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12 Artists Have Graduated From Newcomer Honors to Entertainer of the Year at the ACM Awards: Find Out Who

Written by on August 20, 2020

Two artists have made the jump from newcomer to entertainer of the year in just two years.

When Keith Urban, host of the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards, informed Tenille Townes and Riley Green that they are this year’s ACM winners for best new female and male artist of the year, respectively, he literally made their dreams come true. But Townes and Green may have even bigger dreams—like one day winning the ACM’s top prize, entertainer of the year.
12 artists have won a newcomer award at the ACM Awards and later taken entertainer of the year. They’re arranged here in order of how fast the artists progressed from a new artist award to the top prize.
Unlike the rival Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music generally presents separate awards for male and female newcomers. (For all but five years from 1989 to 2018, they presented a third award–best new group or duo—as well.)
The years shown are the years the awards were presented.

Keith Urban: 18 years. Urban won top new male vocalist in 2001 and took entertainer of the year in 2019. That’s the longest anyone has had to wait to step up from newbie of the year to the top prize, but Urban is smart enough to know it’s not how fast you run the race, it’s how long you stay in the game.
Jason Aldean: 10 years. Aldean won top new male vocalist in 2006 and entertainer of the year for the first time in 2016. He repeated in the latter category in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, he won the Dick Clark artist of the decade award.
Barbara Mandrell: nine years. Mandrell won most promising female vocalist in 1972 and entertainer of the year in 1981, during the two-year run of the NBC variety show, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters.

Kenny Chesney: seven years. Chesney won top new male vocalist in 1998 and entertainer of the year for the first time in 2005. Chesney repeated in the latter category the next three years.
Merle Haggard: five years. Hag won most promising male vocalist in 1966 and entertainer of the year in 1971.
Brooks & Dunn: four years. Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn won top new vocal duet or group in 1992 and entertainer of the year for the first time in 1996. Brooks & Dunn repeated in the latter category in 1997 and 2002.

Shania Twain: three years. Twain won top new female vocalist in 1996 and entertainer of the year in 1999.
Carrie Underwood: three years: Underwood won top new female vocalist in 2006 and entertainer of the year for the first time in 2009. She repeated in the latter category the following year.
Taylor Swift: three years. Swift won top new female vocalist in 2008 and entertainer of the year for the first time in 2011. She repeated as entertainer the following year.

Luke Bryan: three years. Bryan won top new solo vocalist of the year in 2010 and won entertainer of the year for the first time in 2013. He repeated in the latter category in 2015.
Mickey Gilley: two years. Gilley won most promising male vocalist in 1975 and entertainer of the year in 1977.
The Chicks: two years. The trio, as Dixie Chicks, won top new vocal duet or group in 1999 and entertainer of the year in 2001.

You’re probably wondering “Where’s Garth Brooks?”
Brooks, who has been named ACM’s entertainer of the year a record six times, was nominated for top new male vocalist in 1990, but lost to Clint Black. Brooks won the artist of the decade award for the 1990s.
Two other future entertainer of the year winners also missed out on the new artist award. George Strait, a two-time entertainer of the year winner, lost top new male vocalist in 1983 to Michael Murphey. Reba McEntire, won took entertainer of the year in 1995, lost top new female vocalist in 1981 to Terri Gibbs.

Those were the only ACM nominations Murphey and Gibbs have received to date. Murphey, who had a 1975 pop smash, “Wildfire,” later had a string of country hits as Michael Martin Murphey. Gibbs is best known for her 1981 crossover hit “Somebody’s Knockin’.”
Strait won the artist of the decade award for the ’00s.
Brooks, Strait and McEntire will get no sympathy from Mac Davis, Dolly Parton and Toby Keith, future entertainer of the year winners all, who weren’t even nominated for newcomer awards.

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