NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Luke Combs was crowned entertainer of the year at Wednesday’s Country Music Association Awards, the second year in a row that he’s taken home the night’s top honor.
“I want to thank country music for making my dreams come true,” Combs said, dedicating the award to his wife and newborn child. His win came after a performance-packed three hour show that honored country icons and new voices.
“Country is sounding more country than it has in a long time tonight,” Combs said. He also won album of the year for “Growin’ Up.”
The show opened with Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire playing tribute to the late country queen Loretta Lynn.
The superstar trio performed a medley of Lynn’s hits including “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” as images of Lynn were projected behind them and audience members sang along.
Rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, who like Lynn died last month, was honored with a fiery tribute by Elle King and the Black Keys.
Alan Jackson accepted the lifetime achievement award, recounting how a movie about Hank Williams inspired him to move to Nashville when he was flat broke. He teared up during his speech, ending it by telling the audience, “I’m still living that honky tonk dream, y’all.”
Brothers Osborne won vocal duo of the year and Old Dominion won the trophy for vocal group.
Chris Stapleton won male vocalist of the year, his sixth win in the category. Bryan, Combs, Eric Church and Morgan Wallen were also nominated.
“All the guys in this category deserve this award,” Stapleton said.
He dedicated the honor to his 12-year-old daughter, who’s birthday was Wednesday.
Emerging country superstar Lainey Wilson was the leading nominee with six nods, taking home trophies for new artist and female vocalist.
Jordan Davis’ “Buy Dirt” won song of the year. The song featured CMA Awards host Luke Bryan, who Davis called to the stage to hug.
Bryan co-hosted the show at Bridgestone Arena along with NFL great Peyton Manning.
Joining country’s biggest stars for the evening were Katy Perry and actors Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon, who are playing Tammy Wynette and George Jones in an upcoming Showtime limited series and presented Combs the night’s top honor.
Perry took the stage and performed “Where We Started” with Thomas Rhett during the show.