CMA Flashback: Male Vocalist of the Year (2017 Edition)

Our CMA Flashback series continues with the Male Vocalist of the Year category.

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

2017

Dierks Bentley

Eric Church

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban

Chris Stapleton looks for his third win in a row this year, while Dierks Bentley and Eric Church enjoy their sixth nominations, though neither artist has won yet. Thomas Rhett is nominated for the first time, while Keith Urban’s thirteenth nomination secures his hold on third place for most career nods, behind only George Strait (25) and Alan Jackson (16).

Stapleton

2016

Dierks Bentley

Eric Church

Tim McGraw

Chris Stapleton

Keith Urban

Chris Stapleton repeated in this category, along with winning Music Video of the Year. On a night where the CMA spread the wealth, his two victories made him the biggest winner of the evening.

Stapleton

2015

Dierks Bentley

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Blake Shelton

Chris Stapleton

 

First time was a charm for Chris Stapleton, who ended Blake Shelton’s historic run in this category while also defeating three veterans of this race who were hoping for their first win.

Blake Shelton2

2014

Dierks Bentley

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Blake Shelton

Keith Urban

 

Blake Shelton became the third man in history to win this category five times, and only the second – after Vince Gill – to win it five years in a row.

Blake Shelton2

2013

Jason Aldean

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Blake Shelton

Keith Urban

 

Shelton won his fourth victory in a row this year, again defeating three nominees who still hadn’t won the award.

Blake Shelton2

2012

Jason Aldean

Luke Bryan

Eric Church

Blake Shelton

Keith Urban

 

 

Shelton’s third consecutive victory continued the recent trend of this category, as he was the third artist in a row to win the award for three years running.

Blake Shelton2

2011

Jason Aldean

Kenny Chesney

Brad Paisley

Blake Shelton

Keith Urban

Shelton won again, while Kenny Chesney extended his record of the most nominations for Male Vocalist without a win, losing for the ninth time.

Blake Shelton2

2010

Dierks Bentley

Brad Paisley

Blake Shelton

George Strait

Keith Urban

Blake Shelton triumphed over three veteran winners of this category, including George Strait, who received his 25th (and apparently final) nomination this year.

Brad Paisley

2009

Kenny Chesney

Brad Paisley

Darius Rucker

George Strait

Keith Urban

Just like in the Entertainer category, 80% of this race for the past three years had been Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, and Keith Urban. This year, Darius Rucker took the fifth slot that was occupied by Alan Jackson in 2008 and Josh Turner in 2007.  Brad Paisley went on to win his third Male Vocalist prize.

Brad Paisley

2008

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Brad Paisley

George Strait

Keith Urban

After so many years on the sidelines, Paisley began to dominate the category, scoring his second consecutive Male Vocalist award. Meanwhile, Kenny Chesney tied Willie Nelson for most nominations without a win, though his seventh loss was accompanied by his fourth win for Entertainer.

Brad Paisley

2007

Kenny Chesney

Brad Paisley

George Strait

Josh Turner

Keith Urban

This was the year that Brad Paisley finally won, with his seventh nomination in eight years. The stars aligned for him, with a very successful tour, a new album that is selling strongly, and a continued hot streak at radio.

keith-urban-blue-aint-your-color

2006

Dierks Bentley

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Brad Paisley

Keith Urban

Urban became the first artist to win Male Vocalist three years in a row since George Strait did it in 1996-1998, right after Vince Gill’s 1991-1995 run. His acceptance letter, read by Ronnie Dunn, was the emotional highlight of the evening’s show.

keith-urban-blue-aint-your-color

2005

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Brad Paisley

George Strait

Keith Urban

No surprises here, as another multi-platinum year full of radio hits and a high-profile appearance at Live 8 kept Urban fresh on voter’s minds. The big shock was him walking away with Entertainer of the Year later that night.

keith-urban-blue-aint-your-color

2004

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Toby Keith

George Strait

Keith Urban

Urban hadn’t even been nominated for any CMA Awards in 2002 and 2003, after winning Horizon in 2001, but he came back with a bang, taking home Male Vocalist of the Year over the four other superstars in the category. He joined Chesney as the only other man in the running who had never won before; Chesney got the wonderful consolation prizes of Entertainer and Album of the Year the same night.

Alan Jackson

2003

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Toby Keith

Tim McGraw

Brad Paisley

George Strait

Things were getting tight in this category in 2003, with so many worthy contenders that ties resulted in six nominees, instead of the usual five. Still, voters chose to stick with last year’s winner, Alan Jackson, a sure indicator of his enduring popularity among CMA voters.

