CMA Flashback: Female Vocalist of the Year

Our CMA Flashback series continues with a look at Female Vocalist of the Year.

For a look back at the other major categories, visit our CMA Awards page.

carrie-underwood

2016

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Maren Morris

Kacey Musgraves

Carrie Underwood

Until 2016, the longest gap between Female Vocalist wins was five years, with Loretta Lynn winning in 1967 and then again in 1972.  Carrie Underwood broke that record this year, returning to the winner’s circle a full seven years since her previous victory. With her win, she moves into a tie for second on the all time wins list, sharing her slot with Martina McBride and Reba McEntire.

Miranda Lambert

2015

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Kacey Musgraves

Carrie Underwood

Lee Ann Womack

Miranda Lambert extended her record for the most wins in this category, winning her sixth trophy. That is the most victories that any artist can claim in either the Female Vocalist or Male Vocalist categories.

Miranda Lambert

2014

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Kacey Musgraves

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Lambert won for the fifth year in a row, breaking the record of four wins that she had matched last year and making her the most frequent winner in the history of this category.

Miranda Lambert

2013

Kelly Clarkson

Miranda Lambert

Kacey Musgraves

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Miranda Lambert won this award for the fourth time, matching the wins achieved by Martina McBride and Reba McEntire.

Miranda Lambert

2012

Kelly Clarkson

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Pop star Kelly Clarkson’s dalliance with country music was enough to earn her a Female Vocalist nomination for the first time, as Lambert took home her third consecutive trophy.

Miranda Lambert

2011

Sara Evans

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

While Lambert earned her second trophy, Sara Evans returned to the category for the first time since 2006 on the strength of her comeback hit, “A Little Bit Stronger.”

Miranda Lambert

2010

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Reba McEntire

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Miranda Lambert received her first Female Vocalist trophy, while Reba McEntire received her seventeenth and most recent nomination.

swift

2009

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Reba McEntire

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Taylor Swift was the big winner at the 2009 CMA Awards, earning her first and only trophy for Female Vocalist that evening, alongside several other major wins.

carrie-underwood

2008

Alison Krauss

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Taylor Swift

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood joined the ranks of Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Martina McBride and Reba McEntire by winning three Female Vocalist awards.

carrie-underwood

2007

Alison Krauss

Miranda Lambert

Martina McBride

Reba McEntire

Carrie Underwood

With her second consecutive victory, Carrie Underwood became the twelfth woman in history to win this award twice, and the only one to do so during the life cycle of her debut album.

carrie-underwood

2006

Sara Evans

Faith Hill

Martina McBride

Carrie Underwood

Gretchen Wilson

Underwood was among the most shocked in the audience when she won Female Vocalist of the Year, not long after winning Horizon Award the same night. Underwood was the first artist to win both Horizon and their own vocal category since the Dixie Chicks in 1998, and the only solo female artist to achieve the feat since Alison Krauss was the first in 1995.

Gretchen Wilson

2005

Sara Evans

Alison Krauss

Martina McBride

Gretchen Wilson

Lee Ann Womack

Wilson rode the massive success of her debut album to a precocious win in this category, topping even Lee Ann Womack, who won three other awards the same night.

Martina McBride

2004

Terri Clark

Sara Evans

Alison Krauss

Martina McBride

Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire was nominated for the first time in nine years, on the same evening that Martina McBride tied her record of four wins in this category.

Martina McBride

2003

Terri Clark

Alison Krauss

Patty Loveless

Martina McBride

Dolly Parton

McBride repeated in a year when women disappeared from country radio. Parton was nominated for the first time since 1987, and Loveless for the first time since 1998, on the strength of roots albums that received no airplay; Krauss garnered nary a spin herself. That only two of the women – McBride and Clark – were having hits at radio was unprecedented for this category.

Martina McBride

2002

Sara Evans

Alison Krauss

Martina McBride

Lee Ann Womack

Trisha Yearwood

McBride made CMA history when she reclaimed the trophy three years after winning it for the first time, the first woman to do so since Loretta Lynn in 1972.

