Thanks To Fans --
And Their Parents
BY LISA WARREN
AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
It was perhaps the biggest night ever in the lives of Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry.
The Band Perry took home an impressive three trophies Wednesday at the 45th annual Country Music Association Awards in Nashville.
The Perry siblings, who have called Greeneville home since moving here with their parents in 2002, had the most wins among the artists at the prestigious country music industry awards show.
In addition to winning "New Artist of The Year," the group's megahit "If I Die Young" was selected both as "Single of The Year" and as "Song of The Year."
Technically, the band won two awards since "Song of the Year" goes to the writer, who was Kimberly Perry alone.
But the message was the same nonetheless.
"If I Die Young" is one of the few country songs that managed to cross over into the pop music world.
"We sort of feel like we are part of the country evangelism scene, and we love to hear country songs on pop radio," Kimberly Perry said. "It proved to be a song with really long legs."
SWIFT GETS 'ENTERTAINER'
The CMA's top award, the "Entertainer of the Year" was presented to Taylor Swift.
It was the second year in a row that Swift was presented with the top prize.
Swift was rewarded for an amazing year during which she brought country music to the Far East, scored hits all around the world and continued a run that's made her country's hottest young star for several years.
She's just the second woman to win the award twice, joining Barbara Mandrell.
"This is thanks to all the fans who filled the stadiums and arenas all over the world this year," said Swift, who leaped from her seat with her hands in the air and jumped for joy.
"I am so happy we had so many to play for this year. You have made my year."
Country couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, who were wed earlier this year, took home the awards for "Male Vocalist of the Year" and "Female Vocalist of the Year."
KIMBERLY PERRY REMARKS
It was the melancholy song about dying young, which ran hard against the tried-and-true country radio formula, however, that had everyone's attention most of the night.
In accepting their award for "Single of the Year," Kimberly Perry said, "First of all, we wanted to say 'thank you' to the beautiful fans of country music!
"It is a joy of our whole lives to sing this song with you guys night after night, and we so appreciate it.
"To country radio, the heartbeat ... thank you so much for bringing "If I Die Young" to life."
GREENE COUNTY LINK
In an earlier interview, the singer/songwriter recalled the day that she wrote "If I Die Young" on "a cloudy day" at her Greene County home.
The intention of the song, she said, was to "write a song about making the most of whatever time you're given -- whether it's two years, 20 years, or 200."
In accepting the award for "Song of the Year," she said, "I truly believe that 'If I Die Young' would have been written with or without me. It just always felt like a song that was meant to be.
"But I was so excited to have the pen and paper in hand when it was ready to come to earth," she added.
THANKS COUNTRY FANS
Perry also again thanked the fans of country music as well as country radio for allowing the song "to be heard and giving it a shot."
"I also want to thank my brothers, who play it alongside me night after night. They are the backbone of The Band Perry," she added.
Perry also sent a shout-out to her parents, Steve and Marie Perry.
"We are their labor of love," she added. "They've always encouraged our writing."
CROSSOVERS COME UP BIG
Crossover appeal proved to be the theme of the night.
Jason Aldean, who won his first major CMA award when his platinum-selling "My Kinda Party" won album of the year, also won musical event of the year for his duet "Don't You Wanna Stay" with Kelly Clarkson.
And Kenny Chesney won music video of the year for his duet "You and Tequila" with Grace Potter.
That theme also carried over to the stage, where stars from different genres came together for some of the CMA's strongest performances. The show also featured plenty of sexy dancing, belching smoke special effects and, at one point, acrobats spinning down from the ceiling on lengths of unspooling fabric.
Lionel Richie had every star buzzing on the red carpet before performing duets from his new country album with Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker and Little Big Town.
He posed for a picture with Miranda Lambert and gave advice to Lady Antebellum on the red carpet.
Gregg Allman joined fellow Peach State natives Zac Brown Band on "Georgia on My Mind." Natasha Bedingfield, in a dress that featured a fluffy red skirt, joined Rascal Flatts on stage to perform their duet "Easy." And that was just the start of genre shuffling.
Blake Shelton and Kenny Loggins opened the show with a high-energy version of Loggins' hit "Footloose."
GLEN CAMPBELL TRIBUTE
Later, Glen Campbell, one of country's biggest crossover pioneers, who is now battling Alzheimer's disease, was given a musical tribute when Vince Gill, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley sang three of his songs.
Richie, who will soon issue a country duets album, hadn't performed on the CMAs since 1986, when he appeared with Alabama. He noted the show has changed dramatically over the decades, as has country music.
"It's Cirque de Soleil ... it's full-on production," Richie said. "This is off-the-chain, this is the Oscars of the music business, the CMAs."
Lady Antebellum won vocal group of the year for the third straight time. Sugarland took its fifth straight vocal duo of the year award. And Shelton and his wife Lambert repeated as male and female vocalists of the year.
"Congrats to my hubby, too," Lambert shouted from the stage to Shelton. "It's going to be a good night tonight, baby!" The camera cut to Shelton, who rubbed his hands together and smiled devilishly.
It wasn't the night's only funny moment.
HANK JR. MOMENT
Hank Williams Jr. appeared during the opening skit with hosts Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who lampooned his recent troubles with ESPN and his "Monday Night Football" theme song.
Paisley brought out an acoustic guitar and began his own version of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight."
"Are you ready for an awards show?" Paisley sang before Underwood warned him he might draw Williams' ire.
Williams got into trouble for using an analogy to Adolf Hitler in discussing President Barack Obama.
As they spoke, Williams quietly walked up behind the hosts to the roar from the crowd.
Asked if he wanted to say something, Williams said, "No," to the delight of the audience.
MORE ROWDY FRIENDS
It was just one of several laugh-out-loud moments for hosts Paisley and Underwood. After Williams left the stage, they trotted out Barbies of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who are married.
"I can't wait until after the show," Paisley said to Underwood. "Can we play with them now?"
The two made the dolls kiss, before checking to see if the McGraw doll was anatomically correct. "There's nothing there," Paisley said in amazement.
The camera cut to McGraw and Hill, who raised her arms and mouthed the words, "I know," receiving the night's biggest laugh.