Each year, the Academy of Country Music Awards isn’t only about the awards themselves.
The ACM enlists many stars involved in that ceremony for another show recorded the next evening. In the past, it has taken such forms as a tribute to genre icon George Strait and a “Superstar Summer Night” hosted by Tim McGraw … and this year, a gathering of top country names honors the U.S. military.
CBS airs “ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute to the Troops” Tuesday (May 20). Recorded last month at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the two-hour show features Strait and McGraw as well as spouses Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton (in a duet), Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, the Band Perry, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Dierks Bentley, Hunter Hayes, Lee Brice, Kellie Pickler, Eli Young Band and country icon Merle Haggard.
“Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna, “Entertainment Tonight” co-host Nancy O’Dell, and U.S. Army veteran and country singer-songwriter Craig Morgan are among those who introduce the performances. Proceeds from tickets sold to the event go to ACM Lifting Lives, the music organization’s charitable initiative.
“We didn’t have to think twice about it,” the Band Perry’s Kimberly Perry tells Zap2it of participating and being joined on stage by Army SPC Kelly Gregg for the performance. “We’re so blessed to be able to thank and encourage the troops with the gifts we’ve been given.
“We recently went to a country music festival in London, and the second day, we went to Lakenheath — which is our base there — and did a USO show and spent time with the troops and their families. It’s something near and dear to our hearts.”
A very visible, longtime military supporter who’s about to co-host PBS’ National Memorial Day Concert for the ninth time, Mantegna reflects that the ACM special is “really cool, because each one of these very prestigious country acts performs with an active-duty member of the military, singing or playing an instrument.
“In many instances, that extra person was the star,” notes Mantegna. “It had a great energy about it, and it was so wonderful to be able to be involved in that.”