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Garth Brooks, ‘Strawberry Wine’ big winners at CMA Awards

September 25, 1997

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Deana Carter’s hit single ``Strawberry Wine″ wowed the judges at country music’s big awards show and Garth Brooks won the industry’s top prize _ even though he wasn’t there to collect it.

Brooks was named the best entertainer in country music Wednesday at the Country Music Association Awards show at the Grand Ole Opry.

The recognition has been a while coming around again to Brooks, who in 1991 and 1992 won the same prize but hasn’t won a CMA trophy since 1993. He wasn’t here to accept the prize, but at least had the right excuse: He was doing a show in Nebraska.

Others getting long-awaited awards from the 7,000 country music industry voters were Trisha Yearwood, for best female vocalist, and 15-year-old LeAnn Rimes, who collected the Horizon Award for career progress.

``Strawberry Wine,″ a song about a teen-ager’s first love affair, was named both the best country music single and song. The song award went to writers Gary Harrison and Matraca Berg, while Carter collected the trophy for best single.

She gleefully jumped up and down, then leaped into presenter Ricky Skaggs’ arms. She later offered a public apology to Skaggs’ wife, adding she was just to happy to win.

``I was just excited by it,″ she said.

Rimes said it’s long been her hope to hear her name called out.

``I’ve always dreamed of walking up to the CMA stage,″ Rimes said in accepting her first-ever CMA award.

It was the second CMA trophy for Yearwood, who accepted with a tribute to girlhood inspiration Reba McEntire. Yearwood said she once saw McEntire say while accepting a CMA award that dreams could be attained with hard work.

``And I believed you, Miss Reba,″ Yearwood told McEntire, who was in the audience.

The award for best male vocalist went to George Strait, whose ``Carrying Your Love With Me″ was named best album. It was the second year in a row Strait has won both awards.

Rock star Sting, formerly of The Police, showed up to sing a duet with Toby Keith on ``I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,″ a song written by Sting that appears on Keith’s latest album.

Sting helped introduce the nominees for best musician, a category won by guitarist Brent Mason.

``I know more about country music than you might think,″ said Sting, who mentioned Hank Williams Sr. and Jim Reeves as two of his favorites.

One of the evening’s highlights was Berg’s performance of ``Back When We Were Beautiful″ from her upcoming album. The audience gave its rousing approval.

Brooks & Dunn won for best duo, and Kathy Mattea’s ``455 Rocket″ won for best video. Diamond Rio was named best vocal group.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who are married, won the vocal event award for their duet, ``It’s Your Love.″

``I couldn’t think of a better singing partner or a better life partner,″ McGraw said.

Songwriters Harlan Howard and Cindy Walker were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the show, as was singer Brenda Lee.

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