Every year, artists gear up for another round of music awards shows, from the CMAs to the Grammys, where America’s top talents shine.
However, these spectacular events often harbor unexpected and dramatic moments. For instance, in 1975, one of the most notorious CMA incidents unfolded when Charlie Rich, upon seeing John Denver’s name as the winner, set the victory card ablaze with a lighter.
Jumping Ahead 21 Years To The 1996 American Music Awards, A Different Kind Of Shocker Occurred, Courtesy Of Garth Brooks.
Having already secured two well-deserved awards for Favorite Country Male Artist and Favorite Country Album for The Hits, Brooks took everyone by surprise when he declined this award.
The coveted 1996 Artist of the Year title was awarded to Brooks, triggering wild excitement in the audience. However, when Brooks took the stage, his acceptance speech took an unexpected turn:
“Thank you very much. So you’ll know right off the bat… um, I cannot agree with this.”
He went on to express his belief that other artists were more deserving and left the award on the podium before exiting the stage.
Backstage, Brooks elaborated on his decision: “It wasn’t fair for me to walk away with that award. Maybe a year or two ago when we had a really good year.”
He credited Hootie & the Blowfish for keeping retailers alive in 1995 and believed they should have won.
This move left the other nominees astonished. Boyz II Men’s manager praised it as “courageous,” and even Dick Clark, the creator of the AMAs, sent Brooks a personal note, promising to archive his statue.
In an interview with Hootie & the Blowfish, frontman Darius Rucker reflected on the impact of Brooks’ speech. He acknowledged the band’s decision to skip the ceremony but wondered if it affected their chances. Rucker said, “That was an amazing moment for us that someone that big and legendary would see what we were doing as that cool and wouldn’t accept that award because he thought we deserved it. That was one of the biggest moments in our career.”
In the same year, the Los Angeles Times exposed the outdated AMA voting process, which relied on sales, radio play, and a vote from 20,000 music fans. By 2015, the AMAs revamped their voting system, allowing anyone with a Facebook account to participate. Fans could also tweet their votes during a one-month window leading up to the event.
Garth Brooks’ bold move at the 1996 AMAs, coupled with the subsequent changes in the voting process, has cemented his legacy in the country music world. This iconic act will forever be remembered as one of the most unforgettable moments in AMA history. Watch his 1996 speech below.