The excitement -- and the nerves -- were building Wednesday night on the red carpet, before the 2018 ACM Honors at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium.
First time host Jon Pardi took a devil-may-care attitude about his gig with Lauren Alaina.
"Me and Lauren are having a good time..." Jon said. "Just, you know, a lot of names you're trying to pronounce right, words that you would never say -- that makes it hard. But, for the most part, I'm gonna mess up, but that's why I'm here: to learn, and [I've] just gotta slow down. My mind reads faster than my mouth moves," he joked.
Aussie Morgan Evans, who has his first #1 in the U.S. this week with "Kiss Somebody," prepared for an emotional tribute to the man responsible for much of his success.
"Tonight I'm honoring a man named Rob Potts," he explained, "who most people here would know...as the guy that took them to Australia for the first time. But for me, he's the guy that discovered me ten years ago... He was my manager all that time."
"And we lost him in a real hurry last year, out of the blue," Morgan went on. "And so, for him to be acknowledged tonight is awesome, and for me to get to be a part of that playing a song that I wrote for him is gonna be pretty special."
Golden State native Cam arrived ready to sing Buck Owens' classic, "Crying Time," as an ode to Eddie Miller and Mickey & Chris Christensen, the founders of the West-Coast-based Academy of Country Music.
"Coming from California," Cam reflected, "I really admire the fact that they built a space for country music outside of the mainstream Nashville for, you know, like a Buck Owens and a Merle Haggard."
"A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" singer/songwriter Ashley McBryde was part of an all-female super group, assembled to help bestow the Poet's Award on legendary songwriter Matraca Berg.
"Okay, so first cool thing I'm doing is I'm standing next to Lauren Alaina," Ashley smiled. "The second cool thing I'm doing is standing next to Deana Carter. The third cool thing we're doing is we're honoring Matraca Berg together tonight."
"We're doing a medley," she continued. "It starts off with 'You and Tequila make me crazy,' a little 'Wrong Side of Memphis' coming from my throat, and then, of course, Miss Deana doing 'Strawberry Wine.'"
In addition to her performance for Matraca, Lauren and Jon also started the show with "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," a tip of the hat to Alan Jackson, who got the Cliffie Stone Icon Award. Pardi also performed Dierks Bentley's "I Hold On," before his former tourmate received the Merle Haggard Spirit Award.
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