Luke Combs, Loretta Lynn, Toby Keith & More To Receive Special Awards at 14th Annual ACM Honors

Luke Combs; Photo by Andrew Wendowski, Loretta Lynn; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Americana Music , Toby Keith; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Thunder USA
Luke Combs; Photo by Andrew Wendowski, Loretta Lynn; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Americana Music , Toby Keith; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Thunder USA
Luke Combs; Photo by Andrew Wendowski, Loretta Lynn; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Americana Music , Toby Keith; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Thunder USA

The Academy of Country Music just revealed the honorees for the upcoming 14th Annual ACM Honors. 

The event will honor the recipients of the Special Awards for the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards and will take place on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. 

This year’s honorees include Luke Combs, Rascal Flatts, Lady A, Dan + Shay, Toby Keith, Loretta Lynn and more. The Academy of Country Music Special Awards are voted on by the ACM Board of Directors for specific achievements. The eligibility period for this year’s ACM Honors was January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. See the list below for a full list of Special Award winners. 

Additionally, off-camera categories from the 55th ACM Awards will be honored during the event. 

Tickets for the 14th Annual ACM Honors for on sale to the general public beginning Friday, June 18, 2021 at www.ticketmaster.com. Prices range from $85- $142.

SPECIAL AWARD HONOREES:

ACM CLIFFIE STONE ICON AWARD – Joe Galante and Rascal Flatts have been chosen to receive the ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award. This award is presented to a Country Music artist, duo/group or industry leader who throughout their career has advanced the popularity of the genre through their contributions in multiple facets of the industry such as songwriting, recording, production, touring, film, television, literary works, philanthropic contributions and other goodwill efforts.

Joe Galante elevated Country Music’s visibility over nearly four decades, beginning in the 1970s when he joined RCA Nashville. In the 1980s as the head of the label, he implemented exceptional marketing campaigns, increased promotional budgets, and perhaps most importantly, signed artists who stood out. As a result, the label dominated the decade by introducing stars like Alabama, Clint Black, The Judds, K.T. Oslin and Keith Whitley. In the 90s, the label group under his leadership guided Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride to multiplatinum success. When RCA and Arista merged, the roster expanded to include Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley. Under his continued leadership, RCA Label Group evolved to Sony Music Nashville, launching the career of Carrie Underwood and furthering that of Miranda Lambert. Galante concluded his label career in 2010 as chairman of Sony Music Nashville, but has remained deeply imbedded in the music community, perhaps most notably in his many philanthropic endeavors (as chair of the CMA Foundation, in his support of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and by creating an endowment for Leadership Music, where he is a member of the Founding Council). He is receiving the ACM Icon Award for his many contributions and successes in the Country Music community.

Rascal Flatts has picked up seven consecutive ACM Awards (2002-2008) for Vocal Group of the Year, the only band to earn that distinction. Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney were playing gigs in Nashville’s Printer’s Alley prior to breakout hits like “Praying for Daylight” and “I’m Movin’ On,” the 2002 ACM Song of the Year. Singles such as “What Hurts the Most” and “Life Is a Highway” crossed over to pop radio and they accepted an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in 2011. Rascal Flatts celebrated their farewell with TWENTY YEARS OF RASCAL FLATTS: THE GREATEST HITS in 2020 as well as a sentimental radio hit together with the reflective “How They Remember You.” Known as one of the hottest-selling touring acts in any genre, the trio has sold over 11 million concert tickets and have had 8 studio albums debut at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.

Past recipients of the ACM Cliffie Stone Icon Award include Alabama, Bob Beckham, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, George Jones, The Judds, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride, Willie Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, Kenny Rogers, Billy Sherrill, Ricky Skaggs, The Statler Brothers, George Strait, Mel Tillis, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty, Porter Wagoner, Keith Whitley, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., Bob Wills and Dwight Yoakam, among others.

