The biggest country music moments of 2020

Florida Georgia Line face breakup rumors amid political strife

From a first-ever No. 1 on the Billboard charts and a historic pledge for gender parity to major name changes, joyful births and heartbreaking deaths, it’s been a busy year for country music. Join as we take a look at the genre’s biggest moments in 2020 starting with this drama… Split rumors hit duo Florida Georgia Line in November after fans noticed Tyler Hubbard and his wife stopped following Brian Kelley and his wife on Instagram. Many speculated that differing views about the presidential election and the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated issues between the country music stars. Tyler has been very critical of President Donald Trump for several years and endorsed Joe Biden for president, while Brian implied to a fan that he supported Trump. Brian also predicted that COVID-19 restrictions would go away after the election, hinting at a conspiracy. Meanwhile, Tyler announced on Nov. 8 that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. Then came an announcement that seemed to pour water on breakup talk: On Nov. 16, the duo confirmed they’d inked a multiyear touring deal with Live Nation that could see concerts kick off as early as the summer of 2021. But it turns out fans weren’t too far off when they suspected there was beef between Tyler and Brian: On Nov. 19, Tyler told SiriusXM’s “Exit 209,” “I unfollowed BK for a few days while we were through this political, you know, in the middle of this election and everything going on. And, and I even called him and told him, I said, ‘Hey buddy, I love you. And I love you a lot more in real life than on your stories right now. So I’m just going to, so that’s why I’m unfollowing you. Nothing personal. I still love you. You’re still my brother.’ I just didn’t want to see it every time I opened Instagram.” Keep reading for more…

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Finally, an engagement!

On Oct. 27, longtime couple and “The Voice” co-stars Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani announced that they were engaged! “@blakeshelton yes please! 💍🙏🏻 gx,” the No Doubt singer captioned an Instagram photo flashing her rock. The country music king shared the same image, captioning his, “Hey @gwenstefani thanks for saving my 2020… And the rest of my life.. I love you. I heard a YES!”

RELATED: Blake Shelton’s life in pictures

Charley Pride dies from complications of COVID-19

Country music legend Charley Pride — a pioneer for Black artists in the genre and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame — died on Dec. 12 in Dallas at 86 from complications of COVID-19. The Grammy winner known for hit songs like “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” delivered his final performance at November’s 2020 Country Music Association Awards, where he received a lifetime achievement award.

RELATED: Biggest music moments of 2020

Women dominate country music categories as 2021 Grammy nominations are announced

The Recording Academy announced this year’s crop of Grammy nominations on Nov. 24, revealing Miranda Lambert and Ingrid Andress as the top country nominees at the 63rd annual show, which airs on Jan. 31, 2021. Both scored three nods — Miranda has two for her track “Bluebird” (best solo country performance and best country song) and another for country album of the year for “Wildcard.” Ingrid’s also up for best country album for “Lady Like” as well as best country song for “More Hearts Than Mine,” plus she scored a coveted best new artist nod. Brandy Clark, Little Big Town and Old Dominion have two nods each. Another notable 2021 ceremony nominee is Mickey Guyton, who made history as the first Black female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category (for her song “Black Like Me,” which is up for best country solo performance). Notable snubs include newly renamed The Chicks — who released their first album in 14 years in 2020 — Luke Combs, Jason Isbell, Blake Shelton and strong best new artist contenders Gabby Barrett, Morgan Wallen and Jimmie Allen.

Mickey Guyton makes history as first Black female country singer to perform at ACM Awards

Singer Mickey Guyton also made history when she sang her ballad “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” on the ACM Awards stage on Sept. 16 as she became the first Black female country artist to perform on the show. Mickey, who released her first single back in 2015, was introduced by Tim McGraw and accompanied on piano by Keith Urban. Aside from releasing “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” this year, Mickey — who’s pregnant with her first child — also released the poignant tune “Black Like Me” in June amid weeks of protests following the murder of George Floyd. 

CMA Awards deliver live performances and big winners as multiple acts stay home due to COVID-19 exposure

There were some big winners at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards in Nashville on Nov. 11 including Eric Church (pictured), who won his first CMA entertainer of the year prize. Luke Combs took home male vocalist and album of the year and Maren Morris earned three awards — female vocalist of the year plus single and song of the year for her hit “The Bones.” The show also made headlines because multiple artists had to pull out of appearances and performances due to COVID-19 as the pandemic escalated across America and the world. Variety reported that an hour before the telecast, Lady A canceled in order to quarantine as an unnamed family member had contracted the coronavirus. Rascal Flatts had to pull out after a member of the band was diagnosed with COVID-19. Fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, a CMA musician of the year winner, explained she was out after testing positive before the show. And both Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and country singer Lee Brice were no-shows because both were home recovering from the virus.

