1975 was a weird year for the CMA's. Actually, it was just a weird year, period. Everybody watched their hard-earned savings go down the drain; the US was in a recession; gas prices were high. The President (Ford) thought the way to get the country back on track was to have everyone slap on a "WIN" button (Whip Inflation Now). Flash forward to 2008. Oh wait, I thought we were talking about 2008.
And, of course, we had a presidential campaign going on. Just like now.
And just like now, the music of 1975 sort of sucked.
In 1975, country music was stuck in a rut. The CMA vote-counters, I'm sure, were just as flummoxed as everyone else. Everybody was getting tired of handing out the same old trophies to the same old people, but there just weren't too many bright spots on the horizon. Things needed to change, to light a spark under the record-buying public, but instead, Nashville was offering up the same girl singers in their same Little House on the Prairie dresses, with their same three-chord songs about the no-good man that done them wrong.
If there were new acts being signed, they sure didn't seem to get promoted. A few newcomers hit the charts now and then, but it happened in spite of Nashville, not because of it.
The powers-that-be in the country music business probably had that tired attitude that said this stuff is good, and we're not changing it. You know, sort of like some old tired music blogger who's always talking about how the country music of the nineties was so much better.
But, in spite of themselves, the promoters and movers 'n shakers in Nashville knew that something needed to be done. So, this is what they came up with:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Okay, this isn't what would spring to MY mind immediately, if I was looking for a fresh voice for country music. And this isn't even country music. It's folk. And even today, 33 years later, this still sort of sucks.
I now remember why I used to hate John Denver.
And this, coupled with Olivia Newton-John's win the year prior, was what got the old timers in country music all riled up, and led them to create their own organization. (I think that lasted about one or two years). And they gave all their awards to Grandpa Jones, even female vocalist of the year, and he was sort of p.o.'d about that.
So, like the industry folks of 1975, you can see I'm torn. I hated John Denver and all the sappy crap that he stood for, but I also didn't think that Grandpa deserved awards, either (nothing against Grandpa).
If I, and everyone else, was looking for something a bit more exciting to get behind in 1975, this was pretty good:
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
(And you notice in this video, they kept a'showin' his hands, but not his face on TV; at least not right away.)
Can you picture the scene backstage, when Waylon ran into John Denver?
"Hey there, little snot-nosed creep. How ya doin'?"
"Um, fine, Mr. Jennings. Thanks for letting me be here."
"Wadn't my idea, son. If it was up to me, I'd rather just shoot ya."
"Thanks, Mr. Jennings! I've gotta go now. I think I need to clean my wire-rims."
"Get the hell outta here, boy!"
So, there you have it. The yin and the yang, shall we say, of 1975. The schizophrenia that permeated the confines of the Ryman Auditorium.
I wish I could say that there were a bunch more surprises that year, but there weren't.
The FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR award went to Dolly Parton for this little song, that, if anyone remembers correctly, didn't do much on the charts. Who knew that Dolly would eventually end up earning one BAZILLION dollars in royalties for it? Lucky!
The SINGLE OF THE YEAR was awarded to Freddy Fender for this song, which is sweet, and has the added bonus of being the first CMA award given to a Hispanic performer (although Johnny Rodriguez surely deserved something for "Pass Me By").
The ALBUM OF THE YEAR went to Ronnie Milsap for "A Legend In My Time". I've already posted the video of this song before, so I thought I'd go with something different this time around.
Just as a postscript, however, I did have this album, and it was good. Country, for the longest time, didn't really know what to do with albums. They'd basically slap on a hit or two, and fill up the rest with cover songs. Ronnie didn't do that. He found some songs that nobody had yet recorded, which was refreshing. And it was a fun album.
This song was recorded long after 1975, but I just like it:
The VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR was the Statler Brothers.......again. Sorry, but I'm just running out of videos of these guys. So, I thought (in the hopes that they don't keep winning, simply for the fact that I'm reaching the end of my video-search capabilities) that I would post a video of their alter-egos, Lester Moran & the Cadillac Cowboys. Enjoy.
CONWAY and LORETTA won for VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR yet again. I've run out of videos, so if you want to see them in concert, please check my previous posts. Not to be cavalier, but the available videos on YouTube are quite limited.
For a refreshing change of pace, JOHNNY GIMBLE won the INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR award. Johnny goes waaaaay back to the Bob Wills days, and I think he's the best fiddler to ever grace the world of country music.
Here's a video that also features Suzy Bogguss and Chet Atkins.
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Roy Clark & Buck Trent
Well, I remember Buck Trent when he was one of Porter's Wagonmasters. He gave Porter that distinctive sound. But, as time moved on, so did Buck, and he evenutally teamed up with Roy Clark, and I guess they did some recordings. Not that YouTube could attest to that, because I couldn't find any videos of the two of them in performance together.
This was the best I could find, and I don't know what the setting of this was, but I think it was a gathering of the old folks at home.....the nursing home.
It's sort of disturbing, in a way, to see how all these folks have aged, but hey, they seem to be having a good time, so good for them! Anyway, Roy is in the audience, and Buck (I barely recognize him) is front and center as the ladies of the Opry sing this old chestnut. I didn't know that was Norma Jean, but Jeannie Seely still looks remarkably good! And there's Bill "I'm still winning songwriting awards" Anderson in the audience, along with Little Jimmy Dickens, Johnny Bush, Jim Ed Brown, and a bunch of other people who are apparently a shell of their former selves, because I have no idea who they are, but they must have been somebody at one time.
SONG OF THE YEAR
"Back Home Again" - John Denver
Obviously, this is a (much) later performance of this song, but I actually don't hate it! It's a pretty good one!
So, John definitely had it in him to do good songs. It's just that that "Sunshine" song was such a loser. But this one I like.
COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME
I think she was a nice lady. And boy, what a legacy. She was probably the first female in country music who made you stand up and take notice. She wasn't going to fade into the woodwork, like a pair of red velvet drapes. She was out there! Yelling, "HOWWWW-DEEEEE!" And I bet if you saw her, you didn't forget her. She was out there, traveling in a wood-paneled station wagon with Hank Williams and Faron Young, with the bass fiddle strapped to the top. She had ultimate confidence.
And her induction was well deserved.
The videos available of Minnie aren't many. But here's one from a George Burns special, that'll give you the essence of Minnie Pearl.
So, there you go. 1975. Where the past met the.......future? Where a legend like Waylon stood on the same stage with a legend like John Denver........two completely incompatible artists. But they came together in a truly strange year for country music.