The ultimate country music fan experience – CMA Fest – has endured five decades of bringing together country music fans with their most adored artists. Ever since it kicked off in 1972 as Fan Fair, there has been nothing that’s quite like it in the world.
What started as a music festival drawing 5,000 fans to Nashville’s Musical Auditorium has become a legendary gathering of tens of thousands of fans soaking in music created by the smallest act to the biggest one.
Then, every year is just one of a kind. It has provided some of the most intimate fan experiences. CMA Fest even holds some of the best performances in country music through the years. You will be amazed to know how our country artists go above and beyond for their fan base.
So, today, let’s go through some of the most incredible moments that blew us away. Check them out below.
1. Garth Brooks Signing Autographs for 23 Hours Straight
In 1996, country star Garth Brooks set the record for signing autographs for 23 hours and 10 minutes straight.
The marathon autograph session happened at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Brooks did it without asking or taking a break to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Even the heavy downpour could not damper Brooks’ special relationship with fans. The singer recalled that a thunderstorm came about two in the morning, making him think they would lose all the fans. Amazingly, they did not lose one of them.
“Our bosses are not the record labels,” the country singer said about the event. “Our bosses are not country radio or the CMAs. As much as I love those people, our bosses are those people on the other side of the radio.”
2. Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Keith Urban Joined Forces For A Breathtaking Performance of “Old Town Road”
Lil Nas X’s record-breaking country-trap song “Old Town Road” came with a twist during the 2019 CMA Fest when country stars Billy Ray Cyrus and Keith Urban joined the rapper for a performance of the viral hit single.
The crowd was initially disappointed, thinking they would never get to hear Cyrus’ collaboration with Lil Nas X. However, those familiar banjo chords started ringing out, and the audience absolutely went wild. Cyrus appeared singing his opening lines, and then Lil Nas X danced his way onto stage – his first lines were almost overwhelmed by the crowd roaring with excitement.
Then things got even more thrilling when Urban stepped out of the stage’s shadows to sing his own verse and added some instrumental creativity from his banjo. The trio then blended in for a powerful version of the chorus.
3. George Strait and Reba McEntire signing Autographs In the Dark
Well placed honors – Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, and George Strait pic.twitter.com/5aO3vA5z7C— Teresa Holly Ritchie (@TeresaHollyRit1) August 25, 2017
In the 1980s, CMA grew so much that it moved to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds just to make room for an even bigger number of fans coming out to see their favorite artists.
However, in 1988, a power outage forced music festival’s participating artists to sign autographs in the dark – more notably George Strait and Reba McEntire, who were already seasoned professionals in the entertainment industry at that time. Still, such technical difficulties did not stop them from showing their love to fans. In fact, Strait was even reported to have signed 1,500 autographs during the outage.
4. Miranda Lambert Brought Her Four-Legged Friends To The Music Festival
Miranda Lambert set the festivities in motion during the 2017 CMA Music Festival with the first-ever MuttNation March – in which Lambert, her furry friends, and their supporters marched from Nissan Stadium in East Nashville over the Cumberland River and all through downtown Nashville.
MuttNation is a nonprofit organization Lambert built in 2009 alongside her mother, Bev Lambert, to help shine the spotlight on rescue animals and to advocate for shelter pet adoption. MuttNation March aimed to bring to everyone’s attention the thousands of dogs in shelters across the United States that need great homes.
5. A Recording Booth Where Fans Could Sing With Trisha Yearwood
In 1996, Trisha Yearwood’s then-manager, Ken Kragen, put up a recording booth where fans could sing country singer’s 1994 country No. 1 hit single, “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl).” Fans would then take home a cassette of them singing with Yearwood.
While it worked greatly, Yearwood said she couldn’t get anybody to actually sing unless she sang at the top of her lungs. It made Yearwood lose her voice after a few days. Still, she thinks it was one of the most creative booths in CMA Fest’s history.
6. Josh Turner Cutting In Line Just To Get Up-close With Vern Gosdin
Amazingly, several country stars today first attended CMA Fest as fans – such as Josh Turner, whose favorite CMA Fest memories include being a fan who got a little starstruck.
Turner recalled meeting one of his “all-time favorite heroes,” Vern Gosdin, during an autograph signing. While he was embarrassed to admit it, Turner confessed that he “literally went over and broke in line in front of all the fans to meet Vern,” thinking he may never have such a chance again.
7. Kathy Mattea’s Unique Way of Talking to Fans Despite Vocal Rest
In 1991, Kathy Mattea found herself under strict orders from her doctor not to talk because of injured vocal cords. However, there’s no stopping Mattea from interacting with her fans.
Incredibly, the country singer managed to do a meet-and-greet with some help from a personal computer that allowed her to carry on conversations without straining her voice. Take note that it was only the early 1990s.
8. Jason Aldean Blending The Worlds Of Rock And Country
Country fans at 2013 CMA Fest got the surprise of their lives when Jason Aldean brought rocker Lenny Kravitz on stage to perform their collaborative cover of “American Woman” – in which they shredded on guitar and traded vocals, creating an electrifying mood at the festival.
“I’m sure you weren’t expecting me to play right here,” Kravitz said. He also performed a five-song set of his hardest-rocking hits.
Surely, these CMA Fest moments will never be forgotten.
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