Lee Ann Womack The Way I'm Livin'

2001

Sara Evans

Faith Hill

Martina McBride

Lee Ann Womack

Trisha Yearwood

A year after winning Single of the Year for “I Hope You Dance”, Lee Ann Womack claimed her first and only win for Female Vocalist.

Faith Hill

2000

Faith Hill

Martina McBride

Jo Dee Messina

Lee Ann Womack

Trisha Yearwood

Even though she had six nominations that evening, Hill was facing a backlash over going pop. Hill stunned the audience when she acknowledged the controversy in her acceptance speech, declaring that her heart was still with country music.

Martina McBride

1999

Faith Hill

Martina McBride

Jo Dee Messina

Shania Twain

Trisha Yearwood

Martina rode the success of her Evolution album to her first win in this category, topping crossover stars Faith Hill and Shania Twain, the latter of which won Entertainer of the Year the same night. Messina, a first-time nominee, took home the Horizon Award, making it a very good night for three of the nominees.

Trisha Yearwood

1998

Faith Hill

Patty Loveless

Martina McBride

Lee Ann Womack

Trisha Yearwood

Yearwood became the first woman to repeat in the category since Mary Chapin Carpenter five years earlier, and she accepted via satellite, as she was performing with Garth Brooks in Europe.

Trisha Yearwood

1997

Deana Carter

Patty Loveless

LeAnn Rimes

Pam Tillis

Trisha Yearwood

Trisha Yearwood gave an emotional acceptance speech as she claimed her first victory in this category, dedicating the win to her parents by saying, “As proud as you are of me tonight, I’m even prouder to be your daughter.”

patty_loveless

1996

Faith Hill

Patty Loveless

Martina McBride

Pam Tillis

Shania Twain

Last year’s winner, Alison Krauss, failed to secure a nomination in 1996. Also out of the running, after thirteen consecutive nominations, was Reba McEntire. Shattering sales records didn’t stop Shania Twain from going home empty-handed, but along with Faith Hill and Martina McBride, she did get her first nomination. The only holdovers from 1995 were Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless. After winning Album of the Year in 1995, Loveless finally won this award.

 

alison-krauss

1995

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Alison Krauss

Patty Loveless

Reba McEntire

Pam Tillis

While most pundits predicted a repeat victory for Tillis or a first win for Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss made a shocking sweep of the CMAs, winning Single, Horizon, Vocal Event and Female Vocalist.

Pam Tillis

1994

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Reba McEntire

Pam Tillis

Wynonna

Trisha Yearwood

Pam Tillis was the only one surprised by her victory in 1994, as her critically acclaimed Sweetheart’s Dance project earned her the Female Vocalist trophy.

Mary Chapin Carpenter

1993

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Reba McEntire

Pam Tillis

Tanya Tucker

Wynonna

 Mary Chapin Carpenter repeated in the category, as her Come On Come On album continued to churn out hits. It would eventually sell more than five million copies.

Mary Chapin Carpenter

1992

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Reba McEntire

Tanya Tucker

Wynonna

Trisha Yearwood

It was hard to read the tea leaves in 1992. Tucker, McEntire and Wynonna were also up for Album, Carpenter was nominated for Single and Yearwood was also a Horizon nominee. McEntire was up for Entertainer. There was clearly wide support for all five women, but Carpenter, a D.C. folkie with a razor-sharp wit, took home the prize.

Tanya Tucker

1991

Patty Loveless

Kathy Mattea

Reba McEntire

Lorrie Morgan

Tanya Tucker

Tanya Tucker won on her seventh try, having lost the previous three years, and three other years in the mid-70’s. She holds the record for the longest stretch of time between an artist’s first nomination and first win in this category: eighteen years.

kathymattea

1990

Patty Loveless

Kathy Mattea

Reba McEntire

Lorrie Morgan

Tanya Tucker

Mattea not only won her second trophy in this category, but also watched her husband, Jon Vezner, take home Song of the Year for her signature hit, “Where’ve You Been.”

kathymattea

1989

Rosanne Cash

Patty Loveless

Kathy Mattea

Reba McEntire

Tanya Tucker

Sixth time was not a charm for Rosanne Cash, despite having six #1 hits in the past two years and last year’s champ, K.T. Oslin, not being in the running. Voters instead embraced Kathy Mattea, who had won Single of the Year in 1988 for “Eighteen Wheels & A Dozen Roses.”

