Jelly Roll, the singer of “Son of a Sinner,” was the major winner at the CMT Music Awards, taking home three prizes as an outsider who won admirers with his confessional songs on Sunday.

During the Austin, Texas, performance that was broadcast on CBS, the tattooed singer broke down in tears and thanked the country radio business for its acceptance while also calling out to other people who shared his sentiments.

“You have the freedom to pursue your dreams. I’ll keep my word. I informed them of my desire to pursue a career as a country performer, and here I am at the CMT Awards holding the male video of the year, baby!” he exclaimed.

He had a choir perform his prayer-themed tune “Need a Favor” earlier in the evening, and the audience raised their hands to the ceiling.

On “Entertainment Tonight,” where Cassie DiLaua conducted the interview, a full list of the winners was also presented.

Country singer and co-host Kelsea Ballerini set a somber tone for the program by reading the names of the six Nashville, Tennessee, school shooting victims who died on Monday. She mentioned how she understood their suffering, citing how she had seen a school shooting in Knoxville, her hometown, in 2008 and hoped for “real action” to safeguard kids and families. Country musicians donned black ribbons on the red carpet earlier in the evening to remember the shooting victims.

Related: Billy Gibbons, Slash, Cody Johnson, And Others To Perform Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute At The 2023 CMT Awards

However, the overall focus of the show was nostalgia as performances blended rock, blues, and country direct from Texas, mixing in tributes and covers alongside more contemporary musicians and fan favorites.

Shania Twain, a five-time Grammy winner and country music icon, received the Equal Play Award in recognition of her work as a “visible and vocal advocate” for marginalized voices in the genre. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion, a native Texan and Grammy-winning artist, introduced Twain before the two embraced and danced to his hit song, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.”

According to Twain, the song’s lyrics became a recurring theme throughout a lengthy career of advocacy.

Twain declared, “I promise I will continue to champion the many excellent country artists who are not presently played, streamed, toured, signed, or recognized at the level they merit. “I support inclusive country music,” you said.

For “Heart Like a Truck” and “Wait in the Truck,” which she co-wrote with HARDY, Lainey Wilson received two awards: female video of the year and collaborative video of the year.

After receiving female video of the year, Wilson said, “My heart is ’bout to beat right out of my chest, I’ll be honest with y’all,” calling the popular song an anthem for enduring the “scratches, the dents, and the bumps along the way.”

The final prize of the evening went to co-host Kane Brown and his wife Katelyn, whose collaboration “Thank God” won video of the year.

“I’m so new to all of this. And I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined this would ever happen when we recorded this tune a year ago,” Katelyn Brown said.

As states across the nation contemplate legally restricting drag show performances, Ballerini took the stage later in the performance flanked by drag performers. The product of Tennessee performed the song “If You Go Down (I’m Going Down Too)” and danced alongside “RuPaul’s Drag Race” celebrities Kennedy Davenport, Jan Sport, Manila Luzon, and Olivia Lux.

Tennessee, where Ballerini is from, was the first state to impose stringent regulations on drag show performances; they were scheduled to go into force this month. After a lawsuit was filed earlier this week, the legislation has been momentarily suspended.

For the majority of the three-hour performance, collaborations were the main focus. Heavy fog rolled over the platform and into the audience as Wynonna Judd and Ashley McBryde, both members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, sang a cover of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Alongside country vocalist Carly Pearce, pop singer Stefani performed the No Doubt mid-’90s pop-punk hit song “Just a Girl.” With a group performance of “You Oughta Know” starring Wilson, Ingrid Andress, Madeline Edwards, and Morgan Wade, rocker Alanis Morissette brought more ’90s rock to the stage.

With 25 awards, Carrie Underwood is the most honored performer in CMT history. She performed “Hate My Heart” as pyrotechnics illuminated the Austin night. At the end of the performance, four-time Grammy winner Clark Jr. paid tribute to the late Texas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Following the passing of Gary Rossington, the final original member, in March, southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd received memorial performance.

Peter Frampton “made a rare appearance onstage,” according to ET’s Zoe Phillips, to pay tribute to Rossington.

According to Phillips, Frampton ceased performing in 2022 after being diagnosed with a rare muscle disease. ‘I am here tonight to honor a friend and tourmate of mine, Gary Rossington, who was a southern rock icon,’ Frampton said as he entered the platform with a cane. Along with Ronnie van Zant and Alan Collins, he was a founder member of the renowned band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

According to Philips, “Frampton also mentioned that Gary’s wife, Dale, and daughter, Mary, as well as Rickey Medlocke, Ronny Van Zant’s widow, Judy, and his grandchild, Arayah, were present. For the tribute show, he continued by introducing Cody Johnson, Billy Gibbons, Paul Rodgers, Slash, Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes, Wynonna Judd, and Leann Rimes.


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