Alan Jackson

2002

Kenny Chesney

Alan Jackson

Toby Keith

Brad Paisley

George Strait

The other four men were merely placeholders, there to create a list around the obvious winner, Alan Jackson. As he swept the awards on the strength of his post-9/11 “Where Were You” and autobiographical “Drive”, the only real shock was that he was winning Male Vocalist for the first time, a result of the  slow turnover in this category during the 1990s.

Toby Keith

2001

Alan Jackson

Toby Keith

Tim McGraw

Brad Paisley

George Strait

Toby Keith has been a vocal critic of the CMA because he feels they’ve overlooked him, but he’s been up against some tough competition, with his popularity peaking at the same time that Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban were making a huge impact on the charts and at the CMAs. Thankfully, he’s at least won in this category, so he won’t go down in history with Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty as one of the best male singers to never win it.

tim-mcgraw

2000

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

Tim McGraw

Brad Paisley

George Strait

On the same evening that his wife, Faith Hill, was crowned Female Vocalist, McGraw walked away with his second consecutive Male Vocalist award.

tim-mcgraw

1999

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

Tim McGraw

George Strait

Steve Wariner

Early on in his career, when McGraw was selling tons of records but being excluded from this category, he humbly said that he didn’t think he was a good enough singer to be nominated. His talents grew over the years, and he finally won in 1999.

George Strait

1998

Garth Brooks

Vince Gill

Tim McGraw

Collin Raye

George Strait

Strait matched Vince Gill’s record of five wins in this category, defeating Gill and three other nominees who had yet to win in the category.

George Strait

1997

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

Collin Raye

George Strait

Bryan White

With no turnover in the category from the previous year, Strait won for the fourth time, again defeating his fellow mega-winner Gill, and three other stars who had never won before.

George Strait

1996

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

Collin Raye

George Strait

Bryan White

Jackson was already long overdue, and Collin Raye and Bryan White broke into the category for the first time. Nobody expected Gill to win for the sixth year in a row, but many were surprised to see former two-time winner George Strait collect a Male Vocalist award for the first time in ten years.

Vince Gill 2

1995

John Berry

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

John Michael Montgomery

George Strait

Even Gill was expecting to lose, so when his name was called out for the fifth year in a row, he was gamely applauding backstage for the winner, before suddenly realizing it was him and rushing out to the stage.

Vince Gill 2

1994

John Anderson

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

George Strait

Dwight Yoakam

Vince won for the fourth year in a row, even though fellow nominees John Anderson, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam were seen as likely spoilers.

Vince Gill 2

1993

John Anderson

Garth Brooks

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

George Strait

Vince not only won his third Male Vocalist award this year, he also took home four other awards: Entertainer, Album, Song and Vocal Event.

Vince Gill 2

1992

Garth Brooks

Joe Diffie

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

Travis Tritt

A bunch of hot young stars dominated the ballot this year, with Gill emerging triumphant for the second time. Though they would continue to score hits for many years, Joe Diffie and Travis Tritt received their only nominations to date in this category.

Vince Gill 2

1991

Clint Black

Garth Brooks

Vince Gill

Alan Jackson

George Strait

After Garth swept the ACM’s earlier that year, he was expected to do the same at the CMA’s, and he came close, winning Entertainer, Single and Album. But industry favorite Vince Gill took home Male Vocalist, an award that Garth Brooks would never receive, though he would win Entertainer a record four times.

clint_black1

1990

Clint Black

Garth Brooks

Rodney Crowell

Ricky Van Shelton

George Strait

For the second year in a row, the previous year’s Horizon winner took home Male Vocalist. Clint Black won easily over very distinguished competition.

Ricky Van Shelton

1989

Rodney Crowell

Ricky Van Shelton

George Strait

Randy Travis

Keith Whitley

After winning Horizon in 1988, platinum-selling Ricky Van Shelton graduated into a Male Vocalist winner only one year later. Keith Whitley received a posthumous nomination; he won Single of the Year that same evening.

randy-travis

1988

Vern Gosdin

Ricky Van Shelton

George Strait

Randy Travis

Hank Williams, Jr.

It’s hard not to wince at the knowledge that the peerless Vern Gosdin only received one nomination in this category, but there was no stopping Travis from collecting his second win.

randy-travis

1987

George Jones

Ricky Skaggs

George Strait

Randy Travis

Hank Williams, Jr.

In a lineup that was a traditionalist’s dream, new star Randy Travis took home the trophy.  At the time, he was breaking sales records, enjoying a quadruple-platinum studio album in Always & Forever.

George Strait

1986

George Jones

Gary Morris

George Strait

Randy Travis

Hank Williams, Jr.

Strait won his second consecutive Male Vocalist award on the strength of another huge year at radio and retail.

George Strait

1985

Lee Greenwood

Gary Morris

Ricky Skaggs

George Strait

Hank Williams, Jr.

