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CMA Awards: 50 Great Photos From 50 Years

As country music’s biggest night celebrates its golden anniversary, we recall some of its many incredible moments

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Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood dance "Gangnam Style" at the 2012 CMA Awards.

Ed Rode/WireImage

From Chris Stapleton's breakout performance and Reba's red dress to viral skits by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood and a visit by a sitting U.S President, the Country Music Association's annual CMA Awards have never been short on milestone moments. As the CMAs mark their 50th anniversary with a grand spectacle on Wednesday, November 2nd, on ABC, we look back at some of the most unforgettable memories in the show's long history.  

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Shania Twain, 1999

Shania Twain won Entertainer of the Year at the 1999 CMAs, as well as the special International Artist Achievement Award. 

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Patty Loveless and George Jones, 1997

Patty Loveless and George Jones share the stage at the 1997 CMA Awards.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Hank Williams Jr., 1987

Hank Williams Jr. won his first Entertainer of the Year honor at the 1987 ceremonies.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, 1986

Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton performed a selection from their acclaimed Trio album – which was recently reissued as a deluxe edition – in 1986.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Charlie Rich, 1975

Charlie Rich infamously set fire to the envelope after announcing John Denver as the Entertainer of the Year at the 1975 CMA Awards.

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Rick Diamond/WireImage/Getty

Sugarland, 2007

Sugarland – Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles – began their five-year run as Vocal Duo of the Year winners in 2007. 

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Charley Pride, 1971

Charley Pride won multiple CMA Awards in 1971, including Male Vocalist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year – the only black artist to ever win the CMA's top honor.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

George Bush, 1991

In 1991, President George Bush (shown here with Reba McEntire) became the only sitting president to ever attend the CMA Awards.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

k.d. lang, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, 1988

An august quartet of k.d. lang, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn and Kitty Wells performed the "Honky Tonk Angels Medley" at the 1988 CMAs.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Tammy Wynette, 1969

Tammy Wynette was named Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1969 CMA Awards, the second of her three consecutive Female Vocalist victories. 

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Mary Chapin Carpenter and Little Richard, 1994

Mary Chapin Carpenter sang her song "Shut Up and Kiss Me" at the 1994 CMAs, with a surprise cameo by Little Richard. 

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Dixie Chicks, 2000

With their victory in 2000, the Dixie Chicks became the first all-female group to win Entertainer of the Year.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Johnny Cash, 1969

Johnny Cash won Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year at the CMA Awards in 1969.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Billy Ray Cyrus, 1992

Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart" took the world by storm, winning the CMA Award for Single of the Year in 1992.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Garth Brooks, 1991

The 1991 CMA Awards witnessed the arrival of a major force in country, as Garth Brooks won Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Album (No Fences) and Single of the Year ("Friends in Low Places").

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Loretta Lynn, 1972

In 1972, Loretta Lynn became the first woman to win the CMA Entertainer of the Year honor. The most recent? Taylor Swift in 2011.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Brooks & Dunn, 1996

Brooks & Dunn became the first duo to win the CMA Award for Entertainer of the Year in 1996.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

The Judds, 1984

Mother and daughter duo the Judds – Naomi and Wynonna – received the Horizon Award in 1984.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, 1985

Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard appeared together on the 1985 CMA Awards, during which Nelson was honored with a star-studded medley of his songs.

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

John Anderson, 1983

John Anderson took home a pair of CMA Awards in 1983, including Single of the Year for "Swingin'."

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Sara Kauss/ABC/Getty

Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, 2014

Then-couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton were the respective winners of Female and Male Vocalist of the Year in 2014. 

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Mark Humphrey/AP

Barbara Mandrell, Little Jimmy Dickens, 1980

Barbara Mandrell was named Entertainer of the Year in both 1980 and '81, making her the first back-to-back winner in the category.

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Mark Humphrey/AP

Vince Gill, 1992

Vince Gill stepped into his long-running role as CMAs host for the first time in 1992, co-hosting with Reba McEntire.

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Glen Campbell, 2011

Glen Campbell performed with the artists he inspired, from Brad Paisley to Keith Urban, during a special salute in 2011. 

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Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic/Getty

Elton John, Dolly Parton, 2005

The CMA Awards moved to New York City for the first time in their history for the 2005 show, an all-star affair that featured Elton John and Dolly Parton singing "Turn the Lights Out When You Leave."

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Frederick Breedon/FilmMagic/Getty

Justin Timberlake, Chris Stapleton, 2015

In a performance that fans are still talking about, Justin Timberlake joined CMA breakout star Chris Stapleton for an epic mash-up of "Tennessee Whiskey" and Timberlake's "Drink You Away."

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Scott Gries/Getty

Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson, 2003

Riding high on the success of their duet "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson re-created the song onstage. 

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Courtesy of the Country Music Association

Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, 1984

Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie appeared together at the 1984 ceremonies. 

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Frederick Breedon/FilmMagic/Getty

Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, 2012

Eric Church, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan teamed up to open the 2012 CMAs with their collaboration "The Only Way I Know."

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Frederick Breedon IV/FilmMagic/Getty

Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert, 2010

Loretta Lynn was joined by Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert for a run through her signature song "Coal Miner's Daughter" in 2010. 

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Scott Gries/Getty

Kellie Pickler, 2007

Kellie Pickler's 2007 performance of "I Wonder" was a particularly moving moment of the show, as the singer broke down in tears at its conclusion. 

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Rick Diamond/Getty

Luke Bryan, 2014

Luke Bryan was named Entertainer of the Year in 2014, receiving the award from Garth Brooks, with whom he competes in this year's race. 

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Rick Diamond/Getty

Little Jimmy Dickens, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, 2011

Brad Paisley's frequent comedic foil, the late Little Jimmy Dickens, made a memorable appearance during Paisley and Carrie Underwood's opening monologue in 2011.