oslin

1988

Rosanne Cash

Kathy Mattea

Reba McEntire

K.T. Oslin

Tanya Tucker

Oslin ended the record-setting four-year run of Reba McEntire, and made history of her own the same night, becoming the first woman to win Song of the Year, for her classic hit, “80’s Ladies.”

reba-mcentire

1987

Rosanne Cash

Emmylou Harris

Kathy Mattea

Reba McEntire

Dolly Parton

McEntire broke the three-win record shared by Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette as she collected her fourth trophy for Female Vocalist. Harris received the last of twelve consecutive nominations, though she would go on to win many more Grammys and share the CMA Album of the Year trophy in 2001.

reba-mcentire

1986

Rosanne Cash

Janie Fricke

Emmylou Harris

Reba McEntire

Anne Murray

Reba McEntire not only became the first woman to win three in a row since Tammy Wynette, but also the fourth woman to win Entertainer of the Year; it would be another thirteen years before another woman accomplished the latter feat.

reba-mcentire

1985

Rosanne Cash

Janie Fricke

Emmylou Harris

Reba McEntire

Anne Murray

McEntire earned her second consecutive win as she enjoyed new levels of success at radio and retail.

reba-mcentire

1984

Janie Fricke

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Reba McEntire

Anne Murray

On an evening where Anne Murray seemed to be sweeping, having already picked up Single and Album honors, a shocked and crying McEntire collected her first Female Vocalist trophy.

Janie Fricke

1983

Lacy J. Dalton

Janie Fricke

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Reba McEntire

Fricke won her second consecutive trophy, on the strength of the hit singles “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy” and “He’s a Heartache.”

Janie Fricke

1982

Rosanne Cash

Janie Fricke

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Juice Newton

Major units were being moved by newcomers Rosanne Cash and Juice Newton, but voters went with Fricke, a former background singer for many hit artists who became a star in her own right.

Barbara Mandrell 2

1981

Terri Gibbs

Emmylou Harris

Loretta Lynn

Barbara Mandrell

Anne Murray

Mandrell won in 1979, and though she didn’t win in 1980, she did collect Entertainer of the Year. In 1981, she took her second trophy in both categories, becoming the first artist to ever win two Entertainer trophies.

emmylou-harris

1980

Crystal Gayle

Emmylou Harris

Loretta Lynn

Barbara Mandrell

Anne Murray

Perennial nominee Emmylou Harris finally won, as a pure country album (Blue Kentucky Girl) followed by a bluegrass set (Roses in the Snow) finally erased concerns that she was more rock than country.

Barbara Mandrell 2

1979

Janie Fricke

Crystal Gayle

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Anne Murray

A smoky cover of “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” and her signature hit “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” helped Mandrell take her first Female Vocalist award home, after ten years of charting hits at country radio.

Crystal Gayle

1978

Janie Fricke

Crystal Gayle

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Dolly Parton

Gayle became a crossover star on her way to her second Female Vocalist award, as “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” exploded at both country and pop radio. She followed with two more major hits – “Talking in Your Sleep” and “Ready For the Times to Get Better.”

Crystal Gayle

1977

Crystal Gayle

Emmylou Harris

Loretta Lynn

Barbara Mandrell

Dolly Parton

Loretta Lynn was nominated in the same year as her little sister Crystal Gayle for the first time, and the younger sibling emerged triumphant as she was fully embraced by country and pop radio.

dolly-parton

1976

Crystal Gayle

Emmylou Harris

Barbara Mandrell

Dolly Parton

Tammy Wynette

Dolly Parton repeated in this category as she continued to rack up hits at country radio.

dolly-parton

1975

Jessi Colter

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Linda Ronstadt

Tanya Tucker

Dolly Parton finally won with her seventh nomination, on the strength of “The Bargain Store” and “The Seeker,” two of her best self-written hits.

