Country veterans rule the night at CMA Awards

It was a good night for some familiar faces Wednesday at the 47th annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville. Married couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won the male and female vocalist of the year awards, both for the fourth time in a row. And in a surprising but deserved nod to a country icon, George Strait, 61, scooped up the entertainer of the year award, beating four much younger contenders.

Strait seemed legitimately shocked to win. "Never in a million years ... thank you so much," he said. Looking upwards, he added, "My dad's been having some pretty good conversations up there." Strait's father died in June.

Miranda Lambert was the first of the Lambert-Shelton family to take home one of the vocalist of the year awards. "I really didn't think this was gonna happen this year," she said in her acceptance speech.

Disbelief must run in the family. Shelton said that he was equally surprised when he claimed his fourth male vocalist of the year award. "Not to echo the words of Miranda, but I really swear I did not think this was going to happen this year," he said.

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    Image: Singer Blake Shelton and his wife, singer Miranda Lambert, arrive at the 47th Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tennessee

    2013 CMA Awards

    Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and more of country music's biggest stars party in Nashville.

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    Singer George Strait accepts the award for entertainer of the year at the 47th Country Music Association Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.

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    Darius Rucker -

    Singer Darius Rucker performs his hit song "Wagon Wheel" at end of the CMA Awards in Nashville on Nov. 6.

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    Blake Shelton -

    Singer Blake Shelton accepts the award for male vocalist of the year at the CMAs. It was his fourth time winning the award.

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    Miranda Lambert -

    Miranda Lambert accepts the award for female vocalist of the year, also her fourth, at the CMA Awards on Nov. 6.

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    Kenny Rogers performs "Islands In The Stream" with Jennifer Nettles before he accepted the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement award at the CMAs.

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    Alan Jackson and George Strait perform "He Stopped Loving Her Today" as a tribute to the late George Jones at the CMAs on Nov. 6. Jones died on April 26.

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    Little Big Town -

    Philip Sweet, Kimberly Schalpman, Karen Fairchild and Jimi West of Little Big Town accept the award for vocal group of the year.

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    Kellie Pickler and Sean "Diddy" Combs present the award for vocal group of the year at the CMAs.

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    Carrie Underwood -

    In a break from hosting duties, Carrie Underwood performs a medley of her songs.

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    Blake Shelton, Scott Hendricks -

    Blake Shelton accepts the award for album of the year for "Based on a True Story" with his producer Scott Hendricks.

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    Sheryl Crow -

    Singer Sheryl Crow applauds while presenting the award for album of the year to Blake Shelton at the CMA Awards.

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    Taylor Swift -

    Taylor Swift, center, accepts the CMA Pinnacle Award from Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, George Straight, and Keith Urban at the CMAs.

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    Blake Shelton performs "Mine Would Be You" at the CMAs on Nov. 6.

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    Tim McGraw -

    Tim McGraw performs "Southern Girl" at the CMAs at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

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    The Band Perry -

    Kimberly Perry, Neil Perry and Reid Perry of The Band Perry perform "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" at the CMAs.

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    Eric Church -

    Singer Eric Church performs "The Outsiders" at the CMAs.

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    Kacey Musgraves -

    Singer Kacey Musgraves accepts the award for new artist of the year at the 47th Country Music Association Awards in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.

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    Hunter Hayes, Jason Mraz -

    Hunter Hayes, left, and Jason Mraz present the award for best new artist of the year to Kacey Musgraves at the CMA Awards.

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    Florida Georgia Line -

    Florida Georgia Line performs "Round Here" at the CMA Awards in Nashville.

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    Taylor Swift -

    Taylor Swift performs "Red" at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Nov. 6.

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    Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert -

    Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert perform "We Were Us" at the CMA Awards.

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    Little Big Town performs "Sober" at the CMA Awards on Nov. 6. The band was nominated for vocal group of the year.

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    Jimmy Yeary, Connie Harrigton, Lee Brice -

    Songwriter Jimmy Yeary, left, with songwriter Connie Harrigton and singer Lee Brice accept the song of the year award for "I Drive Your Truck" at the CMAs.

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    Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood do their best Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus routine while introducing the next musical act at the CMA Awards.

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    Kacey Musgraves -

    Kacey Musgraves, nominated for six CMA Awards, performs "Follow Your Arrow" at the 47th Country Music Association Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 6.

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    Brian Kelley, left, and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line accept the award for single of the year for "Cruise" at the CMA Awards. The pair also won the vocal duo of the year award.

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    Show hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood perform at the CMA Awards on Nov. 6.

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    Jason Aldean -

    Singer Jason Aldean performs "Night Train" at the 47th CMA Awards in Nashville.

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    Taylor Swift -

    Taylor Swift works the red carpet decked out in a red gown for the CMA Awards on Nov. 6. Swift's latest album is called "Red" and she's nominated six times.

