The River's Badge

Saturday, November 5, 2016

CMA 50 - A Look Back - 1968


The first year the CMA Awards were televised was 1968. NBC broadcast the show and Kraft was its sponsor. It used to be that October was country music month -- it was decreed throughout promos for the show:  "October is country music month." Today country music month is...ehh, whenever. 

The commercials between the performances and the award-handing featured a honey-voiced announcer extolling the fun, warm family desserts one could make with Kraft caramels. Ahh, caramel apples, crackly leaves of burnished orange dusting the sidewalks, the kids skipping home from school, greeted at the door with a tender hug from Mom.

Dad nursing a whiskey sour in his easy chair; Mom, her arms crossed, nursing time-worn resentments. The kids huddled in their rooms cranking their radios up loud to muffle the inevitable screaming match to come.

Oh, maybe that was just my house. 

Is it any wonder I wrapped my head and arms around the CMA's?

Before 1968, the only awards shows on TV were the Emmys and the Oscars. Today, pick a week and you'll find one or two statuette grabfests to suit your tastes. "Winning an award" is a mundane exercise. Shoot, I bet I've even won an award for something and I don't even know it (I'm thinking I probably sent my "representative" to scoop it up for me.)

Forty-eight years of televised CMA's has wrought some changes. There's no longer a category for Comedian of the Year or Instrumental Group. Vocal Group used to encompass not only groups but duos. Frankly there weren't that many vocal groups making records in 1968.

And we (okay, I) think today's music reeks? Take a gander at the nominees (and winners) of the various awards in '68:

Album of the Year
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Glen Campbell
D-I-V-O-R-C-E - Tammy Wynette
Gentle on My Mind - Glen Campbell
The Best of Merle Haggard - Merle Haggard

Female Vocalist of the Year
Tammy Wynette
Lynn Anderson
Loretta Lynn
Dolly Parton
Jeannie C. Riley 

Male Vocalist of the Year
Glen Campbell
Eddy Arnold
Johnny Cash
Merle Haggard
Charley Pride

Single of the Year
Harper Valley PTA - Jeannie C. Riley
By The Time I Get To Phoenix - Glen Campbell
D-I-V-O-R-C-E - Tammy Wynette
Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
Honey - Bobby Goldsboro

Song of the Year
Honey - Bobby Russell (sorry, but one of the worst songs ever written)
D-I-V-O-R-C-E - Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman
Harper Valley PTA - Tom T. Hall
Little Green Apples - Bobby Russell (Is this guy gunning for the title of worst songwriter ever?)
Skip a Rope - Glen Douglas Tubb and Bobby Moran 

Vocal Group of the Year
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton
The Stoneman Family
Archie Campbell and Lorene Mann (?)
Bill Anderson and Jan Howard
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash

Entertainer of the Year
Glen Campbell
Eddy Arnold
Johnny Cash
Merle Haggard
Charley Pride 

FYI - the Instrumental Group of the Year was the Buckaroos (richly deserved) and the Comedian of the Year, if anyone cares, was Ben Colder (I guess you had to be there).

So, if we're (okay I'm) appalled by Beyonce performing on the 50th anniversary show, in 1968 we were appalled (appalled!) by Glen Campbell, who wasn't country, walking away with the biggest awards of the night.

I like Glen Campbell a whole lot -- now. I think Glen Campbell is a national treasure. That doesn't negate the fact that By The Time I Get To Phoenix wasn't country. It was...I don't know...easy listening, I guess. It sucked.

And don't even get me started on that musical blemish, "Honey". Oh. My. God. Horrible, horrible song.

Hindsight, though, is omniscient. Of course we know now that Tammy and Merle and...I guess that's about it from the above list...are majestic. Merle would have his day, and his arms full of awards, in 1970. Tammy started a long run in '68 that flowed into subsequent years. Porter and Dolly were royalty -- Dolly still is.

But if you can stand the cringe-worthiness, let's take a close look back, shall we?


(She was kinda dumb and kinda smart.)



For pure kitsch:



Here's some royalty:


Not to give 2016 short shrift, here's, I'm guessing, the best performance of the night:


Forty-eight years. A lot has changed and a lot hasn't. Talent is talent. The cool thing of the moment isn't cool at all.

I've suddenly got a craving for some Kraft caramels.














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