The Dixie Chicks change name to The Chicks

In June, the Dixie Chicks quietly changed their name to simply The Chicks. “We want to meet this moment,” the group said on their website. The trio changed their social media handles and website, too, to reflect the new name. Pitchfork reported that The Chicks also amended the cover of their album “Gaslighter” to reflect the new name. They also released a new song under the name The Chicks, “March March,” which speaks of peaceful protesting and includes images from recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations following George Floyd’s death

Lady Antebellum changes name to Lady A

On June 11, members of the trio Lady Antebellum announced that they’d officially changed their band’s name to Lady A. The decision came after being “awakened” to the negative historical context of the word “antebellum” amidst Black Lives Matter protests going on around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd. “We are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word,” the group said in a statement. The word “antebellum” refers to the historic period prior to the Civil War during the height of slavery in the United States. However, on June 12, an artist who also goes by Lady A shared her thoughts about the Nashville-based band’s decision, as they apparently did not consult her about the name change. “This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Lady A (born Anita White) told Rolling Stone. “How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another black artist?” Though it appeared Lady A the band and Lady A the artist cleared up their dispute soon after, more drama erupted later on.

Taylor Swift stands up for herself after Scooter Braun sells her masters to a private investment group for more than $300M

Taylor Swift has been publicly critical of music manager and label exec Scoot Braun since learning he’d acquired her masters — after she was denied the chance to buy them back — when his investment group purchased her old label, Big Machine Label Group, for $300 million in June 2019. On Nov. 16, their war took a new turn as Scooter closed on a deal to sell Taylor’s masters to an investment fund, later identified as the Disney family’s Shamrock Holdings private equity firm, for “north of $300 million,” Variety reported. The music star, who began her career as a country artist and started re-recording her first six albums in November as soon as her contract allowed, hit back after the news broke, tearing into Scooter and detailing how her team “attempted to enter into negotiations” but that they were foiled as his team “wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive, before we could even look at the financial records of BMLG (which is always the first step in a purchase of this nature.” She explained she would “have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work. My legal team said that this is absolutely NOT normal, and they’ve never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off. … These master recordings were not for sale to me.” Read her lengthy statement in full here.

“Saturday Night Live” drops Morgan Wallen performance after he ignores COVID-19 protocols

On Oct. 10, country singer-songwriter Morgan Wallen was let go from his scheduled “Saturday Night Live” performance after video emerged showing him failing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. The NBC sketch-comedy show made the decision to drop Morgan after he was seen maskless and kissing women at a college party days earlier. “My actions this past weekend were pretty short-sighted and they obviously affected my long-term goals and dreams,” the “Whiskey Glasses” singer said in an apology video on Oct. 7, adding that he has “some growing up to do.” In addition to noting that he didn’t test positive for the coronavirus, he shared that he hopes to perform on “SNL” in the future. “I’m going to take a step back from the spotlight for a while and go work on myself… It may be a second before you heard from me for a while… I’m going to work on me,” he added.

Dwight Yoakam quietly marries, welcomes first child

On May 4, Dwight Yoakam shared some happy news: He’d quietly married his longtime love, Emily Joyce. “Dwight Yoakam and Emily Joyce were married in March just prior to the quarantine in a private ceremony at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. At a time when there is so much uncertainty in the world, there are still happy moments,” read a statement from the couple’s rep, who revealed that the ceremony included fewer than 10 attendees who “were seated at least six feet from one another” to adhere to coronavirus social distancing guidelines. The couple made the decision to hold off on announcing their nuptials “out of respect to so many people affected by and on the front lines of this pandemic,” the rep added. Dwight and Emily were engaged for many years and have been an item since 2010. More good news came in August when the couple announced the birth of their first child, son Dalton.

Stagecoach and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival canceled amidst coronavirus pandemic

On June 10, news broke that both Stagecoach and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — two of Southern California’s most popular multi-day music events — were canceled for 2020. Both festivals, which typically take place in April, were initially postponed to October before being canceled entirely due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. “I am concerned as indications grow that COVID-19 could worsen in the fall,” Riverside County public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser explained in a statement. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.” Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett and Eric Church had been announced as the country music festival’s headliners while dozens more artists like Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X (pictured here at Stagecoach in 2019) were also scheduled to perform.