olivia-newton-john

1974

Loretta Lynn

Anne Murray

Olivia Newton-John

Dolly Parton

Tanya Tucker

Easily the most controversial win in this category’s history, many Nashville artists fumed and formed their own rival organization to the CMAs, all in anger over the transplanted Aussie Olivia Newton-John winning the award. Blissfully unaware of the controversy, Newton-John would go on to win two Grammys just months later in the pop categories, foreshadowing the full country-to-pop shift that Taylor Swift would make after her Female Vocalist win 35 years later.

loretta-lynn

1973

Donna Fargo

Loretta Lynn

Jeanne Pruett

Tanya Tucker

Tammy Wynette

Even though Lynn had been having hits since 1960, the bulk of her #1 hits came in the seventies. The CMA awarded her for a third time in this category, matching Tammy Wynette’s record.

loretta-lynn

1972

Donna Fargo

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Connie Smith

Tammy Wynette

The big news wasn’t Lynn returning after five years to win again in this category, though it may have been if that feat wasn’t overshadowed by her winning Entertainer of the Year, becoming the first woman to win in CMA history.

lynn-anderson

1971

Lynn Anderson

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Sammi Smith

Tammy Wynette

Her massive hit “Rose Garden” powered Anderson to a win on her fifth try. Fellow nominee Sammi Smith would take home Single for “Help Me Make It Through the Night” in the same year.

tammy-wynette

1970

Lynn Anderson

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Connie Smith

Tammy Wynette

Wynette continued to own country radio and this category, winning for a third time in as many years.

tammy-wynette

1969

Lynn Anderson

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Jeannie C. Riley

Tammy Wynette

Wynette scored the biggest hit of her career with “Stand By Your Man,” and followed it up with two more #1 hits, securing her place as the biggest female artist of the late sixties.

tammy-wynette

1968

Lynn Anderson

Loretta Lynn

Dolly Parton

Jeannie C. Riley

Tammy Wynette

Riley took home Single of the Year for “Harper Valley P.T.A.,”while Wynette took the crown for Female Vocalist, on the strength of the classic singles “I Don’t Wanna Play House” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

loretta-lynn

1967

Lynn Anderson

Loretta Lynn

Connie Smith

Dottie West

Tammy Wynette

In the fifteen months before the very first CMA Awards, Loretta Lynn released both “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, making this category an easy call for the very first CMA voters.

Facts & Feats

Multiple Wins:

  • (6) – Miranda Lambert
  • (4) – Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood
  • (3) – Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette
  • (2) – Mary Chapin Carpenter, Janie Fricke, Crystal Gayle, Kathy Mattea, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood

Most Consecutive Wins:

  • (6) – Miranda Lambert (2010-2015)
  • (4) –  Reba McEntire (1984-1987)
  • (3) – Martina McBride (2002-2004), Carrie Underwood (2006-2008),  Tammy Wynette (1968-1970)

Most Nominations:

  • (17) – Martina McBride, Reba McEntire
  • (12) – Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton
  • (11) – Carrie Underwood
  • (10) – Miranda Lambert
  • (9) – Barbara Mandrell, Tanya Tucker
  • (8) – Patty Loveless, Tammy Wynette, Trisha Yearwood
  • (7) – Janie Fricke, Alison Krauss, Anne Murray, Taylor Swift
  • (6) – Rosanne Cash, Sara Evans, Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack
  • (5) – Lynn Anderson, Crystal Gayle, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis

Most Nominations Without a Win:

  • (7) – Anne Murray
  • (6) – Rosanne Cash, Sara Evans
  • (4) – Kacey Musgraves
  • (3) – Connie Smith, Wynonna

Winners in First Year of Nomination:
Mary Chapin Carpenter (1992), Alison Krauss (1995), Olivia Newton-John (1974), K. T. Oslin (1988), Gretchen Wilson (2005), Carrie Underwood (2006)

Winners in Only Year of Nomination:
Olivia Newton-John (1974), K. T. Oslin (1988)

CMA Female Vocalists of the Year Who Have Never Won the ACM Award:
Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Olivia Newton-John, Taylor Swift, Pam Tillis, Tanya Tucker, Lee Ann Womack