George Strait won the first of a record-matching five Male Vocalist awards, also taking home Album of the Year that same evening.

lee-greenwood

1984

Lee Greenwood

Merle Haggard

Gary Morris

Ricky Skaggs

George Strait

Greenwood’s Vegas vocals dominated at radio and retail this year, earning him the award for the second time.

lee-greenwood

1983

John Anderson

Lee Greenwood

Merle Haggard

Willie Nelson

Ricky Skaggs

Greenwood’s win was consistent with the pop-dominated flavor of the time.  Janie Fricke won that night for Female Vocalist, and it was the final year that both races would be won by pre-New Traditionalist artists.

Ricky Skaggs

1982

Merle Haggard

George Jones

Ronnie Milsap

Willie Nelson

Ricky Skaggs

Pulling off the astonishing feat of winning both Male Vocalist and Horizon award, Emmylou Harris’ former bandmate was hugely rewarded for bringing bluegrass to the masses.

George Jones

1981

George Jones

Ronnie Milsap

Willie Nelson

Kenny Rogers

Don Williams

It’s taken for granted that Jones is one of the greatest vocalists to ever grace country music; few would dare to argue otherwise. No surprise, then, that he won this award for the second year in a row.

George Jones

1980

John Conlee

George Jones

Willie Nelson

Kenny Rogers

Don Williams

Nominated for the first time in his career, George Jones walked away with Male Vocalist of the Year, along with Single of the Year for “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Kenny Rogers

1979

John Conlee

Larry Gatlin

Willie Nelson

Kenny Rogers

Don Williams

It’s hard to believe that the legendary showman never won Entertainer of the Year, but he did take home a much-deserved Male Vocalist award, at least.  Unfortunately, fellow nominee John Conlee would never be recognized at all, losing his first of two shots at this award.

Don Williams

1978

Larry Gatlin

Ronnie Milsap

Willie Nelson

Kenny Rogers

Don Williams

One of the most underrated artists in country music history got a well-deserved pat on the back, winning over four larger personalities in 1978.

Ronnie Milsap

1977

Larry Gatlin

Waylon Jennings

Ronnie Milsap

Kenny Rogers

Don Williams

Milsap set a record when he won for the third time in this category, which would stand until 1994, when Vince Gill won his fourth trophy.

Ronnie Milsap

1976

Waylon Jennings

Ronnie Milsap

Willie Nelson

Conway Twitty

Don Williams

After losing to Jennings the previous year, Milsap returned to collect his second Male Vocalist trophy in 1976. Conway Twitty lost again in his final appearance in the category.

Waylon Jennings

1975

John Denver

Freddy Fender

Waylon Jennings

Ronnie Milsap

Conway Twitty

There was no love lost between Waylon Jennings and the CMA – he loathed the organization so much, he didn’t even show up at his Hall of Fame induction. This was the first of several CMA wins for Jennings, though the only one in this category that he would receive.

Ronnie Milsap

1974

Merle Haggard

Waylon Jennings

Ronnie Milsap

Charlie Rich

Cal Smith

Blind singer-songwriter and pianist Ronnie Milsap won for the first time; with Olivia Newton-John winning Female Vocalist the same night, pop was the flavor of the evening.

Rich_Charlie_002_c_MOA.jpg

1973

Merle Haggard

Tom T. Hall

Charlie Rich

Johnny Rodriguez

Conway Twitty

The Silver Fox won on the strength of a great year at radio. He’s still considered one of the era’s finest and most underappreciated vocalists.

Charley Pride

1972

Merle Haggard

Freddie Hart

Johnny Paycheck

Charley Pride

Jerry Wallace

Charley Pride became the first artist to repeat in the category, winning for the second year in a row.

Charley Pride

1971

Merle Haggard

Ray Price

Charley Pride

Jerry Reed

Conway Twitty

The CMA had a wealth of great male vocalists to choose from in the early years of the awards, and they finally got around to acknowledging Pride, who had been nominated four times already.

Merle Haggard

1970

Johnny Cash

Merle Haggard

Charley Pride

Marty Robbins

Conway Twitty

Merle Haggard dominated the show in 1970, winning Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Single and Album of the Year.

johnny-cash

1969

Glen Campbell

Johnny Cash

Merle Haggard

Sonny James

Charley Pride

Cash was a huge winner in 1969, taking home five awards: Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Single, Album and Vocal Group (with wife June Carter Cash). He wouldn’t win again until after his death in 2003, when he took home another three awards.

Glen Campbell

1968

Eddy Arnold

Glen Campbell

Johnny Cash

Merle Haggard

Charley Pride

Crossover star Glen Campbell won in a year that is so impressive, all five nominees are now in the Hall of Fame. He also took home Male Vocalist the same evening.

jack-greene

1967

Eddy Arnold

Jack Greene

Merle Haggard

Sonny James

Buck Owens

Few casual country fans would recognize him today, but Jack Greene will forever go down in history as the first Male Vocalist winner at the CMAs. He won on the strength of his signature hit “There Goes My Everything,” which also won Single of the Year and was the title track of his Album of the Year winner that same night.

