With the CMA Awards upon us, it’s only right that we take time to reflect on some of the best moments from the past.
We showed you Alan Jackson’s 1999 protest Performance of “Choice” in honor of the great George Jones, and earlier we took it back 1975 for Waylon Jennings Acceptance speech and Charlie Rich Burned his note card.
And of course, who can forget By Sturgill Simpson The legendary busking performance outside Bridgestone Arena?
But now, it’s time for an all-time classic Country Music Association Awards performance that no one saw coming, but everyone loved.
In 1990, George Strait won Entertainer of the Year. But it was Mary Chapin Carpenter who made the biggest splash of the evening.
With a few albums to her name at the time, Mary Chapin Carpenter decided to go the unpublished route and record a new song titled “Opening Act”.
He may have toned it down a bit for the CMA Awards, but the “opening act” was a sarcastic tongue-lashing of several “asses in tight jeans” he opened.
And most people think it’s about Dwight Yoakam, who he toured with when he wrote the song:
Listen to some songs:
“I don’t have any hits on the Billboard charts
I don’t have a limousine stretching three blocks
Ready to take me door to door
Just like the jackass I’m opening for
He doesn’t know me, I’m his opening act.
Now I’m not going bald, so I don’t wear hats
Tight jeans don’t suit me; I’m a little fatter
I cannot sing like a frog that blows through its nose
So I don’t expect you to like me, but that’s the way it goes.”
I mean, if the shoes fit…
But if performing a song like that during the CMA Awards sounds like career suicide, Carpenter thought so, too. Actually, there was no way in hell he would play it (probably with Dwight in the room), but the producers of the CMA Awards really pushed for it (my, oh my, how times have changed).
Carpenter, who received a standing ovation, later discussed the performance with him Engine 145:
“When they first asked me, I immediately said ‘no.’ It was a fancy number; I was afraid it would lose some bite because it was a dirty version of the song we played live… but it was a special opportunity and I did it.
I will always remember that night. Michael Campbell, Ricky Van Shelton’s manager at the time, was there during sound check and he was the last person in before I went on stage.
Just before I went out, I heard him say, ‘That was a fine profession you had going there, Carpenter!’ I was stunned when the audience gave a standing ovation.”
However, while many people still think it’s written about Dwight Yoakam, Carpenter says it’s based on multiple experiences… that many of the “opening works” can relate to:
“If it is written about one person in particular, why does the whole audience relate to it? It is a universal experience because the entire audience relates to it. That’s why it’s gone, as far as I can tell.”
Fair enough, but I still think it’s about Dwight Yoakam…