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    Rascal Flatts members, from left, Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox, and Jay DeMarcus arrive at the CMA Awards in Nashville.

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    Carrie Underwood -

    Host and nominee Carrie Underwood poses on the red carpet before the CMA Awards on Nov. 6.

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    Singer Jake Owen and wife Lacey Buchanan attend the 47th annual CMA Awards in Nashville.

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    Singer Jason Aldean in one of the entertainer of the year nominees at the CMA Awards.

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    Miranda Lambert -

    Singer Miranda Lambert, a female vocalist of the year nominee, poses on the red carpet at the 47th CMA Awards.

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    The Band Perry -

    The Band Perry, from left, Neil, Kimberly and Reid Perry arrive at the CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

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    Defending entertainer of the year Blake Shelton arrives at the CMA Awards in Nashville on Nov. 6.

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    Darius Rucker -

    Darius Rucker, whose song "Wagon Wheel" was up for single of the year, poses on the red carpet at the CMA Awards.

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    Jase Robertson, Willie Robertson -

    Jase Robertson, left, and Willie Robertson from the "Duck Dynasty" TV show pose on arrival at the CMA Awards on Nov. 6.

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    Kellie Pickler -

    Singer Kellie Pickler arrives at the Bridgestone Arena for the CMA Awards on Nov. 6.

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    Singer Jennifer Nettles arrives at the CMA Awards.

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    Tim McGraw, Faith Hill -

    Singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill attend the 47th CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

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Shelton also won the album of the year award for "Based on a True Story," produced by Scott Hendricks. "Crap, my phone's blowing up all of a sudden," he said with a laugh as he was about to give his acceptance speech.

Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood kicked off the Nashville event with an issue-focused comedy patter that included jokes about country-music feuds, Obamacare, and Miley Cyrus.

The hosts enlisted singer Kellie Pickler to run around Nashville's Bridgestone Arena handing out feuding assigments to various stars. Kelly Clarkson was assigned Reba McEntire, the stepmother of her husband, Brandon Blackstock. "Enjoy your Thanksgiving together," cracked Paisley. 

Paisley and Underwood also parodied Strait's famed "Amarillo by Morning," with Underwood pretending she had been trying for days to access the new government health-care site, and hoping for "Obamacare by morning."

The hosts also got in a few jabs at Miley Cyrus' much-discussed routine from the MTV Video Music Awards, thanking nominee Taylor Swift for "never humping a teddy bear or gyrating with Beetlejuice," a reference to Cyrus' teddy bear-themed leotard and partner Robin Thicke's striped suit.

Paisley would later appear in a copy of that same striped suit, with Underwood joking, "you kinda look like a referee who's going to prom." And in another Cyrus parody, Underwood waved a foam claw honoring her husband Mike Fisher's NHL team, the Nashville Predators, in a nod to the foam finger Cyrus cavorted with at the VMAs."I don't think Miley done it that-a-way," Paisley joked.

Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line performed a medley to open the show, and Florida Georgia Line was soon back on stage to accept the single of the year award for "Cruise." Later in the show, Florida Georgia Line won again, accepting the vocal duo of the year award.

The duo thanked their fans for "making our dreams come true."

IMAGE: George Strait Harrison McClary / Reuters
George Strait accepts the CMA award for entertainer of the year.

The song of the year award went to "I Drive Your Truck," written by Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary, and sung by Lee Brice. The song is based on real events, as it's about how Paul Monti, the father of Medal of Honor winner Jared Monti, who was killed in Afghanistan, still drives his son's pickup truck. It wasn't the only song with a heartbreaking premise represented at the awards. Luke Bryan performed his new song, "Drink a Beer," which honors the memory of his late siblings Kelly and Chris.

Kenny Rogers received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, with singer Darius Rucker singing Rogers' hit "The Gambler," and Rogers and Jennifer Nettles dueting on "Islands in the Stream," which Rogers famously sang with Dolly Parton. The show also honored the late George Jones, who died in April at age 81.

Kacey Musgraves, who performed her song "Follow Your Arrow" on the show, won the new artist of the year award. "This first year has been just indescribable," Musgraves said. She went on to thank her grandmother, whom she noted "was my booking agent when I was 10 years old."

Vote: Which country leading lady looked best?

Taylor Swift, just 23 but already a country veteran herself, was presented with the Pinnacle Award, given to those who take country music to a worldwide audience. The award has been only presented once before, in 2005, when it was given to Garth Brooks. "Thank you, thank you, you made me feel so special right now," Swift said.

Little Big Town won the vocal group of the year award, presented by Kellie Pickler and Sean "Puffy" Combs. "We just got an award from Puffy and Pickle," said Kimberly Schlapman with a laugh.

Some awards were given out before the show. Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban won the musical event of the year award for "Highway Don't Care," and that song also won CMA music video of the year.

Mac McAnally won musician of the year for the sixth year in a row.

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