Facts & Feats

Multiple Wins:

  • (5) – Vince Gill, Blake Shelton, George Strait
  • (3) – Ronnie Milsap, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban
  • (2) – Lee Greenwood, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Tim McGraw, Charley Pride, Chris Stapleton, Randy Travis

Most Consecutive Wins:

  • (5) – Vince Gill (1991-1995), Blake Shelton (2010-2014)
  • (3) – Brad Paisley (2007-2009), George Strait (1996-1998), Keith Urban (2004-2006)

Most Nominations:

  • (25) – George Strait
  • (16) – Alan Jackson
  • (13) – Keith Urban
  • (11) – Merle Haggard, Brad Paisley
  • (10) – Vince Gill
  • (9) – Kenny Chesney
  • (7) – Ronnie Milsap, Willie Nelson
  • (6) – Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Don Williams
  • (5) – Garth Brooks, George Jones, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Conway Twitty

Most Nominations Without a Win:

  • (9) – Kenny Chesney
  • (7) – Willie Nelson
  • (6) – Dierks Bentley, Eric Church
  • (5) – Garth Brooks, Conway Twitty
  • (4) – Hank Williams, Jr.
  • (3) – Jason Aldean, John Anderson, Larry Gatlin, Gary Morris, Collin Raye

Winners in First Year of Nomination:
Clint Black (1990), Glen Campbell (1968), Vince Gill (1991), Jack Greene (1967), Lee Greenwood (1983), George Jones (1980), Toby Keith (2001), Ronnie Milsap (1974), Charlie Rich (1973), Ricky Skaggs (1982), Blake Shelton (2010), Chris Stapleton (2015), Randy Travis (1987), Keith Urban (2004)

CMA Male Vocalists of the Year Who Have Never Won the ACM Award:
Johnny Cash, Jack Greene, Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Ricky Van Shelton, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, Don Williams

ACM Male Vocalists of the Year Who Have Never Won the CMA Award:
Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Larry Gatlin, Mickey Gilley, Freddie Hart, Thomas Rhett

CMA Male Vocalists Who Have Also Won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male:
Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Lee Greenwood, George Jones, Tim McGraw, Ronnie Milsap, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Charlie Rich, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Keith Urban

Winners of the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male/Best Country Solo Performance Who Have Never Won the CMA Male Vocalist Award:
Garth Brooks, David Houston, Lyle Lovett, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Jerry Reed, Darius Rucker, Ralph Stanley, Dwight Yoakam

5 Comments

  1. I object to the 1983 comment “Greenwood looks pretty shabby against these other four nominees, taking home Male Vocalist … ”

    While Greenwood was not a new traditionalist, he was an effective singer, who released a string of pretty good albums. He was one of the first to “Wind Beneath My Wings” and his was easily the best version of the song – it was set to be the second single from his IOU album, but Gary Morris raced to the studio to get it recorded and released before “IOU” finished its chart run (“IOU” was much the better song). Qualitatively, Lee Greenwood had a pretty good run of singles from 1981-1986

    David Houston’s Grammy occurred the year before the first CMA awards so that’s a bit of a red herring

    Jack Greene and Freddie Hart probably should have picked up a few more nominations but the late 60s/early 70s were a fiercely competitive period for male vocalist

  2. I just changed the “shabby” line. Thanks for flagging it. I’ve been removing the editorializing from these Flashback Posts as I’ve been revising them this year, and I missed that one.

  3. Love that Don Williams, Kenny Rogers, and Ricky Scaggs all won in this category. So glad that Clint Black also won before Vince Gill began dominating in this category.

    Some head-scratchers:
    – amazed that the great Conway Twitty never won this award
    – shocked that Alan Jackson had to wait until the 2000s to win
    – cannot believe that Earl Thomas Conley was never even nominated in this category

  4. For as much as I like Chris Stapleton, I really hope Eric Church gets Male Vocalist somehow.

    Anyone but Thomas Rhett.

  5. I always thought it was pretty neat how George Strait made a big comeback in this category from 1996-1998. Especially, since it was a pretty solid group of artists to choose from during those years, and Strait had already been around for nearly two decades. I really miss seeing his name in the nominations and getting to see him perform at the show.

    I also thought it was surprising that Alan never won this award in the 90’s, and had to wait until the next decade to get it. What’s also interesting is that Steve Wariner was a solid hit maker throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, but never got a nomination until 1999. He really did make quite an impressive comeback in the late 90’s.

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