It was a night of tears and Tebowing as the ACM Honors celebrated Underwood, Rascal Flatts and more country stars in Nashville

By Kay West
September 10, 2014 02:15 PM
Rick Diamond/Getty

Carrie Underwood couldn’t stop the waterworks as she accepted the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award at the 8th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors in Nashville Tuesday night.

“The Academy has been so good to me, country music has been so good to me,” the singer said with a smile before a wave of emotion hit. She tried again, “I had so much to say,” before admitting through tears, “But I forget it all! What’s wrong with me?”

Emcee Jake Owen was empathetic. Referencing Underwood’s recently announced pregnancy, he turned to the singer’s husband, Mike Fisher, seated below the stage.

“Mike, let me let you in on something,” he said. “Women get very emotional when they’re pregnant. Roll with it. If she says the sky is green, it’s green.”

And that wasn’t the only memorable moment during the three-hour, sold-out show at the historic Ryman Auditorium: Tim Tebow surprised his pals Rascal Flatts, presenting them with their Jim Reeves International Award. “No wonder you didn’t answer my texts,” Gary LeVox said to ESPN’s new college football analyst before the trio joined Tebow in his classic kneel.

Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney with Tim Tebow
Jason Davis/Getty

Dierks Bentley and Dwight Yoakam honored the late Buck Owens with performances of his hits “Love’s Gonna Live Here” and “Tiger by the Tail.”

And Hunter Hayes nailed a stripped-down version of Ronnie Milsap’s 1981 chart-topper “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World,” personally requested by Milsap, the recipient of the 2014 Career Achievement Award. (In turn, emcee Owen and the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to Hayes, who turned 23 the day of the show.)

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Ronnie Milsap and Hunter Hayes
Ed Rode/Getty

Songwriter of the Year was bestowed to multiple Grammy winner and producer Shane McAnally by the one-night-only power trio of Kelly Clarkson, Kacey Musgraves and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott. The women performed a medley of their hits written by him – “Tie It Up,” “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Downtown,” respectively – before Kenny Chesney stepped up to the mic to present McAnally with the trophy, noting that his current hit, “American Kids” is also courtesy of the talented writer.

Kacey Musgraves, Hilllary Scott and Kelly Clarkson
Curtis Hilbun/AFF-USA

The show concluded with stirring acoustic performances from Jack Ingram and Will Hoge in honor of legendary artist Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson accepted the Pioneer Award, humbly reminding the audience as they gave him a standing ovation that his career in Nashville began as a janitor at Columbia Studios.

But it was songwriter Dean Dillon, another Pioneer Award recipient who has written dozens of George Strait hits, who had the acceptance speech of the night: “I want to thank my momma for having me, God for saving me and country music for loving me,” he said.

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