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Luke Bryan scooped the coveted Entertainer of the Year award at the 2021 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards on Sunday (18.04.21).
The 44-year-old singer wasn't able to attend the ceremony in Nashville or give his performance as planned after revealing last week he had contracted coronavirus but was still thrilled to have been recognised with the prestigious accolade for the third time.
The 'American Idol' judge said in a video message: "I'm in L.A., oh my God. Y'all got me. I'm amazingly surprised. What an honour. To the ACM, I'm so sorry I could not be there. I missed certainly being able to do my song. And all the winners tonight, congratulations. Oh my God. Y'all got me!"
After praising hosts Mickey Guyton and Keith Urban and thanking his wife Caroline and their two sons, Luke – who was shortlisted for the award alongside Eric Church, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Chris Stapleton – sent a message to his fans.
He said: "And to all my fans out there and country radio. We've missed touring, we've missed being on the road with everybody that makes me an entertainer. What a challenging year, but to all the fans and everybody, we'll be back out on the road doing what we love.
"What an amazing honour. I love you guys."
Elsewhere at the ceremony, Maren Morris picked up two awards including Song of the Year for 'The Bones' and Female Artist of the Year for the second year in a row.
Accepting the Female Artist prize, Maren paid tribute to her fellow nominees Ashley McBryde, Carly Pearce, Kelsea Ballerini and Miranda Lambert in her speech.
She said: "Thank you so much. Me and the ladies were just laughing our butts off during the commercial break, so I feel just really, really happy to be in a category with women who were not able to tour this year but brought so much heat to the game, to country music this year.
"You've inspired me so much, to no end. Even in a year where no one has gotten to play shows, I have heard some of the best music out of all of you this past year. So thank you so much for inspiring me.
"This category is not about who can sing their ass off or entertains the best, even.
"I kind of considered this category to be who tried their best in a year where it was very weird and no one could really do what they were made to do, but I really appreciate all of my peers for voting for me, it means so much … I love you country music, thank y'all."
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice also scooped two prizes, with their collaboration 'I Hope You're Happy Now' named Single of the Year and Music Event of the Year.
Carly fought back tears as she accepted Single of the Year with Lee.
She said: "I'm going to try really hard not to cry. I love country music more than anything in the whole world. I want to thank my cowriters — Luke Combs, Jonathan Singleton and Randy Montana — we wrote this song about my story, and I guess it resonated with everybody."
Thomas Rhett beat off competition from his "heroes", Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Luke Combs and Chris Stapleton, to be named Male Artist of the Year.
He gushed: "It just feels incredible to be in this category, to be honest with you. It's literally my heroes, sitting right here in these seats. So thank you Lord, we love you."
Chris Stapleton had tied with Maren for the evening's most nominations but went home with just one award, the prestigious Album of the Year for 'Starting Over'.
Thanking his wife Morgane and his collaborators on the record, he said: "We worked really hard to make music. And we think a lot about it. It means a lot. It really does."
2021 ACM Awards full list of winners:
Entertainer of the Year:
Female Artist of the Year:
Male Artist of the Year:
Duo of the Year:
Dan + Shay
Group of the Year:
New Female Artist of the Year:
New Male Artist of the Year:
Album of the Year:
‘Starting Over’ – Chris Stapleton
Single of the Year:
‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice
Song of the Year:
‘The Bones’ – Maren Morris
Video of the Year:
Worldwide Beautiful’ – Kane Brown
Music Event of the Year:
‘I Hope You're Happy Now’ – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice