Believe it or not, the Academy of Country Music Awards have been taking place since 1966. The 52nd annual incarnation of the famed awards show is happening this weekend in Las Vegas and there’s an awful lot of history behind it.
The star-studded affair has played host to a who's who of major players in the country music industry, and, as such, has been responsible for some of the genre's most memorable, historic moments.
From Merle Haggard's inaugural entertainer of the year win in 1970 to Dolly Parton's colorful duet with Katy Perry in 2016, check out eight of the greatest moments from the ACM Awards over the years.
1970 - Merle Haggard Captures the Very First Entertainer of the Year Award
Though the ceremony had been taking place since 1966, the entertainer of the year award trophy wasn't given until 1970, when Merle Haggard took home the honors. In honor of the legendary artist (who passed away at 79 last year) the ACM established the Merle Haggard Spirit Award, with the inaugural honor going to Miranda Lambert at a ceremony in August 2016.
1976 - Loretta Lynn's Entertainer of the Year Award Win
Loretta Lynn made history in 1976 when she became the first woman to win the coveted entertainer of the year trophy. Lynn herself seemed shocked by the win, delivering a heartfelt acceptance speech and telling the crowd, "I'd like to say that I sure am proud, and I want to thank all of you."
1983 - Mr. T Reads the Rules
Celebrity cameos are a dime a dozen at awards shows, but this appearance from Mr. T was one of the ACM's best. The A-Team star took the stage to read the show's rules, an otherwise boring segment made entertaining by the actor's insistence that he's "the boss."
1994 - Alan Jackson's Epic Protest
Alan Jackson made headlines at the 29th annual ACM Awards in 1994 when he made no effort to conceal his anger at the producers' insistence he perform to a pre-recorded track rather than live with his band. For his performance of "Gone Country," he donned a Hank Williams T-shirt -- which may not look out of place now, but was taboo at the time -- and had his drummer pretend to play with no sticks in his hands.
1997 - LeAnn Rimes Rakes Top New Female Vocalist
1997 was a huge year for LeAnn Rimes, who, then only 15, was still riding high from the success of her 1996 debut album Blue. She'd win another award that evening, best female country vpcal performance, for that album's title track.
2003 - The ACM Awards Hit Vegas for the First Time
By now, the ACM Awards are synonymous with Vegas, but that wasn't always the case. The show moved from Los Angeles to Sin City in 2003, initially broadcasting from Mandalay Bay Events Center. That same year, George Strait treated the Las Vegas audience to a special medley of hits in celebration of his 50th number one song.
2013 - Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert's Emotional Wins For "Over You"
Ex-husband-and-wife pair Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton joined forces to write "Over You," a song on Lambert's 2011 album Four the Record that was inspired by the unexpected death of Shelton's older brother. When the song won song of the year in 2013, the two accepted the award together in what became one of the show's most emotional moments to date.
2016 - Dolly Parton's Performance With Katy Perry
Dolly Parton recruited Katy Perry to celebrate her historic catalog at the 2016 ceremony, with the pair performing a medley that included "Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene," and "9 to 5." Perry would later present Parton with the Tex Ritter Award for Parton's 2015 NBC television movie, Coat of Many Colors.
|Kevin Winter/ACM2016/Getty Images for dcp Dolly Parton and Katy Perry perform during the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas.|
Luke Bryan, jokingly, gets political about ACM Awards
The Academy of Country Music Awards will unite Democrats and Republicans, according to Luke Bryan, the show's host and a part-time comedian.
The country star, hosting Sunday's show for the fifth straight year, joked — as usual — about his duties at the country music party held annually in Las Vegas.
"Democrats and Republicans are going to get along on Sunday night. They're all going to watch the ACMs together and stuff's going to start happening in this country. It's going to change," Bryan said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Cats and dogs are going to make out."
"Coming to an election near you. Is politics your next career?" chimed in fellow country singer Dierks Bentley, who will co-host with Bryan.
"Yes," Bryan replied.
ACM Awards 2017: Red carpet arrivals
The 2017 Academy of Country Music Awards are here!
Country's Party of the Year will air on CBS on Sunday, April 2 at 8 p.m. EST, and the 52nd annual award show will be hosted by country superstars Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.
Country music's biggest names descended upon the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the big night, including scheduled appearances from Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town and Kelsea Ballerini.
Florida Georgia Line and the Backstreet Boys are set to perform together, as well, in one of the night's most highly-anticipated moments.
On the red carpet, Jessie James Decker and her husband, Eric, were one of the earliest notable arrivals, and they didn't disappoint. Jessie stunned in a skin-baring, beaded gown with a thigh-high slit and plunging neckline that showed off her undergarments. She paired the sheer ensemble with a high-pony.