ACM Awards names two entertainer of the year winners for first time in history

2020 gave us another big first at the Academy of Country Music Awards in September: The first ever entertainer of the year co-winners. Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett both stars received trophies and gave acceptance speeches during the mostly virtual and socially distanced award show.

Reba McEntire and “CSI: Miami” actor Rex Linn make their red carpet debut as a couple at the CMA Awards

Reba McEntire has a new man, and he might look familiar! Romance rumors began circulating that the country star had been dating “CSI: Miami” actor Rex Linn as early as January after he posted a photo of the two of them on Instagram. “Had a fantastic dinner with this Oklahoma girl. Tater Tots and Ketchup included,” he captioned the pic. While chatting with her “Living and Learning” podcast co-host Melissa Peterman in October, Reba confirmed the romance, referring to the actor as “a very, very sweetheart of a guy.” Reba continued, “It’s good to have a person to talk to, laugh with, get into subjects about what’s going on. Discussions about our past, our family, funny stories, him being an actor, me being an actress. And he’s very into my music. I’m very into his career.” She went on, “We’re having a blast and still getting to know each other. Whatever happens in the future, we’re very stable and it’s been a good six months and I look forward to having more things to look forward to.” When her mother passed away in January, Reba also revealed that Rex sent a thoughtful package to her family. “It gave me such a sense that he really cared for me but not only me but my family,” she said of the gesture. The couple made their red carpet debut at the CMA Awards, which aired on ABC, in November.

CMT pledges gender parity on its music channels 

On Jan. 22, CMT announced that its music channels would, moving forward, feature 50% female artists. That meant a 10% increase from the previous 40/60 ratio that favored male artists. “Effective immediately all music video hours on CMT and CMT Music channels will have complete parity between male and female artists. That means 50/50. #CMTEqualPlay,” the network tweeted. CMT has continued to highlight female artists in the industry — the network’s CMT Next Women of Country platform functions to further uplift up-and-coming female country artists. The initiative includes a tour that pairs a breakout female singer with a veteran female artist on the road. 

Country genre winners at the 2020 American Music Awards

A handful of country music stars emerged victorious at the 2020 American Music Awards on Nov. 22. Dan + Shay took home  the favorite country song trophy for their hit with Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours,” as well as the favorite country duo or group prize. Maren Morris was named favorite female country artist while Kane Brown took home the same award in the male artist category. Favorite country album went to Blake Shelton for “Fully Loaded: God’s Country.”

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill celebrate 24 years of marriage

Oh, how time has flown! On Oct. 6, country darlings Tim McGraw and Faith Hill celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary. “24 yrs……. @faithhill. These years have rushed by in a series of beautiful, painful and unexpected moments…. We have loved, laughed and cried through exciting, inspiring and heartbreaking events in our lives together,” read the first of three tweets Tim penned for his wife. “U have been a role model for 3 remarkable young women who have made me a better man than I ever thought I could be…..” read his second tweet. He continued, “The future will surely hold more of all of these things It only matters if I’m with you It only works if I’m with you My oxygen only exists if you’re by my side Forever and always living and loving our way through anything @FaithHill.”

Maren Morris sets new Billboard record and welcomes first child with husband Ryan Hurd

It’s been a big year for Maren Morris! Her song “The Bones” spent 19 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s hot country songs chart — the longest run for any female solo artist (Taylor Swift previously held the record with her song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which stayed at No. 1 for 10 weeks in 2012). But that’s not the only thing Maren had to celebrate: She also became a mama! On March 23, the Grammy-winning country artist and her husband, singer-songwriter Ryan Hurd, welcomed their first child. “Hayes Andrew Hurd. 3/23/20. Love of our lives. ✨💕” Maren wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of their newborn baby boy. Then in September, she was named female artist of the year at the 2020 ACM Awards and in November, she won female vocalist of the year and two other big prizes at the 2020 CMA Awards.

