It’s one of the most infamous and explosive moments in the history of Country music. Until this year it has been absent from Youtube for fans to watch and remember…until recently. It’s a moment that made a Country star a hero to the artists and Traditional Country fans everywhere…at the cost of his career in the industry. We’re talking about the Silver Fox, Charlie Rich at the CMA Awards in 1975.
Charlie Rich won CMA’s Entertainer of The Year in 1974 and back then the previous year’s winner got the honor to announce the following year’s award winner. Up for 1975’s award were Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Ronnie MIlsap, Conway Twitty, and John Denver. If one name sticks out like a sore thumb and you guessed John Denver you would be right. Country music was going through one of its pop music phases (like it is now).
After awkwardly announcing the nominees, Charlie opened the envelope and after he read it, he reached into his pocked for his cigarette lighter and lit the card on fire when it said “John Denver.” The incident made him a hero amid Country artists but resulted in him being blacklisted by the industry.
Though was it really fair. It is argued that Charlie was on pain medication and gin and tonic that evening. It is also argued that he was trying to do something for attention, not to make a statement. It must be noted that Charlie Rich wasn’t the most traditional of Country artists anyway (he had backed into Country music after a Rockabilly career at Sun Records).
No matter which side you’re on, the moment remains one of the most infamous, explosive, and controversial in the genre’s history. There’s no doubt about that.