ACM Female Vocalists of the Year Who Have Never Won the CMA Award:
Donna Fargo (1973), Sylvia (1983), Wynonna (1994), Sara Evans (2006)

CMA Female Vocalists Who Have Also Won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female:
Lynn Anderson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Crystal Gayle,  Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, K.T. Oslin, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Tammy Wynette, Trisha Yearwood

Winners of the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female That Have Never Won the CMA Female Vocalist Award:
Rosanne Cash, June Carter Cash, Donna Fargo, k.d. lang, Jodi Miller, Anne Murray, Juice Newton, Jeannie C. Riley, Linda Ronstadt, Jeannie Seely, Sammi Smith, Shania Twain, Dottie West

Women Who Have Won All Three Industry Vocalist Awards:
Lynn Anderson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Crystal Gayle, Faith Hill, Miranda Lambert, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, K.T. Oslin, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Tammy Wynette, Trisha Yearwood

8 Comments

  1. How wonderful to see incredible female artists like Lynn Anderson, Janie Fricke, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, and Patty Loveless get recognition in their day.

    and at the same time, I never realized how ad nauseum some winners were in this category.

  2. The nineties spoiled us. There was a stretch from 1994-1997 where there was a new winner every year, and that seemed to pick up again from 1999-2001, until Martina McBride came back to win three in a row. The Lambert streak has been unbelievable. I can’t get my head around the fact that we’re six years into this decade and it’s been the same Female Vocalist every year!

  3. McBride and Lambert have both won more times than the quality of recorded output would seem to justify.

    For several artists the CMAs came around too late, If the CMA awards had started in 1960 I suspect that Connie Smith and Dottie West would have each won one or two awards and Jeanie Seely might have won one as well (not to mention Patsy Cline)

  4. I remember Carrie winning for the 1st time in 2006 like it was yesterday! I was shocked, because she was, well, still so new. I didn’t think that the CMAs would award her so quickly like that.

    I have always liked Miranda, but her streak makes me shake my head. Carrie should have won a couple on between it. Here’s too hoping Carrie wins Female and Entertainer on Wednesday! :)

  5. I couldn’t agree more with you, Kevin! If I had my way, I would have gone like this:

    2006, 2007, 2008 – Carrie
    2009 – Taylor (CU was quiet mostly in 2009 anyway – I hate saying that, LOL! :))
    2010, 2011 – Miranda
    2012 – Carrie
    2013 – Kacey (my personal choice would have been Carrie, again, though)
    2014 – Miranda
    2015 – Carrie (Greatest Hits, Something In The Water, and Little Toy Guns are hard to ignore. ML only because she toured, when CU didn’t)
    2016 – Carrie

  6. I’d have to look at the specifics of what was eligible, but in general I think Lambert deserves about 5 wins. I’d have actually given her a win in 2008. I would have given Underwood 2 wins that Lambert then received later on, though. So, 4 wins for Underwood and 5 for Lambert, with Underwood then tying Lambert this year in my personal awards.

  7. This was a wonderful review of the award’s history. I came of age with country in the early to mid-70s. I had the biggest crush as a kid on Lynn Anderson; my first concert ever was with Loretta Lynn around 1976; and I remember going to one of Boston’s best radio stations at the time and being given a 45 (remember those?) of Anne Murray singing Snowbird. To see all of these names though – ie, Donna Fargo (Happiest Girl), Tanya Tucker (Delta Dawn, Jeanne C. Riley) and then the changes over by decades. I admit that life was distracting in the 80s, so I missed a lot of the talent that emerged during that time, yet I have become a huge fan today of Emmy Lou Harris and Rosanne Cash and others like them. And the 90s! If I had a crush on Lynn Anderson in the 70s, well, there’s Martina McBride today. (My loyalty there will never budge.) It’s amazing to see the female talent in country over the last 20 years or so such as Patty Loveless, Pam Tillis and Lee Ann Womack. And Mary Chapin Carpenter. My wife and I had many of her albums in the early 90s, yet her album released this year is so hauntingly beautiful. And Reba McEntire. I really think the album she released last year is her best yet. Thanks for putting this post up here and triggering some wonderful nostalgia. This has been wonderfully distracting.

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