Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt Win Big at 2016 American Country Countdown Awards

Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt Win Big at 2016 American Country Countdown Awards

 LAUREN LAFFER •Sounds Like Nashville 

That’s a wrap!

The 2016 American Country Countdown Awards were certainly a night to remember. The night’s top winners were Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt, who both took home two awards. Bryan was honored with the ceremony’s top honor, Artist of the Year, as well as Male Vocalist of the Year, while Hunt won Breakthrough Male of the Year and Digital Album of the year.

Legendary duo Brooks & Dunn was presented with the NASH Icon Award by their friend and fellow country superstar Reba.

The night was full of amazing performances including Carrie Underwood’s fiery “Church Bells,” Kelsea Ballerini’s flirty “Dibs,” Thomas Rhett’s sentimental “Die A Happy Man,” and the television debut of Florida Georgia Line’s newest release “H.O.L.Y.” The show ended with a tribute to Merle Haggard, led by Toby Keith, Ben Haggard, and Merle’s band The Strangers.

See a full list of the 2016 American Country Countdown Award winners below…

Luke Bryan

Luke Bryan

Carrie Underwood

Florida Georgia Line

Sam Hunt

Kelsea Ballerini

Old Dominion

“Die A Happy Man” – Thomas Rhett

“Traveller” – Chris Stapleton

“Girl Crush” – Little Big Town

“Montevallo” – Sam Hunt


Garth Brooks

Luke Bryan Takes Home Artist of the Year at the American Country Countdown Awards

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 1, 2016 - 9:06 PM

The 2016 American Country Countdown Awards have concluded but not before naming Luke Bryan the Artist of the Year.

Presented by legendary icon Dwight Yoakam, the singer ran out onstage to accept the accolade.

“Thank you so much. Thank you guys. Thank you so much for this. What an honor. Thank you to all of the fans who are here,” Bryan began. “To the Countdown and Kix, thank you for all you do glorifying country music and making it so special.”

“To all my guys out on the road, what an amazing year we’ve had. Wow, this is kind of getting me right now,” he continued. “Everybody in my world who makes this happen, my wife, my kids, my label, my management, my people that make look kind of okay in front of you guys out there on the road. ACCAs, thank you so much for this night and this will be certainly cherished. Fans again, radio, everybody, we love you. Thank you so much.”

Other nominees for Artist of the Year included Blake SheltonSam HuntFlorida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean.

Kelsea Ballerini is the ACCA’s 2016 Breakthrough Female of the Year

 LAUREN JO BLACK • MAY 1, 2016 - 8:51 PM


Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

2016 is shaping up to be a HUGE year for Kelsea Ballerini.

The rising star was named Breakthrough Female of the Year at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards and was presented with the trophy by Scotty McCreery.

“This is amazing,” the Tennessee native shared. “Since I was a little girl, I always wondered what it would be like to hear my song on the radio, and the last two years Country radio has given me the gift of knowing and I will forever be grateful for that, so thank you Country radio.”

She continued, “To the fans, to the people who have supported my music and made me feel so much love in the last two years, thank you so much. To the Country music community for being as incredible as I had always imagined, thank you. And to my incredible team that fights to let the world hear my voice everyday, I love you guys and thank you for working so hard.”

Ballerini also performed her chart-topping hit, “Dibs,” during the broadcast.

Chris Stapleton Earns Album of the Year Trophy at American Country Countdown Awards

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 1, 2016 - 8:51 PM

Photo courtesy Mercury Records

Chris Stapleton’s accolades continue to pour in as he claimed another honor at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards.

The singer was crowned winner of Album of the Year for Traveller, his 2014 release. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the show as he’s currently on the road touring.

The award was announced by Paula Abdul and Cat Deeley, who presented fans with a video message from Stapleton.

“Thank you so much. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there with you tonight,” Stapleton said. “We’re out on the road playing shows. But thank you to the fans. Thank you to everybody who bought this record and thank you to everybody who continues to show up to shows and thank you to the American Country Countdown. Thank you so much.”

Other nominees for Album of the Year included Carrie Underwood’s StorytellerLuke Bryan’s Kill The Lights, Sam Hunt’s Montevallo and Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll + Hyde.

Brooks & Dunn Honored With NASH Icon Award at American Country Countdown Awards

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 1, 2016 - 8:41 PM

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Brooks & Dunn came together at tonight’s 2016 American Country Countdown Awards to be honored with the coveted NASH Icon Award.

“It means a lot to me that our new Nash Icons are two people that I love with all my heart. The most dynamic duo in country music history,” said Reba as she presented the duo with the honor.

“Kix and Ronnie decided to reunite last year and we all three went to Las Vegas and started a residency at Caesars Palace,” she continued. “And now, it’s both my honor and my pleasure to present the NASH Icon Award to two of my best friends in the whole wide world and two great friends of country music, Brooks & Dunn.”

The two walked out on stage to accept the humbling honor.

