Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire opened the 53rd annual CMA Awards with their rendition of “Those Memories of You,” a song that Parton originally recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris for their 1987 Trio album.
Following the easygoing rendition, the co-hosts’ trio quickly grew in number as Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Gretchen Wilson, Jennifer Nettles, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, and the Highwomen made their way onstage to perform. In most cases, that meant their signature songs: Tucker sang “Delta Dawn,” Wilson belted “Redneck Woman,” Gayle delivered “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” and Sara Evans offered “Born to Fly.”
But Nettles and half of Little Big Town used their snippet to salute Loretta Lynn, who was in the audience looking on as they sang her “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” The Highwomen, meanwhile, sang “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” the title track to Tammy Wynette’s 1967 debut album.
This year’s CMA Awards are built around the theme of “celebrating legendary women in country music.” Underwood is the sole female nominated for the night’s top prize, Entertainer of the Year. Early winners at the show include Kacey Musgraves for Music Video of the Year for her song “Rainbow,” and fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, the first woman to win Musician of the Year.