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20 things you didn't know about the CCMA Awards

Andrea Warner

Since the Canadian Country Music Association launched in 1976 — originally as the Academy of Country Music Entertainment — it has endured, survived and thrived through the peaks and valleys of Canadian music fans' love-hate relationship to country music. But by championing everything from roots-rock and folk-noir to hot country and heartbreak and twang, the CCMA has helped redefine, through its artists, what it means to be a country musician in Canada, and just how different that can and should look — person to person, coast to coast.

In 1982, the CCMA launched its first annual awards ceremony, highlighting its artists and hyping new music, and in 1984, the association began paying tribute to the founders of the Canadian country music scene with the creation of its CCMA Hall of Fame. In celebration of the 41st anniversary of the CCMA and ahead of the 2017 CCMA Awards, CBC Music has combed through the archives and uncovered a host of fun facts, strange trivia and famous faces.

From honouring Taylor Swift to Shania Twain's sweep to k.d. lang's back-to-back wins (for the same album!), here are 20 things you probably didn't know about all things CCMA.

1. Family Brown is the most winning-est band of the CCMAs

The band won album of the year four times in the first five years of the category. It also won group of the year seven out of eight years, from 1982 to 1989.

2. 'Papa' Joe Brown was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1989; Family Brown was inducted in 1997

Family Brown was considered something of the first family of Canadian country music, and there was an outpouring of grief when "Papa" Joe passed away in 1986. But a year after his posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame, his family paid tribute with the hit single, "Pioneers.”

The music video won a 1990 CCMA for video of the year and even though it’s absolutely of its time, it’s easy to understand why it was a CCMA fave. The song is an earnest salute to some of the founders of Canadian country music, including their dad and band member, “Papa” Joe Brown.

3. Wilf Carter and Tommy Hunter were the first inductees into the CCMA Hall of Fame

Carter was known as the "Father of Canadian Country," and Hunter was referred to as "Canada's Country Gentleman." Both were crucial to Canadian country music's foundations, and in 1984 became the first two inductees into the Hall of Fame. Carter was a champion yodeler as well as an internationally renowned singer-songwriter and guitarist who frequently recorded under the stage name Montana Slim, while Hunter was the host of The Tommy Hunter Show, a popular variety program that featured the likes of Anne Murray, Garth Brooks, and one of Shania Twain's first televised performances.

4. It would be another 5 years before another dozen people were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989

Among those were “Papa” Joe Brown, Hank Snow, Ian Tyson, and Lucille Starr.

5. Starr and Marg Osburne were the first women inducted into the CCMA Hall of Fame in 1989

Starr was a classically trained Francophone singer who turned her hand to country music in her late teens. Osburne, a folk and gospel singer, also got her start in her teens when she answered a newspaper ad for a female vocalist and got a job singing on CKCW in Moncton, N.B.

6. Family Brown won for the same album 2 years in a row for Raised on Country Music

Here's the band performing the title track live.

7. In 1987, k.d. lang was recognized by the CCMAs for the first time

She not only won the Vista Rising Star Award, but she also took home the evening’s most prestigious award: entertainer of the year. She also won entertainer of the year in 1988 and 1989 before the association did away with the category.

8. k.d. lang won album of the year 3 years in a row

It was for the same record, twice — in 1988 and 1989 for Shadowland — plus in 1990 for Aboslute Torch and Twang.

In a statement to CBC Music, the CCMAs clarified how lang and the Family Brown both won back-to-back Album of the Year awards for the same record: "Album of the Year was not based on sales during the timeframe being questioned. There was a 14-month window for eligibility, which would explain the repeat winners."

9. The first album of the year category included one woman-fronted act: Laura Vinson

If you're not familiar with the Metis musician from Jasper, Alta., dig into some of these great early live performances.

This is her performing in 1988.

And in 1991.

10. There hasn’t been a woman album-of-the-year winner since 2004

That year, Carolyn Dawn Johnson won for Dress Rehearsal.