The Dixie Chicks release their first song in 14 years

On March 4, the Dixie Chicks released the first single and title track off their eighth studio album, “Gaslighter,” which followed in July. The album, which is the group’s first album in 14 years, was inspired in large part by lead vocalist Natalie Maines’ difficult divorce from actor Adrian Pasdar. Following the single’s release, the group visited “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” where they reflected on being shunned after Natalie criticized then-president George W. Bush during a 2003 concert (shortly before he ordered U.S. troops to invade Iraq, she famously said, “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas”). As Natalie told Ellen, “What we said back then — or what I said back then — would not even be a thing today, because it was really mild compared to what people say today,” she explained. “So on the one hand, everyone has this platform where they can say whatever they wanna say, but on the other hand, this platform can move really quickly and ruin people’s lives.” Although the album was initially slated to debut on April 21, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was pushed back to July 17. The ladies made headlines in a big way again over the summer…

John Prine, Kenny Rogers, Cady Groves, Paul English and more country music stars pass away

In 2020, the world of country music mourned the loss of many beloved musicians. On Feb. 12, Willie Nelson’s longtime drummer, Paul English, died from pneumonia at 87. On March 29, singer-songwriter Joe Diffie, who was known for tracks like “Pickup Man” and “If the Devil Danced,” passed away at 61 from the coronavirus. Legendary country folk singer-songwriter John Prine (pictured) died from complications of COVID-19 on April 7 at 73. Stars like Kacey Musgraves deeply mourned his death. “There will never ever be another John Prine. Heartbroken,” the “Golden Hour” singer tweeted. On May 2, Cady Groves, who was best known for songs like “This Little Girl” and “Forget You,” died at 30. On Oct. 23, singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker — who was best known for writing the 1968 track “Mr. Bojangles” — passed away from throat cancer at 78.

Country music stars take to social media to urge fans to vote

In anticipation of the the 2020 presidential election, many country music stars took to social media to encourage fans to exercise their right to vote. Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Houser, Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley and more stars shared selfies showing they’d cast their ballots. Some, including Jana Kramer and Kelsea Ballerini, even voted for the first time this year. “…embarrassingly but honestly, this is my first time voting,” Kelsea wrote on Instagram alongside this pic. “I’m not proud of it, but my naivety has kept me sheltered through a lot of my young adult life. BUT. As I’ve listened and learned, I’ve realized it’s our responsibility and privilege to use our voices to establish what we as human beings with beating hearts want to see in this country for not only ourselves…but our friends, neighbors, strangers, and future generations.”

Kenny Rogers dies at 81

On March 20, Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers died from natural causes at 81. The three-time Grammy winner with a career spanning six decades was in hospice care in Georgia at the time of his death. “Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music,” his family said in a statement. “His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world.” Collaborator Dolly Parton, as well as many other stars, paid tribute to the “The Gambler” singer. “I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart’s broken. A big ol’ chunk of it has gone with him today…” Dolly said. “You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend… God bless you Kenny, fly high straight into the arms of God. To the rest of you, keep the faith.”

Rascal Flatts announces then cancels their 2020 farewell tour

In January, country trio Rascal Flatts announced that they would be disbanding at the end of 2020 after a 21-year career together but first would be heading out on a farewell tour dubbed “Rascal Flatts Farewell: Life is a Highway.” However, the group had to cancel the concert trek, which was set to kick off in June, amidst the coronavirus pandemic. “Flattheads, after a lot of difficult conversations that we never thought we would be having, we have decided that in the interest of the safety of everyone involved we will not be moving forward with our Farewell Tour,” Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus and Gary LeVox announced on their Instagram page on May 19. “2020 is still an important year for us as a band and a milestone we want to celebrate with our fans, so please stay tuned for some fun surprises coming your way soon!  We love you and can’t thank you enough for being on this journey with us! Thank you for understanding. Stay safe, Rascal Flatts.”

Charlie Daniels passes on

The country music world lost a legend when Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels passed away on July 6.The music star was credited with fusing traditional country and Southern rock as the founder of the Charlie Daniels Band. He passed away from a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee, at 83, and will be best remembered for his hit 1979 single “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Country stars remember Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting three years later

Oct. 1, 2020, marked three years since the tragic mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in which 58 people were killed and more than 850 were injured. Members of the country music community including Chris Young, Brothers Osborne, John Rich and Jason Aldean came together to reflect on the devastating event. “Hard to believe it’s been 3 years since Route 91,” Jason — who was performing on stage when the gunfire began — wrote on Instagram. “That night was probably the worst night of our lives and not a day goes by that we don’t think about the people who lost their lives and the families who have forever been affected by it. October 1st will always be a day for us that is extremely hard to relive. To everyone in the Route 91 family, we love u guys and we couldn’t have gotten through it without you. #CountryStrong #Route91family #VegasStrong.”

