The Country Music Association Awards have always been a star-studded night for awarding country music’s biggest stars. But what about the so-called “outlaw country” artists who’ve made a career of thumbing their noses at Nashville trends?
Sometimes the bad guys — and gals — do win.
Below is a look at how 10 renegade country artists have fared at the CMAs over the years.
4 wins — 29 nominations
Perhaps the ultimate outlaw country artist, Waymore helped make the iconoclastic style popular in the 1970s and cleaned up at the CMAs in the process. Jennings won four CMA trophies, including one for male vocalist of the year in 1975. He was nominated for 29 total CMA awards in his career.
9 wins — 46 nominations
Along with Jennings, Willie Nelson defined the early outlaw country movement. Despite following his own path, Nelson has maintained popularity in the fickle music business for over 50 years. He’s won nine CMA awards and been nominated a total of 46 times, including a 2015 nomination for vocal event of the year.
9 wins — 28 nominations
Twelve years after his death, Cash remains one of the most powerful legends in country music. During his long career, he won nine CMA trophies, including one for entertainer of the year in 1969. At the age of 71, Cash won three trophies at the 2003 CMA Awards for his acclaimed album “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”
1 win — 8 nominations
Another early outlaw artist, Kristofferson is widely known as one of the greatest songwriters in country music history. His lone CMA Awards victory came in 1970 for writing Johnny Cash’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.” Kristofferson also picked up four nominations as part of the outlaw supergroup the Highwaymen.
1 win — 3 nominations
One of the original female country artists to be described as an outlaw, Smith was nominated for three CMA trophies — all in 1971. Her hit recording of Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” won single of the year honors.
Yoakam is arguably one of the most popular country music artists to never win at the CMAs. His first nomination came in 1986 and his most recent in 2001. He’s had 14 tracks reach the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart but never was rewarded with CMA gold.
Billy Joe Shaver
Despite being one of the most revered names in Texas country music history, Shaver never had much luck scoring CMA Awards nominations. His lone nod came in 1981 for John Anderson’s version of the Shaver-written “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal,” which was up for song of the year honors.
2 wins — 7 nominations
Singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson has quietly become one of country music’s most acclaimed artists of the past decade, winning a pair of CMA trophies along the way. Both wins honored his songwriting efforts in the song of the year category: George Strait’s “Give It Away” in 2007 and his own hit “In Color,” in 2009.
1 win — 5 nominations
Another pioneering female outlaw artist, Colter was nominated for five CMA trophies from 1975 to 1981, including a nod for female vocalist of the year. Her lone win came in 1976 for the album “Wanted! The Outlaws,” a record she recorded with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and husband Waylon Jennings.
Despite his 1988 album “Diamonds & Dirt” spawning five No. 1 Billboard country hits and an acclaimed career that’s spanned nearly 40 years, Crowell never took home a CMA award. His songwriting talents have earned him two nominations in the song of the year category.
Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.