ACM GARY HABER LIFTING LIVES AWARD – Lady A and Ross Copperman have been chosen to receive the Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award. This award is presented to a Country Music artist, duo/group or industry professional who is devoted to improving lives through the power of music, has a generosity of spirit, and is committed to serving others, voted on by the ACM Lifting Lives Board of Directors.

Lady A has a history of consistently participating in ACM Lifting Lives® events and fundraisers, at times even assuming hosting duties. The group made a long-lasting impression at the ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp in 2019. Campers collaborated with the band, Ross Copperman and Joy Williams to write an original song, “The Way You Love,” based on their own experiences and inspirations. The camp has the dual purpose of studying Williams syndrome while providing music enrichment through performance and education. Hillary Scott was a returning Music Camp guest. A three-time ACM Vocal Group of the Year, Lady A joined the Grand Ole Opry in January and recently announced a return to the road with their “What A Song Can Do” Tour. Over the course of their decade-plus career, Lady A has become one of the 21st century’s premier vocal groups, blending deeply felt emotions with classic Country sounds. The multi-platinum band has ushered in more than 18 million album units, 34 million tracks sold, nearly five billion digital streams and 11 No. 1 hits. The trio earned the biggest first week streams of their career with their critically acclaimed No. 1 album OCEAN and is known for their 9X platinum hit “Need You Now,” which is the highest certified song by a Country group. Lady A has earned CMA “Vocal Group of the Year” trophies three years in a row and were recently inducted as members of the Grand Ole Opry. Additionally, Hillary Scott was recently honored as one of 31 women leaders from diverse industries for Dress for Success’ “Your Hour, Her Power” campaign. The trio’s newly formed LadyAID Scholarship Fund supports students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They will make their long-awaited return to the road with the upcoming LADY A: WHAT A SONG CAN DO TOUR, launching July 29th in Uncasville, CT with special guests Carly Pearce, Niko Moon and Tenille Arts. A portion of the ticket sales will go towards LadyAID, the group’s philanthropic fund which supports initiatives around the world ranging from helping vulnerable children, societal and cultural issues, as well as natural disaster aid and recovery. For more information visit www.ladyamusic.com.

Ross Copperman is one of Nashville’s most sought-after songwriters and producers, and this year among years previously, he shared his talent with campers during the 12th Annual ACM Lifting Lives® Music Camp with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Along with J.T. Harding and HARDY, Copperman and the campers composed the original song, “Happiness.” Copperman first participated in Music Camp in 2013 and has been involved every year since. Copperman’s newest No. 1 writing credits include Darius Rucker’s “Beers and Sunshine” and Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s “Happy Anywhere” and “Nobody But You.” He recently returned to his artist roots with the release of a five-song Southern pop EP, Somewhere There’s A Light On. Copperman was elected to serve on the ACM Lifting Lives Board of Directors in 2016 and has been serving since.

Past recipients of the ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award include Gayle Holcomb, Dolly Parton, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood.

ACM GENE WEED MILESTONE AWARD – Luke Combs has been chosen as the recipient of the ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award. This award is presented to a Country Music artist, duo/group or industry leader for a specific, unprecedented or outstanding achievement in the field of country music during the preceding calendar year.

Luke Combs is one of very few artists to claim a double-platinum album in 2021. What You See Is What You Get achieved that distinction on the strength of five No. 1 hits: “Beer Never Broke My Heart,” “Even Though I’m Leaving,” “Does to Me” “Lovin’ on You,” and “Better Together.” Combs is the only Country artist ever to carry his first 10 singles to No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. A feat which has earned him the ACM Gene Weed Milestone Award, presented to a Country Music artist, duo/group or industry leader for a specific, unprecedented or outstanding achievement in the field of Country Music during the preceding calendar year. After being chosen for the ACM Milestone Award, Combs recently charted another No.1 hit “Forever After All”. It’s the sixth chart topper from the album What You See Is What You Get and his 11th overall.
Past recipients of the Gene Weed Milestone Award include Jason Aldean, Kelsea Ballerini, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, George Burns, Kenny Chesney, Jeff Foxworthy, Merle Haggard, Gayle Holcomb, Sam Hunt, Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Little Big Town, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Nettles, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood.

