Reba McEntire will repeat her co-hosting duties from last year’s Country Music Association Awards when the show returns to ABC Nov. 11, while Darius Rucker (of solo and Hootie & the Blowfish fame) has signed on as a host for the first time.
The announcement of the hosts — revealed on the network’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning — solves the longstanding riddle of who would fill those roles this year, as all of the major country music awards shows have been playing musical chairs recently. McEntire will be presiding over the CMA Awards for the fifth time in 2020. But historically she’s been even more associated with the Academy of Country Music Awards, a telecast that takes place (in non-pandemic years) in the spring. That show, she’s hosted 16 times. In 2019, McEntire confounded all expectations by co-hosting both the ACMs and the CMAs, a sign of just how at ease producers are putting her at the helm for three hours.
Prior to returning to the CMAs last year, McEntire’s previous three-year hosting stint was in 1990-92 (she did it solo in ’91 and was joined by Randy Travis and Vince Gill in the bookending years).
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome Reba and Darius as this year’s CMA Awards hosts,” said Sarah Trahern, the CMA’s CEO, in a statement. “Their playful chemistry and genuine warmth are exactly what we know our viewers want to see this year. We look forward to bringing fans a night of celebration, live performances and a television experience unlike any other. We cannot wait to share more details about our show in the coming weeks.”
Among the details that did slip into Monday’s announcement is that the November telecast will take place from Music City Center, Nashville’s sprawling seven-year-old convention center. The CMAs have long taken place across the street at the Bridgestone Arena in front of a ticketed live audience, something that was clearly not in the cards for 2020. It’s likely that Music City Center will offer the chance to set up multiple stages throughout the complex — a more concentrated version, perhaps, of the ACMs recently using three stages in different parts of Nashville for their September telecast.
The recent switch-ups in CMA hosting follow a long period in which Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley were the longest-standing hosts of any major awards show, holding down those duties for 11 years from 2008 through 2018. Last year, Paisley departed and Underwood stayed on, joined by McEntire and Dolly Parton as emblems of an unofficial year-of-the-woman telecast. In December, Underwood announced that she was ending her 12-year run hosting the show. It was unclear whether McEntire’s loyalties were more with the CMAs or ACMs after hosting both in 2019, but when Keith Urban was announced as a first-time ACMs host this year, it became more evident that the much-venerated McEntire was probably headed to the other show.
“I’m thrilled to be back hosting the CMA Awards and even more thrilled that I get to share the stage with Darius Rucker,” McEntire said. Said Rucker, “To be invited to host this year’s awards alongside Reba — are you kidding me?! — it is an absolute honor. Even though this year will look a little different than normal, I know that we’re all eager for a night of musical celebration, and this year’s show definitely won’t disappoint.”
Executive producer Robert Deaton and writer David Wild are returning names who’ve both been with the CMAs since the early 2000s. A newcomer is director Alan Carter, who spent much of the last decade helming hundreds of episodes of “The Voice,” although he’s no stranger to country, having directed “The CMT Music Awards” through the better part of the 2000s.
Last year, McEntire provided one of the CMAs’ highlights by blasting through a version of “Fancy” that included multiple live costume-change reveals — a performance she’d be hard-pressed to top in buzzworthiness this year, although a lot of viewers would be satisfied with a straight rerun.
No performers have yet been announced for the CMAs, but nominations were unveiled Sept. 1. Miranda Lambert leads the nominees with seven this year, followed by Luke Combs with six and Maren Morris with five. Underwood may be missing as host but she won’t be as a nominee: she’s up against Lambert, among others, for the top entertainer of the year prize. Final voting is open now and closes Oct. 27.