“Thank you. Thanks miss Reba. So here’s how it goes. I wake up in a parking lot tomorrow in a brown whiskey haze at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with this Icon award next to me and I go ‘You ain’t no icon, you ain’t no Johnny Cash. You ain’t no Merle Haggard. You ain’t no George Jones. You got a long way to go skinny boy with a record deal,” joked Ronnie Dunn. “I’m proud of this, thank you!”

“Well said partner. Man, I just gotta thank the good lord above and all the fans of country music for giving us the ride of our lives,” added Kix Brooks. “I mean it was incredible and we thought we kind of might be done singing those songs, but Reba and Casears convinced us that we gotta go sing them again so thanks for coming out. I gotta say, like Ronnie, this is beyond humbling. It’s almost embarrassing especially tonight if for either one of us, if we think about icon, we think about Merle Haggard believe me. But Reba gave us this so daggum we’re going to keep ‘em. Thank you so much.”

Brooks & Dunn went on to perform their hit “Red Dirt Road,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd.

The NASH Icon Award is presented to an artist whose talent has influenced generations of musicians and honors their accomplishments.

Carrie Underwood Dedicates ACCA Win to Late 10-Year-Old Fan

 LAUREN JO BLACK • MAY 1, 2016 - 8:26 PM



Carrie Underwood has another trophy to add to her ever-growing collection after tonight’s American Country Countdown Awards.

The superstar was crowned Female Vocalist of the Year and was awarded the honor from actor Luke Wilson.

After her name was announced, Underwood took the stage for a fiery performance of her latest single, “Church Bells.”

“Thank you guys so much,” the Oklahoma native began. “I would like to thank the good Lord above for Country music and that we are all blessed to be a part of it. I would like to thank my entire incredible team, band, and crew, and all the people that I am lucky enough to get to work with on a daily basis, they’re the best. Country radio, thank you so much for playing all our stuff, for playing our music and thank you for being behind me for so long.”

Naturally, the American Idol winner couldn’t forget to thank those who have supported her throughout her career. “Fans, fans, fans, fans, fans, thank you so much,” she said with a smile. “It’s been so much fun seeing you guys out on the road this year and we’ve just been having fun together, so thank you.”

Before leaving the stage, Underwood took time to thank another fan. “Isley Thibodeaux, this is for you,” she said.

According to The Advertiser, 10-year-old Thibodeaux lost her life last week after being struck by a drunk driver on the way home from Underwood’s concert at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. The intoxicated driver reportedly crossed the center line and struck her mother’s vehicle. According to a post by NASH FM 99.1, Underwood also sent Thibodeaux’s family flowers earlier this week.

Thomas Rhett Claims American Country Countdown Awards’ Song of the Year

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 1, 2016 - 8:09 PM

Thomas Rhett will certainly “Die A Happy Man” after claiming the Song of the Year title at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards.

After performing his award-winning hit, Jana Kramer and American Idol winner Trent Harmon presented the Georgia native with his trophy.

“Oh my gosh. To country music fans, thank you so much! I gotta thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ, first of all, for allowing me to do this,” said Rhett. “And my lovely wife Lauren, who’s sitting right there. Love you baby. This song was inspired by you. To the songwriters Joe and Sean, to my record label Valory, to my management, and everyone who had a part in this. To you guys, thank you so much.”

Brothers Osborne’s “Stay A Little Longer,” Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown” and Luke Bryan’s “Strip It Down” and “Home Alone Tonight” featuring Karen Fairchild were also nominated in the Song of the Year category.


Toby Keith Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard at American Country Countdown Awards

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 2, 2016 - 10:25 AM


One of the most memorable moments during last night’s 2016 American Country Countdown Awards was the heartfelt tribute to “The Hag.”

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey stepped out on stage to present the final performance of the night and honored the legendary performer in a short speech.

“This year, the passing of some of our greatest musical legends has reminded us just how much music means in our lives,” he began. “Each loss has hit us hard, like a death in the family. On April 6th, on his 79th birthday, country music lost a towering figure, the late, great Merle Haggard.”

The actor went on to introduce the Toby Keith-led tribute. Keith was backed by Haggard’s youngest son Ben and Merle’s longtime band, The Strangers.

“As a singer, songwriter, band leader, Merle forever changed the course of country music. Along with Buck Owens, Merle and his consistently excellent band, The Strangers, gave us the Bakersfield sound with a strong Telecaster twang and a plain spoken eloquence all its own. You see, Merle was an outlaw before the outlaws and a hero to all of country’s finest, none more than our final performer of the evening. We are honored tonight to be joined by Merle’s wife Theresa and other members of the Haggard family, including his youngest son Ben, who you’re also about to hear play. Here to salute his friend Merle Haggard, joined by the legendary Strangers, let’s give it up for Toby Keith.”

Keith played a medley of Haggard’s greatest hits, including “Mama Tried,” “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Silver Wings” and “Okie From Muskogee.”

His performance evoked tears from several audience members, including members of Haggard’s family. Haggard’s wife, Theresa, passionately sang along to every word.

Re-live the much-buzzed about performance above.

Merle Haggard died on Wednesday, April 6, his 79th birthday. He has been struggling with bouts of pneumonia for months and had been forced to cancel several of his recent concerts.