Taylor Swift returns to her country roots

Back to her roots! Country fans were delighted when it was announced that Taylor Swift would be performing her song “betty” for the very first time during the ACM Awards in September. Thirteen years prior, Taylor made her awards show debut at the ACM Awards with a performance of her first hit, “Tim McGraw,” and this marked her return to the ACM stage for the first time in seven years. For the occasion, Taylor did her own hair, makeup and styling and kept things casual in a Stella McCartney ensemble comprised of a maroon sequined turtleneck and high-waisted khaki pants. 

Bob Dylan earns his first No. 1 song on a Billboard chart

This one was a long time coming! In April 2020, Bob Dylan earned his very first Billboard chart No. 1 as a performer with his track “Murder Most Foul.” The 17-minute song — his first original since 2012 — explores the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It took the top spot on the rock digital song sales category. While Bob has hit No. 1 as a writer before (on tracks like the Byrds’ 1965 single “Mr. Tambourine Man”), this is the first time he’s actually topped the chart as a performer (previously, he’d reached No. 2).

Kacey Musgraves ends her nearly three-year marriage

It’s over! Country darling Kacey Musgraves released a joint statement with Ruston Kelly announcing their split on July 3. The statement came just one day after Kacey filed for divorce from her singer-songwriter spouse and came three months ahead of what would have been their third anniversary. On July 8, Us Weekly reported that their divorce documents listed their date of separation as July 2 and cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split.

Singer-songwriter Mac Davis passes away

On Sept. 29, country singer-songwriter Mac Davis died after falling critically ill following heart surgery in Nashville, according to a statement tweeted by his family. He was 78. Mac, who penned hits like “One Hell of a Woman” and “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” was honored as the entertainer of the year by the Academy of Country Music in 1974. He also famously wrote songs for Elvis Presley including “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation.”

Taylor Swift shows support for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ahead of 2020 presidential election

On Oct. 7, Taylor Swift for the first time publicly endorsed a presidential candidate. The “folklore” singer took to Instagram to promote a new interview with V Magazine, and while the first photo in her post revealed her magazine cover, the second pic (seen here) showed her holding a batch of cookies decorated with “Biden-Harris 2020” icing. “I spoke to @vmagazine about why I’ll be voting for Joe Biden for president. So apt that it’s come out on the night of the VP debate. Gonna be watching and supporting @kamalaharris by yelling at the tv a lot. And I also have custom cookies 🍪💪😘,” Taylor captioned her post. “Under their leadership,” she further told the magazine, “I believe America has a chance to start the healing process it so desperately needs.”

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announces five new inductees

In November 2020, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announced five country stars as their latest inductees: Kent Blazy, Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Brett James (pictured) and Spooner Oldham. “This year marks our 50th year to welcome a new class into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Sarah Cates, the chair of the organization’s board of directors. “And although our year has looked different, we couldn’t be more excited to continue our commitment and core mission by announcing the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Class of 2020.” With the addition of these five songwriters, the total number of honorees in the hall of fame, which was founded in 1970, is at 224. 

Alan Jackson, Keith Urban kick off outdoor drive-in concerts amidst COVID-19 pandemic

In June, Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson was one of the first stars to play a larger show in North America following the start of the coronavirus pandemic when he performed two drive-in shows in rural Alabama. Keith Urban was also playing drive-in concerts in Nashville amidst the global health crisis in an effort to raise money for healthcare workers.

Garth Brooks announces special concert to air live at drive-ins across the country

Following in the footsteps of fellow country stars Alan Jackson and Keith Urban, Garth Brooks also found a creative way to perform for fans amid the coronavirus pandemic: On June 27, he performed a concert that aired live at 300 drive-ins nationwide. “They’re going to run it just like a regular concert, but this is going to be all over North America, one night only,” the “Friends in Low Places” hitmaker said ahead of the show during a chat with “Good Morning America.” “We are excited because this is a reason to get out of the house, but at the same time you get to follow all the COVID rules from every individual state and you get to have fun and stay within the guidelines of social distancing.” The singer has dubbed the upcoming drive-in event a “social distancing party.” 

“This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz drops debut country music single

There’s a new star on the country music scene, and she might look familiar! It’s “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz, who dropped her debut country single in April 2020. Her first song, “Talking To God,” came on the heels of the actress singing a record deal with Universal Music Group Nashville. The country world first realized she might be a country music powerhouse at the 2019 ACM Awards when she performed Luke Combs’ hit “Even Though I’m Leaving.”   