ACM JIM REEVES INTERNATIONAL AWARD – Dan + Shay has been chosen to receive the ACM Jim Reeves International Award, which is presented to an artist or industry leader for outstanding contributions to the acceptance of Country Music throughout the world.

Dan + Shay, the reigning ACM Duo of the Year, have reached the status of arena headliners with a winning blend of romantic songwriting, emotional delivery, and a strong bond of friendship. With over 7.6 billion global career streams, they broadened their audience with a sold-out 2019 UK tour and a sold-out Australian takeover with superstar Shawn Mendes, performing impassioned songs like 6X Platinum smash hit “Tequila,” which has surpassed 1.2 billion global streams. They built that international following through UK tour stops in 2016 and 2017. 4X Platinum phenomenon “10,000 Hours,” their outstanding collaboration with Justin Bieber, has over 1.6 billion global streams and has been certified 4X Platinum in Canada, 3X Platinum in Australia, Platinum in Netherlands and Gold in Brazil, Ireland, Sweden and New Zealand. It was featured on 39 out of 40 Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlists upon release and was the cover of all 115 Apple Music “New Music Daily” playlists. Incredibly, it reached No. 1 on Australia’s Top 100 Radiomonitors All Plays airplay chart, as well as China’s Netease and No. 2 on QQ Music. Dan + Shay’s self-titled third studio album reached No. 3 in U.S., Australia and Canada, No. 8 in Finland, No. 13 in Indonesia and UK and No. 14 in Ireland on the iTunes All-Genre charts, also reaching the top of the iTunes Country chart in Australia, Canada, Ireland, UK and US., spreading Country Music around the globe and earning them the ACM Jim Reeves International Award.

Past recipients of the Jim Reeves International Award include Joe Allison, Bill Boyd, Garth Brooks, Steve Buchanan, Joe Cates, Eric Church, Dick Clark, Roy Clark, Al Gallico, Merv Griffin, Jim Halsey, Alan Jackson, Ken Kragen, Lady Antebellum, Sam Louvello, Thurston Moore, Kacey Musgraves, Charlie Nagatani, Buck Owens, Rob Potts, Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, Roy Rogers, Bob Saporiti, Louise Scruggs, Dinah Shore, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Jeff Walker, Jo Walker-Meador and Bill Ward.

ACM MAE BOREN AXTON SERVICE AWARD
RAC Clark has been chosen as the recipient of the ACM Mae Boren Axton Service Award. This award is presented to an outstanding Country Music artist, duo/group or industry leader in recognition of years of dedication and service to the Academy of Country Music.

RAC Clark, the president and Emmy nominated executive producer of Lion’s Heart Entertainment, has produced the ACM Awards since 1999. Under his tenure, the show moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Dallas for the 50th anniversary, where it set a Guinness world record for the highest attendance at an awards show broadcast with 70,252 attendees at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 19, 2015. Clark has also produced the awards show in Nashville for the last two years, emerging as a visually stunning showcase for Country Music. The oldest child of American Bandstand host Dick Clark, RAC was in his 20s when he started producing music-related series such as Puttin’ on the Hits. In the decades that followed, he cultivated a reputation as among the most sought-after producers of live music programming in television, with more than one thousand hours of live event broadcasts to his credit. Clark has worked on multiple network broadcasts for the Academy of Country Music including a series of all-star ACM Presents specials. He also produced 165 episodes of Prime Time Country for The Nashville Network. His projects have included GRAMMY specials, GRAMMY and Oscar Red Carpets, Miss Universe & Miss USA Pageants, the 2013 and 2021 Presidential Inauguration Committee and the Muscular Dystrophy Association telecast. In 2019, Clark served the Academy of Country Music as interim Executive Director. His Lion’s Heart Entertainment is based in Southern California.

