CMA presented industry honors to Country Music’s top touring professionals Monday during the CMA Touring Awards (formerly known as the SRO Awards) at Marathon Music Works in Nashville. Hosted by five-time CMA Awards winner Kristian Bush, the evening recognized winners in fifteen categories, and also saw the inaugural CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Randy “Baja” Fletcher.
“Honoring excellence throughout the industry is a key tenet of CMA. Our touring members bring music directly to the fans night after night. It is an honor to celebrate the hard work and dedication of these professionals,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer.
During Monday’s ceremony,19-time CMA Awards winners Brooks & Dunn presented Fletcher the inaugural CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award. During his decades-long career on the road, Fletcher served as the duo’s Production Manager for 18 years during the ‘90s and ‘00s. His work has been closely intertwined with the careers of some of Country Music’s biggest icons and most ambitious tours, including Stage and Production Manager stints with Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Keith Urban, and more.
“I want to thank God for this lovely life, this journey I’ve had, coming up this fall 50 years in the music industry,” said Fletcher. “It’s unbelievable to have 50 years and six acts…You just do your job and treat people good. Do your job and have fun. I use a lot of Waylon’s lines. He had the best sticker I think of all time. It says, ‘This is no dress rehearsal. We are professionals and this is the big time.’ If you’ve got your faith, family, friends, memories, and humor, you’ve got it all…I thank everyone that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It is a true honor to receive this Award! Thank you!”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members The Beach Boys’ Mike Love and Bruce Johnston made an unexpected appearance to celebrate the CMA Venue of the Year, Ryman Auditorium, and Dierks Bentley made a surprise visit to congratulate three winners from his touring family.
“These guys represent all of us on the road,” remarked Bentley. “These awards are for the folks that make the wheels go ‘round and I’m so proud of every person that works hard night after night to make it all happen. It’s a tough job, but it’s so much fun and it’s all worth it when you can share your success with great people.”
The celebration made clear why Country Music tours are among the most popular and prosperous business centers for the industry.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by your peers. I can tell you I LOVE what I do and I LOVE the people I get to do it with. Team Chesney, all those folks, they kick ass every day to get this done. I know everybody else does too, but this is my team and I love it!” shouted CMA Production Manager of the Year Ed Wannebo.
“Thank you to CMA and thank you to everybody who gets on and off a bus every week of the year to make our artists look the best they possibly can,” exclaimed Brian O’Connell, CMA Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year.
Kelleigh Bannen, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Jessi Colter, Adam Craig, Dusty Hill, Jon Langston, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Cole Swindell, and Keith Urban recorded personal video messages to congratulate the winners. Former Major League Baseball All-Star Rick Sutcliffe and Miami Marlins Manager Don Mattingly also submitted special videos for Fletcher.
Winners in 15 categories were determined by CMA members in the following categories: Advertising/Public Relations/Media; Affiliated; Artist; Entertainment Services; Marketing/Digital; Musician; Personal Manager; Record Label; Talent Agent; Talent Buyer/Promoter; Touring; and Venue. Ballots were tabulated by the professional services firm Deloitte & Touche, LLP.
The 2016 CMA Touring Awards winners are as follows:
CATEGORY 1 – BUSINESS MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Jamie Cheek – Flood, Bumstead, McCready & McCarthy, Inc.
CATEGORY 2 – COACH/TRUCK DRIVER OF THE YEAR
Josh Easter – Kenny Chesney
CATEGORY 3 – FOH (FRONT OF HOUSE) ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
Billy Moore – Eric Church
CATEGORY 4 – LIGHTING DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Chris Reade – Dierks Bentley
CATEGORY 5 – MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Kerri Edwards – KP Entertainment
CATEGORY 6 – TOUR MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Tom Addison – Dierks Bentley
CATEGORY 7 – MONITOR ENGINEER OF THE YEAR
Phil Wilkey – Keith Urban
CATEGORY 8 – PRODUCTION MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Ed Wannebo – Kenny Chesney
CATEGORY 9 – PUBLICIST OF THE YEAR
Ebie McFarland – Essential Broadcast Media, LLC
CATEGORY 10 – TALENT AGENT OF THE YEAR
Jay Williams – WME
CATEGORY 11 – TALENT BUYER/PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
Brian O’Connell – Live Nation
CATEGORY 12 – TOUR CATERER OF THE YEAR
CATEGORY 13 – TOURING MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Dan Hochhalter – Dierks Bentley – Fiddle
CATEGORY 14 – VENUE OF THE YEAR
Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, Tenn.
CATEGORY 15 – TOUR VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Jay Cooper – Kenny Chesney
The CMA Touring Awards, previously known as the SRO Awards, were originally created by the CMA Board of Directors in 1990 to honor outstanding professional achievement within the touring industry. The first SRO Awards were presented at a black tie gala, hosted by K.T. Oslin and Roger Miller, during CMA’s Entertainment Expo, which was also known as the Talent Buyers Entertainment Marketplace. Ten SRO Awards were presented at the first gala and the number of awards swelled to 19 before the last were handed out at SRO ’97. In 2011, CMA brought back the Touring Musician of the Year Award. In 2012, SRO Awards in 14 categories were handed out in Nashville during annual IEBA Conference and in 2013, the Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year award was added bringing the total number of SRO Awards categories to 15.