Discussion: Greatest CMA Injustice

As we gear up for the 42nd Annual CMA Awards and the possible surprises and disappointments that it might bring, I’m looking back to night and wondering:

What’s the greatest injustice in CMA history?

My first instinct was to note Conway Twitty, who lost all five of his bids for Male Vocalist and both of his bids for Entertainer.    But at least he has four CMA awards to his credit, all of them shared with Loretta Lynn in the Vocal Duo category.

Then I thought about Sawyer Brown.   Despite a hit run that lasted a good decade, they were never honored with Vocal Group of the Year, despite seven nominations.   But at least they won a trophy back in 1985, when they were given the Horizon Award shortly after their Star Search victory.

So I’m going with Rosanne Cash.   Despite strong record sales, critical acclaim and eleven #1 singles in the eighties, she went 0 for 11 at the CMA awards, including six failed bids for Female Vocalist of the Year.  That’s not even getting into what the CMA failed to nominate, like her classic single “Seven Year Ache” and her landmark album King’s Record Shop.   Even her 2002 collaboration with Johnny Cash, “September When it Comes”, failed to secure a Vocal Event nomination.

What do you think is the greatest injustice in CMA history?  Take a look around the CMA database and our annotated history of the major categories and share your thoughts!


  1. Rosanne could well be the worst in history; I don’t know if I could take you on on that. There have been other curiosities, like Willie Nelson never winning Male Vocalist (despite winning a whole lot of everything else), but hers could well be the worst case of across-the-board snubbery we’ve seen.

    Speaking in recent terms, the lack of any sort of recognition for Gary Allan obviously comes to mind (though it’s a bit more understandable, given that he hasn’t had nearly the commercial impact that Cash had). I also find it weird (though not necessarily earth-shakingly unjust) that the CMA didn’t nominate Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You” for Single; it was a six-week #1 and, as you’ve noted before, has proven artistically significant in retrospect, as it established his signature sound.

  2. Greatest injustice – hard to say

    Randy Travis not ever getting Entertainer of the Year

    Bobby Bare and Roseanne Cash not getting an award for “No Memories Hangin’ Round”

    Many great performers never won anything or even got nominated – Mel Street, Johnny Darrell, David Rogers, Nat Stuckey, Johnny Duncan – the list is endless

  3. I don’t think it’s valid to criticize the CMA because “Artist X never won male vocalist” or “Artist X never won a CMA award.” First, you’re taking a retrospective, omniscient view of what is a short-term, annual process: you can’t claim injustice without looking at year-to-year matchups, and when you do, the fact that a certain artist didn’t win a certain award has a tendency to become more excusable, or at least can be reduced to one or two bad decisions instead of a decades-long snub. Second, as others have mentioned, there are multiple legendary artists who have gone 0 for an award or 0 for the CMAs (no one has yet mentioned that Buck Owens never won a CMA award). Great artists who never won a CMA are thus in pretty good company, and it’s not fair to personalize it (e.g., the CMA snubbed Roseanne Cash instead of the CMA snubs a certain kind of artist).

  4. Dan,

    I remember there being a lot of discussion in 2003 when Keith Urban failed to secure any nominations. He’d been widely predicted to get a Single nod for “Somebody Like You”, along with Album and Male Vocalist nods.


    I was quite surprised when I first learned that Randy Travis hadn’t won Entertainer. He should’ve been a shoo-in in 1988. Maybe there was an expectation that he was still young and there was time to honor him later on. Who could’ve seen the Garth wave coming back then?

  5. Matt,

    I think you make a good point, and perhaps some of these cases aren’t so much “injustices” as retrospective peculiarities. To me, it’s peculiar that Willie Nelson could become the legend he is without ever being recognized as the top male voice of his genre. You’re right that that might not be grounds for any serious criticism of the CMA, and I don’t think anyone is really waging any here. “Injustice” might be a term better suited for specific instances, i.e., a certain album getting snubbed. I dunno.

  6. Re: Buck Owens

    Buck’s peak years occured prior to the CMA awards being established – ditto for Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Jim Reeves, Jean Shepard and countless others

  7. Paul’s right. Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells and Connie Smith don’t own any CMA Awards either, but that’s just a matter of timing. So I’ll pick Rosanne and Dwight Yoakam, and for today’s era, Gary Allan. If Rosanne had won the Horizon Award in 1981 (the first year it was presented), it would be a moot point.

  8. From 1976-1981, Don Williams was nommed for Male Vocalist, winning in ’78. He also won Album of the Year for I Believe in You in ’81. Glad he had a couple victories.

  9. I was disappointed that Rosanne Cash never won a CMA Award. Even though she was one of the best selling female artists of her era (between the period when her Seven Year Ache hit #1 and Rhythm and Romance hit #1, no other female artist managed to top the album chart), she really wasn’t out there promoting herself, and I don’t recall her doing any extensive touring. That had to hurt her chances, altho if the CMA was voting for the music, she would seem a shoo-in.

  10. I’d never call it the “greatest” injustice, but I still think it is absolutely ridiculous that the Dixie Chicks won nothing for “Home.”

  11. Sara Evans up for 7 nominations in 2001, Only winning one..That was very depressing. And the one she won was “Video Of The Year: Born To Fly”..lame.

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