The 6th annual CMA Touring Awards was held Monday, January 22 at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works. The event, which highlights members of the Nashville music industry, was hosted by Curb recording artist Jerrod Niemann, standing in for Kristian Bush, who had recently come down with the flu.
“The CMA Touring Awards offer us an opportunity to celebrate all of our vital, behind-the-scenes industry members,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “They are true road warriors who night after night commit themselves to bringing live music straight to country music fans around the globe.”
After a brief cocktail reception, guests were invited into the newly renovated event space for a buffet dinner followed by the awards ceremony (formerly known as the SRO Awards). The original SRO Awards were originally created by the CMA Board of Directors in 1990.
Setting the stage for a fun and relaxed evening, Niemann greeted the guests stating, “Obviously Kristian Bush was supposed to be here. It’s a little weird ‘cause most of the time musicians give people diseases—they don’t usually receive them.” He then added a serious note of sincerity admitting this sudden hosting role for him was “a huge honor.”
CMA members were eligible to vote in the 15 categories up for awards. Ballots were tabulated by the professional services organization of Deloitte & Touche, LLP.
Video tributes congratulating the winners were shown as each recipient was announced and brought on stage to receive their award and give remarks. These tributes included artists Kelsea Ballerini, Eric Church, Keith Urban, Ed Sheeran, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Kid Rock, Jason Aldean, Terri Clark, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, Reba, Darius Rucker, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, Cole Swindell, Danielle Bradbery, Vance Joy, Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers, Midland, Eddie Montgomery, George Strait and Brad Paisley.
Several artists attended in person including Thomas Rhett who took the stage to personally give his tour manager Logan Kornegay the award for Tour Manager of the Year including a custom Masters-style green jacket.
“You’re one of my favorite people in the world, and you work harder than anybody I’ve ever met in my life,” Thomas Rhett shared from the stage. “And I got you this—it’s like a Masters jacket, but it says ‘CMA 2017 Tour Manager of the Year.’”
Angie Gentry, widow of Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry, made a surprise appearance to present Coach/Truck Driver of the Year Award to Danny Shelnut, while Chris Stapleton honored two members of his touring family with awards—Arpad Sayko received the FOH (Front of House) Engineer of the Year Award and John Garriott received the Production Manager of the Year Award.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for always taking care of us,” Stapleton said from the stage. “These guys make us look so good. I don’t make your job easy because I do know I have a lot of weird request on both ends. I do make them put up large sonic domes every day just because I felt like it. You know, that’s the job. These guys do it every day without fail. I do appreciate you guys and everything you do.”
Additionally, CMA Board member and Moo TV CEO Scott Scovill presented the Tour Video Director of the Year Award to John Breslin.
CMA Awards winner and Board member Kix Brooks bestowed honors to his manager Clarence Spalding for Manager of the Year and shared a humorous story of their first meeting together—when Kix, on his bus, left the venue after a show, accidentally leaving Clarence behind.
Brooks also presented Live Nation’s President of Country Music Touring Brian O’Connell with the Lifetime Achievement honor, with additional remarks shared by Dierks Bentley and CMA Board President Elect and Co-Head of WME Nashville Rob Beckham.
This award is for an individual who has achieved both prominence and stature at the highest level in the country music field of touring and has positively impacted and contributed to the growth of touring with an unprecedented historical impact on country music fans and the industry alike.
Beckham poignantly described his feelings about working with O’Connell and said, “One of the things I love about you being my brother, my friend, my family is that you’re part of us. You’re one of us. You don’t go around us… you do it the right way and we all appreciate you and we love you.”
Bentley recalled a saying often uttered by O’Connell, “Who cares?” and has adopted that phrase, not as something flippant, but as a powerful mantra when faced with obstacles. He explained, “It falls somewhere between ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ and understanding in life that the only thing you can control is your attitude towards what life throws at you. The philosophy of ‘who cares?’ involves caring so much that you just don’t care. And I’ve never met somebody that cares more or cares less than Brian O’Connell. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Among the many artist video tributes, CMA Board members Tony Conway and Mike Moore, recorded video messages that played during the ceremony to congratulate O’Connell.
O’Connell’s growing legacy includes tours with artists: Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett and Keith Urban. His accomplishments continue to grow in a vibrant festival division within the company including Watershed, Faster Horses, LakeShake and more.
