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Image: Singer Taylor Swift
Tami Chappell  /  Reuters
Taylor Swift celebrated with her band after she became the youngest person to win the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year award.
updated 11/12/2009 10:27:37 AM ET 2009-11-12T15:27:37

All four of the guys who lost to Taylor Swift for entertainer of the year at the Country Music Association Awards made a tactical error: They asked the crossover sensation to open for them in their concerts.

Swift quickly shed her opener status and shook up the music world with an incredible year that included the best-selling album, a concert tour that sold out almost immediately and, now, a historic night at the CMAs that included becoming the youngest winner of the association’s highest honor.

“Yeah, next year we’re not going to take any opening acts out,” Brad Paisley said jokingly.

The CMA’s more than 5,000 members — often cited as a conservative bunch — seemed as taken with Swift as the rest of the music world has been. She won all four awards for which she was nominated, snapping Kenny Chesney’s streak of four entertainer wins in the last five years and Carrie Underwood’s three-year run as top female vocalist.

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Chesney hugged and kissed Swift on her way to the stage and most of her peers hailed her Wednesday night during the ABC telecast at the Sommet Center.

“She has taken the music world by storm,” Paisley said. “She’s the biggest artist in music right now, by far. It’s hands down. She’s entertainer of the year in country music, no doubt, and I’m really proud of her.”

Association members didn’t stop with Swift, making interesting choices in most of the 12 categories. Darius Rucker became the second black performer to win a major individual award when he took new artist, joining Charley Pride, who took entertainer of the year in 1971 and male vocalist in 1971-72.

Slideshow: Sexiest country stars

“Making this record, I never thought about being an African-American guy making a country record,” said Rucker, whose “Learning to Live” sold 1 million copies this year. “I just thought I was a guy making a country record until my first song went top 20 and people started talking about it. I’m proud of that, I’m proud of being that guy who has taken up where Charley Pride left off.”

Lady Antebellum, winners of two awards, ended Rascal Flatts’ six-year run in the vocal group category. And Jamey Johnson, known for his outlaw country sound and wild beard, won song of the year for “In Color” with Lee Thomas Miller and James Otto.

The only winner beside Swift with multiple awards was Paisley, who won two, including male vocalist for the third straight year.

Swift also won album of the year for “Fearless,” the top-selling CD of the year, and video of the year for “Love Story.”

After being handed the entertainer trophy by her childhood idol Faith Hill, Swift called her band on stage and was the center of a group hug as fans cheered wildly, holding signs that said, “We love you, Taylor.” Her father cried in the audience.

Slideshow: Taylor Swift “I’ll never forget this moment because in this moment everything that I have ever wanted has just happened to me,” Swift said through tears.

Several women country music artists said they were pulling for Swift, including Barbara Mandrell, one of six female acts to win entertainer of the year and the only to win it twice.

“I think it will be exciting to see where she takes it because she entertains you,” said Mandrell, the first two-time winner of entertainer of the year, who was honored for her election into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Organizers gave a nod to Swift’s popularity, asking her to play two songs during the show. She opened with a rousing rendition of “Forever & Always,” throwing a chair from a raised podium, sliding to the floor on a pole, then dropping to her knees to sing the song’s bridge.

She also played acoustic guitar while singing “Fifteen” as a few dozen fans waved their arms around her.

The year’s not yet over for Swift, but she’s already identified the high point in a 2009 that included so many milestones.

“I think about 37 minutes ago is what stands out for me my whole life,” Swift told reporters backstage. “You guys, I didn’t expect to win, so I’m really at a loss for words.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: 43rd annual Country Music Association Awards

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  1. Little bit country

    Singers Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood host the 43rd annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. on Wednesday, Nov. 11. In their opening remarks, the duo couldn't resist a couple of joking remarks aimed at Kanye West, who famously interrupted country superstar Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 13. Paisley also went on to claim the award for best male vocalist. (Josh Anderson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Family affair

    Married megastars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill arrive at the awards. Numerous jokes were aimed at McGraw because of his new men's cologne, McGraw. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Does Australia have country music?

    Singer Keith Urban and his Academy Award-winning wife Nicole Kidman have had plenty of practice walking red carpets. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Back in black

    Singer Taylor Swift opens the award show with a performance of her song "Forever and Always." Swift became the youngest person to win entertainer of the year and the first solo female to win it in a decade. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The chair goes over there

    Swift hoists a prop during her opening performance at the awards. She began her song by sitting in a chair for a mock interview, which quickly turned to music. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The man's 'Alright'

    Singer Darius Rucker performs "Alright" at the awards. Rucker, former frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish, has sold more than 1 million copies of his first country album, "Learn to Live." (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. On the 'Run'

    Members of the group Lady Antebellum accept the single of the year award for their song, "I Run to You." They also won for best vocal group. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Off 'Color' joker

    James Otto, Jamey Johnson and Lee Thomas Miller accept the song of the year award for "In Color." Joked country bad boy Johnson, "I never thought you guys would even let me come to things like this." (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Once an 'Idol,' always an 'Idol'

    Carrie Underwood has come a long way from her fourth-season victory on "American Idol." The singer and CMA co-host is now a multi-platinum selling recording artist. She underwent numerous costume changes throughout the award show. (Mark Humphery / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Enjoying the moment

    Darius Rucker became the first African-American artist to win the new artist of the year award. In his acceptance speech, he thanked fans and country radio stations for taking a chance on him. (Josh Anderson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. True 'Nashville Star'

    Country artist Miranda Lambert, who gained fame on "Nashville Star" in 2003, performs at the awards. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Looking for a soul to steal

    The Zac Brown Band thrilled the audience with their high-rev version of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. New champion

    Members of the group Lady Antebellum perform "Need You Now" at the awards. The group won both vocal group and single of the year honors, with the win in vocal group ending Rascal Flatts' six-year winning streak in that category. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Winding things up

    Kix Brooks, left, and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn perform at the awards. The duo announced in August that they will part ways after a final tour in 2010. (Mark Humphery / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Honoring the troops

    Members of the U.S. military in the audience stand as they are introduced during a Veterans Day salute. The crowd gave the military men and women a standing ovation for their service. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Classic country

    Hall of Fame inductee Barbara Mandrell speaks as singers Martina McBride and George Strait look on. Mandrell sang her signature song, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool." (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Teenage superstar

    Presenters Lee Ann Womack and Kris Kristofferson look on as Taylor Swift accepts her history-making entertainer of the year award, becoming the youngest person to ever do so. The tearful 19-year-old — who also was the evening’s top winner with four total awards — cried as she accepted her trophy and said: “I will never forget this moment.” (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Thanking the band

    Swift called the members of her band up on stage to celebrate her historic award with her. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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