ACM MERLE HAGGARD SPIRIT AWARD – Toby Keith has been chosen for the ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award. This award is presented to a singer-songwriter who is continuing the legacy of Country legend and 20-time ACM Award winner Merle Haggard by following his/her own path, crafting great songs and epitomizing Merle’s spirit through genuine performances and great storytelling.

A 20-time ACM Award-winner, Toby Keith is still taking charge of his incredible career with sold-out concerts, an arsenal of hits and a swagger that has endeared him to millions of fans. He proudly revealed his true colors and spirit as both artist and songwriter with anthems like “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” After an impressive run at Country radio that began in the ‘90s, he continues to be one of the most successful self-directed creators in music history as an artist, songwriter, singer, musician and producer. Keith has written the vast majority of his 32 No. 1s hits and has had a chart-topping single every year for 20-consecutive years. Keith was Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. He also received the ACM Poet’s award for his songwriting body of work in 2016. He received the National Medal of the Arts in 2021.

ACM POET’S AWARD – Loretta Lynn, Gretchen Peters and Curly Putman (posthumously) have been chosen as recipients of the ACM Poet’s Award. This award is presented to a Country Music songwriter for outstanding and longstanding musical and/or lyrical contributions throughout their career, with special consideration given to a song or songs’ impact on the culture of Country Music.

Loretta Lynn stands as one of the most dynamic and direct songwriters in Country Music history. Her body of work has contributed countless classics, have made an indelible mark on Country Music and has inspired generations of female artists to follow her amazing example. Early originals like “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” both released in 1966, are undisputed classics. Her catalog also offers chart-topping hits like “Fist City,” “Rated X” and of course, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her numerous ACM wins include Entertainer of the Year in 1975 and Artist of the Decade in 1979. A groundbreaking singer, songwriter and performer, Loretta Lynn is an archetype of American music, a singular artist whose music defined a genre and whose songs continue to inform new generations of musicians.

Gretchen Peters gained Nashville’s attention in the 1990s with eloquent and emotional compositions like Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” (an ACM Song of the Year nominee) and George Strait’s “Chill of an Early Fall.” Early in her career, Martina McBride achieved signature hits with Peters’ “My Baby Loves Me” and “Independence Day.” The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee has also landed singles with Faith Hill, Pam Tillis and Trisha Yearwood.

Curly Putman composed numerous enduring classics in the country canon, including Dolly Parton’s “Dumb Blonde,” Porter Wagoner’s “Green Green Grass of Home,” also recorded by pop icon Tom Jones and turned into an international hit, recorded in several languages, as well as George Jones’ signature hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” The latter title, written with Bobby Braddock, was named 1980 ACM Single and Song of the Year. Tammy Wynette recorded Putman’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (also written with Braddock) and “My Elusive Dreams” (written with Billy Sherrill). Putman was inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
Previous recipients of the ACM Poet’s Award include Bill Anderson, Matraca Berg, Bobby Braddock, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Guy Clark, Jack Clement, Hank Cochran, Rodney Crowell, Dean Dillon, Kye Fleming, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, Harlan Howard, Toby Keith, Kris Kristofferson, Bob McDill, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Eddie Rabbitt, Fred Rose, Don Schlitz, Billy Joe Shaver, Shel Silverstein, Cindy Walker, Jimmy Webb, Hank Williams and Norro Wilson.

TEX RITTER FILM AWARD – Ken Burns’s Country Music has been chosen to receive the ACM Tex Ritter Film Award. This award recognizes an outstanding television movie, series or feature film released during the preceding calendar year which prominently features Country Music.

