his fifth win in the listing — as well as the academy’s Special Achievement Award. In the latter, Brooks was feted for his efforts in enhancing the profile of the genre, including his Central Park concert in Gotham in August.

Brooks, the industry’s biggest selling solo artist, was asked backstage what unfulfilled dreams he has, and said, “I’d love to bring honor to the music like George Strait and Reba McEntire have over the years.” Brooks has frequently described Strait as “solid … what you see is what you get.”

Charlie Daniels, who earned videotaped praise from former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, was given the ACM’s Pioneer Award, a nod voted on by the ACM’s board of directors.

“I am shocked. I was told I was here to present an award to somebody else,” a beaming Daniels said backstage. “I was never so shocked in my life.”

The three-hour spec, airing for the first time on CBS-TV after decades on ABC, was produced by Dick Clark Prods., and directed by Gene Weed.

List of winners follows:

Entertainer: Garth Brooks

Album: “Carrying Your Love With Me,” George Strait

Single: “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw with Faith Hill

Song: “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw with Faith Hill

Female Vocalist: Trisha Yearwood

Male Vocalist: George Strait

Vocal Duo Or Group: Brooks & Dunn

Vocal Event: “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw with Faith Hill

New Female Vocalist: Lee Ann Womack

New Male Vocalist: Kenny Chesney

New Group or Duo: The Kinleys

Video: “It’s Your Love,” Tim McGraw with Faith Hill

Pioneer Award: Charlie Daniels

Special Achievement Award: Garth Brooks