Flashback: Charlie Rich Sets Fire to John Denver's CMA Slip

Watch defending Entertainer of the Year winner go off script at the 1975 CMA Awards

By |

The above footage, taken from the closing minute of the 1975 CMA Awards, is remarkable even before defending Entertainer of the Year Charlie Rich takes the stage: Immediately, the camera fades in to co-host Glen Campbell standing at the podium, introducing Rich and casually smoking a cigarette while he does so.

Charlie Rich and 24 More of Bruce Springsteen's Heroes

Following the introduction, Rich lumbers up to the stage, blows a kiss, holds up the Entertainer of the Year trophy and slurs, "This is the most beautiful thing in the world right here." He then announces the nominees – John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, Conway Twitty – awkwardly asks Lynn out on a date and opens the envelope to read the winner. Before he announces "My good buddy, John Denver," however, he takes a lighter and sets the card on fire.

Most people interpret the event as a protest against country music's pop crossover (the CMA blacklisted him from future shows), but Rich's son disagrees, blaming the incident on an accidental combination of prescription pain medication and a few too many gin and tonics: "Anybody that knows anything at all about the history of my father will know that it simply wasn't in his mind set to judge someone for not being 'country enough,' 'blues enough,' rock enough' or 'anything enough.'"

x