Chase Rice faces criticism for concert that failed to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols

On June 27, Chase Rice performed on stage at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee, in front of a large group of fans — many of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing. The singer took to Instagram to share a video of the crowd singing along to his track “Eyes on You.” While TMZ reported that 4,000 fans attended the show, a rep for Chase told that the actual number of those in attendance was much lower. “While the venue that normally holds 10,000 was capped at 4,000 capacity, there were [less than] 1,000 fans actually in attendance,” said the rep. Country singers like Kelsea Ballerini took to social media to criticize Chase’s actions. “Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people’s health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL country concert right now. @ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour. We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait,” she wrote on Twitter. Singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton also chimed in via Twitter, writing, “This is happening in Tennessee where cases are spiking y’all. Jesus help us.”

Kane Brown gets lost in his own backyard

Imagine owning so much land that you get lost on it! That’s exactly what happened to Kane Brown, who lost his way on his brand new 30-acre property. Kane explained the story in a since-deleted post on Facebook, revealing that he and two friends got lost while checking out his new space then they got caught in an unexpected downpour. The rain and the unfamiliar surroundings led Kane to call friends for help, but when they arrived, they also got lost. Eventually the group had to call police. 

Ryan Adams pens apology letter addressing abuse allegations

A year after being accused of emotional abuse and sexual harassment by multiple women, Ryan Adams broke his silence in a letter published by on July 3. “There are no words to express how bad I feel about the ways I’ve mistreated people throughout my life and career,” began the singer-songwriter, who was first accused of exhibiting manipulative behavior in a New York Times report published in February 2019 in which seven women — including ex-wife Mandy Moore — spoke of their allegedly abusive experiences with him. “I’ve gotten past the point where I would be apologizing just for the sake of being let off the hook and I know full well that any apology from me probably won’t be accepted by those I’ve hurt.” He went on, “That being said, no amount of growth will ever take away the suffering I had caused. I will never be off the hook and I am fully accountable for my harmful behavior, and will be for my actions moving forward. In my effort to be a better man, I have fought to get sober, but this time I’m doing it with professional help. Sobriety is a priority in my life, and so is my mental health. These, as I’m learning, go hand in hand.”

Marie Osmond reveals she’s not leaving her fortune to her children

When onetime country singer Marie Osmond appeared on “The Talk” in February 2020, she explained that she has no intention of leaving her fortune to her children when she passes away. “I’m not leaving any money to my children. Congratulations, kids,” she said on the show. “My husband and I decided that you do a great disservice to your children to just hand them a fortune because you take away the one most important gift you can give your children, and that’s the ability to work.” Marie wants her seven kids to “be proud of what they make” and plans on giving her money to her charity. The “Paper Roses” singer’s comments did not sit well with “The Talk” host Sheryl Underwood. “When you come from a family of money, you raise your children to value money and to understand money, and because they were born into the family, they should have a healthy respect for money,” she rebutted.

Blanco Brown hospitalized after motorcycle crash

On Aug. 31 in Atlanta, country singer Blanco Brown was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident that sent him to the ICU. Two weeks later, his record label shared an update, informing fans that after surgery that last more than 12 hours, hewas improving. The singer, who made waves on country radio back in 2019 with his smash hit “The Git Up,” is expected to make a full recovery. 

Dierks Bentley celebrates 15th anniversary of his Grand Ole Opry induction

On Oct. 3, Dierks Bentley made an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry to celebrate 15 years since his Opry induction. The event, which also included performances from fellow Opry members Lorrie Morgan, Vince Gill and Terri Clark, also marked the first time the venue had a live audience present since March. Before a crowd of just 500 people, the four country hitmakers closed out the night with a performance of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Dierks took to Instagram to commemorate the milestone: “It’s been 15 years since I had the honor of being inducted as a member of the @Opry… wishing my buddy Jake could be there with me this weekend… Looking forward to getting back there this Saturday to celebrate their 95th birthday.” Jake, Dierks’ late dog, passed away in 2016.