Upon taking the stage to receive his award, O’Connell called all of his staff to join him on stage. “There is no celebration, there is no trophy, and there is none of this without these guys. These guys do all the work. I need every single one of them.” Looking at the guests who filled the room and his team members nearby on stage, he told the crowd, “This is your lifetime achievement award.” “It’s about all of us.”
Before leaving the stage, O’Connell concluded, “Nashville, Tennessee is the greatest collaborative community on planet fucking earth! Period!”
6TH ANNUAL CMA TOURING AWARD WINNERS (highlighted in red):
CATEGORY 1 – BUSINESS MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Duane Clark – Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy, Inc.
Cheryl Harris – O’Neil Hagaman, PLLC
Lou Taylor – Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group
Rob Taylor – Wiles + Taylor & Co., PC
Dwight Wiles – Wiles + Taylor & Co., PC
CATEGORY 2 – COACH/TRUCK DRIVER OF THE YEAR
Caleb Garrett – Luke Bryan
Jerry Martin – Darius Rucker
Larry Phye, Jr. – Chris Stapleton
Danny Shelnut – Montgomery Gentry
Kavin Spears – Eric Church
Dean Tubb – Charlie Daniels Band
CATEGORY 3 – FRONT OF HOUSE (FOH) ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
Jared Blumenberg – Florida Georgia Line
Dan Heins – Garth Brooks
Arpad Sayko – Chris Stapleton
Frank Sgambellone – Luke Bryan
Chris Stephens – Jason Aldean
CATEGORY 4 – LIGHTING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Dave Butzler – Garth Brooks
Scott Cunningham – Florida Georgia Line
Philip Ealy – Kenny Chesney
Justin Kitchenman – Luke Bryan
Gavin Lake – Eric Church
CATEGORY 5 – MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Bob Doyle – Bob Doyle & Associates
Clint Higham – Morris Higham Management
Jason Owen – Sandbox Entertainment
John Peets – Q Prime South
Clarence Spalding – Maverick
CATEGORY 6 – TOUR MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Todd Bunch – Eric Church
David Farmer – Kenny Chesney
Tracy Greenwood – Garth Brooks
Logan Kornegay – Thomas Rhett
Mark Sizemore – Luke Bryan
CATEGORY 7 – MONITOR ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
Marc Earp – Eric Church
Juan Gomez – Florida Georgia Line
Ed Janiszewski – Luke Bryan
Phillip Robinson – Kenny Chesney
Martin Santos – Garth Brooks
CATEGORY 8 – PRODUCTION MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Drew Brown – Jason Aldean
Gary Chrosniak – Luke Bryan
John Garriott – Chris Stapleton
Todd Ortmeier – Florida Georgia Line
Brian Petree – Garth Brooks
CATEGORY 9 – PUBLICIST OF THE YEAR
Jake Basden – Big Machine Label Group
Tyne Parrish – The GreenRoom
Jessie Schmidt – Schmidt Relations
Nancy Seltzer – Nancy Seltzer & Associates, Inc.
Jensen Sussman – Sweet Talk Publicity
CATEGORY 10 – TALENT AGENT OF THE YEAR
Rob Beckham – WME
Joey Lee – WME
Darin Murphy – CAA
Kevin Neal – WME
Nate Ritches – Dale Morris & Associates
CATEGORY 11 – TALENT BUYER/PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
Ben Farrell – Lon Varnell Enterprises
Patrick McDill – Live Nation Nashville
Louis Messina – Messina Touring Group
Brian Traeger – Live Nation Nashville
Ed Warm – Joe’s Bar
CATEGORY 12 – TOUR CATERER OF THE YEAR
Center Stage Events
Mike Maxwell + Co. Motion Picture Catering
CATEGORY 13 – TOURING MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Nathan Barlowe – Keith Urban
Wyatt Beard – Kenny Chesney
John Thomasson – Little Big Town
Lee Hendricks – Eric Church
Jimmy Mattingly – Garth Brooks
CATEGORY 14 – VENUE OF THE YEAR
Ascend Amphitheater – Nashville, TN
Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion – Gilford, NH
Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
Grand Ole Opry House – Nashville, TN
Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
CATEGORY 15 – TOUR VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
John Breslin – Garth Brooks
Houston Creswell – Dierks Bentley
Milojko Dobrijevich – Jason Aldean
Chris Jones – Eric Church
Ryan Rushing – Luke Bryan
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