Ken Burns’s Country Music informed and entertained PBS viewers about the rich history of the genre from the artists and historians who know it best. Through new interviews and rarely-seen footage spanning 16 hours, the eight-part series vividly conveyed the true roots of the music and the diverse artists who shaped it. Premiering in 2019, the series was directed and produced by Ken Burns, written and produced by Dayton Duncan and produced by Julie Dunfey.

Past recipients of the Tex Ritter Film Award include A Star Is Born, Beer For My Horses, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Country Strong, Crazy Heart, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, Nashville, O Brother, Where Art Thou, Sweet Dreams and Walk the Line, among others.

ACM SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD – Hillary Lindsey has been chosen as the recipient of the ACM Songwriter of the Year. This award is presented to an individual known predominately as a songwriter, selected by a Professional Panel of judges composed of songwriters, publishers, producers, and performing rights organization representatives.

Hillary Lindsey is one of Nashville’s most respected songwriters and go-to hitmakers – with 27 No. 1 songs under her belt, she has crafted material for artists ranging from Miranda Lambert to Lady Gaga. She won her third GRAMMY in 2020 for co-writing “I’ll Never Love Again” for A Star Is Born.  Her recent credits include Jordan Davis’ “Almost Maybes”, Kelsea Ballerini’s “Hole In The Bottle,” HARDY feat. Lauren Alaina & Devin Dawson’s “One Beer,” Mickey Guyton’s “Heaven Down Here” and Luke Bryan’s back-to-back No. 1 singles “What She Wants Tonight” and “Knockin’ Boots.” This is her second consecutive win for ACM Songwriter of the Year.

Past recipients of the ACM Songwriter of the Year Award include Ross Copperman, Dallas Davidson, Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna and Roger Miller.

ACM will be celebrating the 55th ACM Awards Industry and Studio Recording Award winners along with newly announced winners of the Studio Recording Awards for the 56th ACM Awards. These winners will be celebrated at ACM Honors on Wednesday, August 25 at the Ryman Auditorium. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Industry Awards were not given out during this cycle.

56TH ACM AWARDS (2020 STUDIO RECORDING AWARD WINNERS):
BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tony Lucido
DRUMMER OF THE YEAR: Aaron Sterling
GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: J.T. Corenflos (Awarded Posthumously)
PIANO/KEYBOARDS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dave Cohen
SPECIALTY INSTRUMENT(S) PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ilya Toshinskiy
STEEL GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR *TIE IN CATEGORY*: Dan Dugmore & Mike Johnson
AUDIO ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: F. Reid Shippen
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR: Jay Joyce

*INDUSTRY AWARDS NOT GIVEN IN 2020 DUE TO PANDEMIC

*PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED WINNERS:
55TH ACM AWARDS (2019 INDUSTRY AWARD WINNERS):
CASINO OF THE YEAR – THEATER: The Joint: Tulsa – Tulsa, OK
CASINO OF THE YEAR – ARENA: MGM Grand Garden Arena – Las Vegas, NV
FAIR/RODEO OF THE YEAR: Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo – Houston, TX
FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR: Tortuga Music Festival – Fort Lauderdale, FL
CLUB OF THE YEAR: Joe’s Live – Rosemont, IL
THEATER OF THE YEAR: The Beacon Theatre – New York, NY
OUTDOOR VENUE OF THE YEAR: Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
ARENA OF THE YEAR: Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
DON ROMEO TALENT BUYER OF THE YEAR: Gil Cunningham – Neste Live!
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR: Brian O’Connell – Live Nation
55TH ACM AWARDS (2019 STUDIO RECORDING AWARD WINNERS):
BASS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jimmie Lee Sloas
DRUMMER OF THE YEAR: Miles McPherson
GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rob McNelley
PIANO/KEYBOARDS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Gordon Mote
SPECIALTY INSTRUMENT(S) PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jenee Fleenor
STEEL GUITAR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Paul Franklin
AUDIO ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: Justin Niebank
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR: busbee (Awarded Posthumously)