Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum and Derek Trucks kicked off the 2017 CMT Music Awards with a rocking tribute to southern rocker Gregg Allman, who died last month at age 69.
It started with Aldean, Rucker and Kelley singing the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider” a cappella, before being joined by a full band including Trucks on guitar.
The performance earned a standing ovation Wednesday from the audience at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee, which included country music’s top stars, along with Hollywood actors and musicians from the rock, pop and R&B worlds.
Ashton Kutcher, Jada Pinkett Smith and Katherine Heigl will present awards at the show on CMT, where performers include Earth, Wind & Fire, Peter Frampton and the Chainsmokers.
Little Big Town won the first televised award of the night, taking home group video of the year for “Better Man,” their No. 1 hit that was written by Taylor Swift.
Band member Karen Fairchild thanked the group’s fans onstage “for making this such a big hit.”
The Grammy-winning act is among the performers of the night, which includes BlakeShelton, Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Luke Bryan will sing with Jason Derulo, while Earth, Wind & Fire will join Lady Antebellum and Frampton will perform with Brothers Osborne.
Other winners included Lauren Alaina for the breakthrough video of the year award. Urban and Underwood won the collaborative video of the year for “The Fighter.”
The Chainsmokers, who taped their performance Tuesday, collaborated with Florida Georgia Line on a song called “Last Day Alive,” off the duo’s album “Memories … Do Not Open,” which came out earlier this year.
“It was a fun challenge,” Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard said Tuesday of working with the Chainsmokers. “We pushed ourselves. There’s a lot of different aspects of this song that we haven’t done before, like different harmonies. We love these guys and we love what they are doing.”
Urban, nominated for four awards, is the leading nominee at the fan-voted show. His clip for the slow groove “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is nominated for the night’s biggest award – video of the year – along with music videos by Underwood, Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell. The seventh nominee is “Forever Country,” the medley song and video celebrating the Country Music Association Awards’ 50th anniversary featuring Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and others.
Underwood, who has won video of the year six times, is also nominated for collaboration of the year (“The Fighter” with Urban) and female video of the year (“Church Bells”). Her competition in the latter category includes Lambert, Maren Morris, Reba McEntire, Alaina and Kelsea Ballerini.
Nominees for male video of the year include Shelton, Aldean, Urban, Bryan, Rhett and Eric Church.
The CMT Music Awards are being hosted by “Nashville” actor Charles Esten. Rising acts will perform on the Firestone Stage, including Alaina, Brett Young, Chris Lane, Jon Pardi and Midland.
Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report from Nashville, Tennessee.