NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - After years of feeling like outsiders, Little Big Town and Eric Church finally found acceptance at the Country Music Association Awards.
Beloved veteran quartet Little Big Town was the early leader Thursday night during the awards, winning vocal group and single of the year for their breakthrough hit "Pontoon."
Brad Paisley, a Glen Dale native, hosted the event for another year with singer Carrie Underwood.
Country singer Brad Paisley dances onstage, mimicking the “Gangnam Style” dance by South Korean rapper PSY, at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards on Thursday in Nashville.
The co-hosts opened the show with a country version of Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger": "We got moves like Haggard." They also did their own version of Psy's "Gangnam Style" and riffed on Swift's hit single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," noting she is rumored to have recently broken up with boyfriend Conor Kennedy.
When Underwood informed him of the news they were unlikely to get back together, he asked: "Never?" Underwood responded, "Ever," and the two played verbal hot potato for a few seconds before Paisley ended the joke by saying, "Maybe Taylor will write a song about it."
They also poked a little fun at the night's honored guest, Willie Nelson, who was due to receive a lifetime achievement award and perform with McGraw, Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton.
"Tonight we are honoring the great Willie Nelson," Paisley said, "and also simultaneously we are going to strip you of all your CMA Awards. Sorry."
"Because Willie," Underwood said, "it appears there's been some doping charges."
"Guilty!" said Nelson, a noted marijuana advocate.
Like LBT, Church was feeling the love from the voters for the first time. He won the album of the year for his record "Chief."
In one of the awards' most emotional moments in recent memory, husband and wife stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert won song of the year for "Over You."
As Lambert openly wept on stage, Shelton recounted how the loss of his older brother, Richie, and father, Dick, spurred the couple to write the heart-rending song.
The night continued to get better for Shelton, who won male vocalist for the third straight year and also entertainer of the year.
Thompson Square also earned vocal duo of the year.Hunter Hayes won new artist of the year, while Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw won musical event of the year for "Party Like a Rock Star" and Toby Keith won video of the year for "Red Solo Cup."