10 Unforgettable Performances From Country Music Awards Shows

(Left) Terry Wyatt / Getty Images / (Right) Tennessean / YouTube

These Performances Came From Country Music Awards Shows And Went Into The History Books

Country music artists get the chance to celebrate their peers during multiple awards shows each year. The three big ones are the CMA Awards, the ACM Awards, and the CMT Music Awards.

All of these awards ceremonies have been around for years. Over those years, we’ve witnessed some incredible performances that have gone down in country music history.

Here are just ten of the most unforgettable performances from country music awards shows.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Medley – From The 2023 CMT Music Awards

An all-star lineup of artists closed out the 2023 CMT Music Awards with a Lynyrd Skynyrd medley. The medley contained Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Performers included Billy Gibbons, Chuck Leavell, Cody Johnson, Paul Rodgers, Slash, Warren Haynes, Wynonna Judd, and LeAnn Rimes.

The tribute came following the death of Skynyrd’s guitarist and founding member, Gary Rossington, in March 2023. His widow and bandmates attended the ceremony.

Reba McEntire & Linda Davis Sing “Does He Love You” – From The 1993 CMA Awards

This duet from the 1993 CMA Awards is probably one of the most famous performances in this list. And not just because of Reba McEntire and Linda Davis‘ powerful voices.

The audience gasped when McEntire appeared onstage in a revealing red dress with a plunging neckline.

Reba McEntire wore her famous red dress again during the ACM Awards in 2018
Reba McEntire wore her famous red dress again during the ACM Awards in 2018 Photo credit: Tommaso Boddi / Getty Images

That wasn’t intentional on her part. As McEntire told PEOPLE years later,

“It was very revealing, and I didn’t know that! I had only had two fittings with [designer] Sandy Spika — one was at our office, and I said, ‘I think you need to fill some more stuff in!’ When I put it on in the dressing room at the Grand Ole Opry for the show, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just the lighting in here.’ And when I walked out on the stage, I heard the audience go ‘Oooooh!’ And I thought, ‘Dang, I look good!'”

McEntire’s dad later asked her if she had the dress on backward.

Alan Jackson Debuts “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” – From The 2001 CMA Awards

Just two months after the 9/11 attacks, Alan Jackson performed his emotional response song, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” at the 2001 CMA Awards. It was his first time performing the song publicly.

“Where Were You” later won the CMA Award for Song of the Year and also won a Grammy for Best Country Song.

Carrie Underwood Sings With Steven Tyler – From The 2011 ACM Awards

Carrie Underwood teamed up with Steven Tyler during the 2011 ACM Awards. The superstar pair performed Underwood’s “Undo It” and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.”

Videos of the duo’s performance have millions of views on YouTube, and it’s easy to see why.

Chris Stapleton’s Breakthrough Moment With Justin Timberlake – From The 2015 CMA Awards

This was the performance that put Chris Stapleton on the map!

Stapleton was already a respected songwriter and performer in the country music community prior to the 2015 CMA Awards. But after he sang “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Drink You Away” with Justin Timberlake during the ceremony, his fame went through the roof.

Stapleton also took home three trophies that night. He’s since gone on to win many more, and is known as one of country music’s greatest artists.

Alan Jackson & George Strait Sing “Murder On Music Row” – From The 1999 CMA Awards

It’s always a big deal whenever George Strait and Alan Jackson share a stage. It was certainly a huge deal when the two legends united to sing “Murder on Music Row” at the 1999 CMA Awards.

Over 20 years later, country fans still reference this performance and song…that’s how memorable it was!

Carrie Underwood Sings “Softly And Tenderly” – From The 2017 CMA Awards

Carrie Underwood beautifully sang “Softly and Tenderly” for the “In Memoriam” segment at the 2017 CMA Awards. The performance honored members of the country music community who passed away that year, including Glen Campbell, Don Williams, and Troy Gentry.

The performance ended with a tribute to the 60 victims killed during the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. There surely wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the time Underwood finished the song.

Alan Jackson Stands Up For George Jones – From The 1999 CMA Awards

When the CMA asked George Jones to sing a shortened version of his song “Choices” during its 1999 awards ceremony, Jones refused. He opted not to attend the ceremony.

On the other hand, Alan Jackson was given a full performance slot to showcase his hit song “Pop a Top.” Instead of singing the whole tune, Jackson stood up for Jones by stopping to sing “Choices” midway through.

It’s been said that Jones was watching from home, and he cried when he saw what Jackson did.

Chris & Morgane Stapleton Sing “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” With Patty Loveless – From The 2022 CMA Awards

Chris Stapleton and his wife Morgane joined the legendary Patty Loveless to sing “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” Loveless first released her rendition of the song in 2001.

“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is a song with deep roots in Kentucky history. Both Stapleton and Loveless are from Kentucky, so they fully understand that connection. They previously performed the song together during the Kentucky Rising benefit concert in 2022 to raise money for flood relief.

Their CMA Awards performance was presented to an even larger audience, and generated an immense amount of praise.

Reba McEntire Revisits “Fancy” – From The 2019 CMA Awards

You can always count on Reba McEntire to deliver an epic awards show performance. That’s exactly what she did during the 2019 CMA Awards.

McEntire performed her rendition of “Fancy,” and had the entire crowd singing along. She also wore THREE different costumes during the performance…with her final ensemble being a red jumpsuit. She rocked it that night!

Which one of the performances in this list stands out most in your mind?

As a little bonus, head below to watch the superstar opening medley from the 50th CMA Awards in 2016. The medley featured tons of great artists and songs!