Toby Keith is a big player in country music, but you won't find him at the CMA Awards -- and it's by choice.
Keith took home Music Video of the Year in 2012 and 2005, and Male Vocalist of the Year in 2001, but for the past decade-plus, the singer-songwriter has not attended Country Music's Biggest Night.
“I just, years ago, decided that it wasn’t my bag,” Keith tells Taste of Country Nights. “I think in three years, I had 24 nominations. I was 0 for 24, and I went, ‘I can’t beat the politics of this deal.'
"I was a No. 1 ticket seller, a No. 1 album seller, and I spent 51 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard in a four-year span, and I went 0 for 24?" he adds. "I was like, ‘This isn’t worth my time.'"
Keith is not nominated at the upcoming 2018 CMA Awards. His last CMAs nomination came in 2012, when he won Music Video of of the Year, for "Red Solo Cup."
The 2018 CMA Awards are scheduled to air on ABC on Nov. 14, at 8PM ET; the ceremony will take place live at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood will host the ceremony for the 11th year in a row.
TOP 10 CMA Moments
10. Brad Spills the Beans!
Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood were seven years into their run as co-hosts of the CMA Awards in 2014, and Underwood was a few months pregnant with her son, Isaiah Michael Fisher. During their opening monologue, Underwood whispered her baby's gender into Paisley's ear, and he swore not to share the news with the millions of fans watching. However, not long after, when discussing Garth Brooks, Paisley quipped, "You could name him Garth!" letting the world know that Underwood was, indeed, having a boy.
As it turns out, the entire reveal was planned in advance, but the co-hosts get credit for making everyone believe that Paisley had let a secret slip while on live TV -- and for leaving viewers scrambling to figure out whether the news was legit!
9. Charley Pride Becomes the First Black Entertainer of the Year
In 1971, Charley Pride became the first African-American artist to win Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards. Pride had released 12 studio albums and charted 15 singles by the time he won the coveted trophy; he beat out Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Reed and Conway Twitty to take home the night's highest honor.
8. Charlie Rich 'Lights Up' John Denver
In 1975, Charlie Rich was tasked with announcing the winner of last category of the evening, Entertainer of the Year. Rich, allegedly on pain pills due to a broken foot and inebriated due to drinking backstage, tore open the envelope and, upon seeing John Denver's name inside, pulled out his cigarette lighter and burned the envelope, stating, sarcastically, that the winner was "My friend, Mr. John Denver."
While many took Rich's actions as a protest against pop artists crossing over into country, Rich's son states that his father meant no ill will, blaming the incident on bad judgement and adding that his father later tried to make amends with Denver.
7. Alan Jackson Stands Up for George Jones
In 1999, country legend George Jones released "Choices," a single and accompanying music video that chronicled his substance abuse struggles throughout the years. Jones was invited to perform a shortened version of the song, which became a Top 30 hit and was nominated for Song of the Year, during the CMA Awards that year, but because he was unwilling to comply with the request to eliminate part of the song, he passed on the invitation.
Alan Jackson, meanwhile, was slated to perform a full version of his own Top 10 hit, "Pop a Top" -- but, instead, Jackson shortened his own song and sang a chorus of Jones' "Choices," earning a standing ovation for his performance.
6. Anne Murray Is the First Woman to Win Album of the Year
Anne Murray made history in 1984. Several women, including Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, had been nominated in the CMA Awards' Album of the Year category in the past, but it was Murray who earned that first "W," with her record A Little Good News. That night, Murray also won Single of the Year, for the album's title track.
It would be 11 more years before another solo female artist would win Album of the Year at the CMAs. Patty Loveless was the next woman to win in the category, in 1995, for When Fallen Angels Fly.
5. Chris Stapleton's Unforgettable Night
The 2015 CMA Awards will likely be remembered in years to come as "the Night of Chris Stapleton." The singer performed with Justin Timberlake, singing his own "Tennessee Whiskey" and Timberlake's "Drink You Away" in what quickly became the night's standout performance -- but that wasn't all. In addition, Stapleton -- who was nominated for three trophies but considered a dark horse in the competition -- walked away with a win in each category in which he was nominated: New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.
“I feel very loved by the awards, but I don’t feel like music is a war or it’s a battle or anything like that," Stapleton said after his big wins, "and I think people have a tendency to try to make it into that."
4. Taylor Swift Becomes the Youngest Entertainer of the Year
Taylor Swift became the youngest artist to win Entertainer of the Year in 2009. She was just shy of her 20th birthday when she beat out Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait and Keith Urban for the honor. The win surprised everyone, including Swift.
"I will never forget this moment, because in this moment, everything that I have ever wanted has just happened to me," Swift gushed (quote via ABC News).
Swift, who won four CMA Awards that night, was also the first female solo act to win Entertainer of the Year in 10 years. She won the category again in 2011.
3. Honoring the Late, Great Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash passed away on Sept. 12, 2003, about two months before the 2003 CMA Awards. But although the Man in Black was no longer alive to attend that year's ceremony, he was still a big winner, taking home three trophies: Album of the Year, Music Video of the Year and Single of the Year. Cash was also honored that night with a musical tribute from Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson and more.
2. Loretta Lynn Is the First Female Entertainer of the Year
Loretta Lynn made history at the 1972 CMA Awards by becoming the first female artist to win Entertainer of the Year. At the time of her win, Lynn had just released her 18th studio album, Here I Am Again.
“I’d like to say that I’ve won a lot of awards, and this is one that I have been nominated for, but I never did get. And this, I think, is the only one that I haven’t gotten,” Lynn said in her brief acceptance speech. “I’m real happy, but the only thing that I’m kind of sad about is my husband going hunting. He couldn’t make it back in to share my happiness with me. Thank you.”
It would be six years before another female artist (Dolly Parton) won Entertainer of the Year. Lynn was nominated in the category every year from 1971 to 1975, but she only won once.
1. Alan Jackson's Show-Stopping Post-9/11 Performance
It was the performance heard 'round the world. Seven weeks after the devastating terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Alan Jackson performed "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," written following that day, at the 2001 CMA Awards. The song, which wasn't officially released until Nov. 26, articulated the grief and shock that Americans were feeling and helped bring healing to a devastated nation.
“Even though that was a hard performance for me and an emotional time, I still get so many comments about that," Jackson tells The Boot. "Of all the awards, and all that kind of stuff, the music is still what I like. To be able to create a song that really affects people and makes a mark in the music industry, I would have to say that would be a highlight.”