11. The only Canadians to ever win the top-selling album category — since it was added in 1986 — have been women

They were:

  • 1986: Hymns Of Gold, Carroll Baker
  • 1990: Rita, Rita MacNeil
  • 1991: Home I'll Be, Rita MacNeil
  • 1997: The Woman in Me, Shania Twain
  • 1998: Come On Over, Shania Twain
  • 2003: Up!, Shania Twain
  • 2005: Greatest Hits, Shania Twain

12. The CCMA Awards added the top-selling Canadian album category in 2008

The first recipient was Johnny Reid for Kicking Stones.

13. Carroll Baker was the first winner for female artist of the year, beating out Anne Murray

Between 1982 and 1992, Murray was nominated 10 times for female artist of the year, but never won.

Baker was an interesting choice in 1982. She was a singer who chose racier themes, usually, than Murray, and regularly pushed back against the conventional restrictions around what kinds of things women "should" and "should not" record in the '70s and '80s.

This is one of her earlier songs, a tune from her 1971 self-titled album that skews as problematic in 2017, but was pretty subversive in the early 1970s when there were much more conservative attitudes towards women expressing their sexuality. This song couches Baker's character's sexual desires in a shared loneliness and drunkenness with her partner, and references their forthcoming intimacy as a "sin" — but one that's unavoidable and perhaps even forgiveable due to these extenuating circumstances.

14. Baker was the 3rd woman inducted into the CCMA Hall of Fame

It was in part because of her amazing, if now somewhat forgotten, success. Between 1975 and 1979 alone, she had 12 consecutive No. 1 records. Among the hits: a cover of “It's My Party” that’s described as bluegrass, but it’s really just a whisper of twang.

One of Baker’s biggest scores came in 1975 with “I’ve Never Been This Far Before.” It’s actually a gender-flipped and perspective-flipped cover of Conway Twitty’s 1973 hit, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before.”

It was a bit of a risqué song at the time, since Twitty sings from the perspective of a man trying to calm his girlfriend about losing her virginity. The song was actually banned by many radio stations in 1973, but it still became a massive hit. Baker’s version spins it around and she sings it from the girlfriend’s perspective, which gives the song a dramatically different feel.

In 1978, Twitty presented Baker with a platinum record for her cover of his song, and then they performed the hit as a duet.

15. Paul Brandt won male artist of the year 3 years in a row

They were awarded from 1998 to 2000, and then one more time in 2002.

16. Terri Clark seems to have the biggest, best fanbase

She’s won the Fans’ Choice Award a total of eight times (1997, 2001-2004, 2006-2007 and 2013). Her closest competition is Johnny Reid, who has won six times.

17. The 1999 CCMA Awards were almost entirely swept by Shania Twain and the Wilkinsons

Of the 11 major categories, Twain won four and the Wilkinsons won five. The only other winners were Paul Brandt (male artist of the year) and Dixie Chicks for top-selling album.

18. The very first Vista Rising Star recipient, Ruth Ann, went on to become a Christian singer

She has at least three albums to her credit: Hello It’s Me, Who Am I? and The Way. She also married Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley.

19. Prairie Oyster’s Joan Besen is the only solo woman songwriter to ever win songwriter(s) of the year

In fact, she did it twice. First in 1991, for “Lonely Me Lonely You.”

And again in 1992 for “Did You Fall In Love With Me.”

There’s also just one women songwriting duo to ever be awarded songwriter(s) of the year: Carolyn Dawn Johnson and Shaye Smith. They won twice.

First, in 2001, for “”Complicated.”

And again in 2004 for “Die of a Broken Heart.”

20. The CCMA created a category in 2012 so that they could give an award to Taylor Swift

Well, OK, a press release describes the inaugural Generation Award as a means of commemorating 30 years of CCMA Awards, and that it highlights “those select few internationally celebrated artists who have pushed country music forward to new audiences and have created and brought awareness of this genre of music across the globe.” Swift attended the ceremony and received the award in person in Saskatoon.

So far, Swift is the only recipient, but since a generation spans about 12 years, maybe they’re right on track.

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

More to explore:

Lucille Starr: the Canadian country queen you’ve probably never heard of

Anne Murray: 40 years of hustle and the making of a Canadian icon

Shania Twain: the essentials

k.d. lang’s Ingénue: 25 things you need to know about her breakout album

Songwriting 101: Dean Brody