The Grand Ole Opry radio show broadcasts live music without an audience during the coronavirus pandemic 

In March, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Grand Ole Opry — like other businesses — was required to close up shop. However, while it had to say no to live audiences, the Opry continued to broadcast live country music every Saturday evening. Its radio show, which has been broadcasting live music for nearly 95 years, still had some of the genre’s biggest stars on the show, albeit they were in a stripped-down, dialed-back setting. Artists like Brad Paisley, Amy Grant, Luke Combs, Marty Stuart and more stepped onto the famous stage and performed to thousands of empty seats. “The word I have heard from most of the artists who have stepped up to that microphone is ‘surreal,'” said Vice President and Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry Dan Rogers. “They’re in this very hallowed place under circumstances they never would have ever imagined. But while it’s surreal, it’s also been quite magical. There’s something special in knowing that even though no one is in the Opry house to applaud back, they know that much like the early days of the Grand Ole Opry, there are millions of people out there tuned in and listening to every note.” 

CBS airs “ACM Presents: Our Country” TV special after 2020 ACM Awards are canceled

On April 5, the Academy of Country Music aired “ACM Presents: Our Country,” a two-hour special that featured social distancing performances from country music’s biggest names after the 2020 ACM Awards were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual concert featured intimate conversations and at-home acoustic performances with top artists and favorite clips from past ACM Awards shows. Lady A (pictured here), Dierks Bentley, John Legend, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett were among the stars who participated in the quarantine concert event. 

Rascal Flatts celebrates 20th anniversary of debut single’s release

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since this beloved country trio made their first splash in the music industry! Jay DeMarcus, Gary LeVox and Joe Don Rooney spoke to “CMT Hot 20” about their album “Twenty Years of Rascal Flatts: The Greatest Hits,” which was released on Oct. 2. “We wanted to put it all together. It’s two decades of some of our biggest hits, and it kind of takes them down the path of two decades of Rascal Flatts music,” said Gary, who — along with his bandmates — in January announced they were splitting up. “And that’s really what it was, just a big thank you. You can never thank them enough. We love our fans so much and we just we are so blessed.” The country hitmakers also talked about having to cancel their farewell tour in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “I don’t think any of us wanted to go out this way. I mean, this kind of sucks,” said Jay. “So I think that for all of us, we miss being out there this year just as much as everybody misses having concerts this year. We don’t have a plan for ’21 because we simply don’t know when the venues are going to open up and what the social distancing measures are going to look like.”

CMT’s Artists of the Year event honors coronavirus pandemic heroes 

On June 3 CMT held its Artists of the Year event — only this year, the special night took on a new purpose. The network rebranded the annual occasion as “CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special,” which was a two-hour virtual tribute to frontline workers fighting COVID-19. “The ‘CMT Artists of the Year’ franchise has always been reflective of the important issues of our time, and this year, we all felt it necessary to shift our focus to honoring the real heroes during these unprecedented times,” said CMT Senior Vice President of Music and Talent Leslie Fram in a statement. “From the first responders and health care workers to members of the military, our educators, food industry workers and so many more, the country music community will come together to honor these heroic men and women.” The special featured a variety of at-home performances from country music’s brightest stars including Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert and many more. 

Maren Morris pens protest song dedicated to her son

On Oct. 1, Maren Morris released the video for her single “Better Than We Found It,” which candidly shares her personal views and beliefs about current events. The video include appearances from Nashville residents including the family of Daniel Hambrick, a Black man who was shot and killed by Nashville police in 2018. At the end of the video, footage of Maren reading a letter to her son, Hayes Hurd, is shown. “I wanted to write something to address exactly how I feel right now, and this came together pretty quickly,” Maren said in a statement. “It’s a protest song — it’s the most American thing to protest and protest songs have been so embedded in American culture: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone.” She went on, “I think the world right now is sort of in a perpetual mourning period and I wanted to have a song that had weight but also had hope. I still have hope for this country and for the future of it, and as a new mother I wanted to promise my son that I’m going to do everything in my power to leave this world better than the one I came into and the one I see right now.”

Blake Shelton and Pitbull collaborate on the song “Get Ready”

The best of both worlds! On Feb. 7, “Get Ready” — a joint musical effort by Cuban American singer Pitbull and Oklahoma-born country star Blake Shelton — was released. The country-dance hit, which was the fourth single off Pitbull’s 11th studio album, “Libertad 548,” was co-written by the music stars and is a rendition of the 1977 Ram Jam hit “Black Betty.” In a behind-the-scenes video, Pitbull excitedly compared working with Blake to another unlikely musical pair that made a hit song. “This to me is like when Run-DMC and Aerosmith did ‘Walk This Way.'” “Get Ready” peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard digital songs chart. 

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