Tuesday 9 November 2010, 17:40
Editor's note: BBC Radio production staff cover many music awards ceremonies every year. Sometimes they get to visit the lectern themselves - SB.
The Country Music Association (CMA) awards have given me many of my most treasured work memories... being transported by golf cart to interview country legend George Jones on his tour bus... bumping into Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks at the same time backstage... driving through Nashville in Raul Malo's vintage Cadillac. But last year was extra special for me when I was unexpectedly presented with the Wesley Rose International Media Achievement award "For Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement and Promotion of Country Music Internationally." My very own CMA award! And in that moment all those years of ridicule for loving Tammy Wynette and Line Dancing were suddenly worth it!
What's easy to forget is, although Country music is perceived as a specialist genre over here, in the USA it is massive and country stars are huge celebrities, filling the tabloids, the reality TV shows and selling out 60,000 seater stadiums. And the buzz, hype and glamour around the CMA awards night reflects this. This is a night of big hair, bit hats, big dresses and big money, and Nashville embraces it with a passion.
Last year, for the first time, Dale Winton hosted Radio 2's CMA highlights show. I've been working on Radio 2's coverage of the awards for the last ten years, and producing the shows for the last five with several different presenters including Nick Barraclough, Bob Harris and Paul Sexton. Dale's approach was 100% enthusiasm for the music. Mainstream country pop is one of his many musical passions, and the fact that he spends so much time in America means he knows exactly what's going on in the country world. His excitement at being in Nashville for the first time was pretty infectious and I found myself looking at the whole experience with fresh eyes.
Our priority on CMA awards night is always to interview as many winners and performers as possible and it helps that, as a production team, we are so flexible and self-contained - i.e. there's just the two of us! For our whole time out there the team is literally me, Dale and a portable recorder. For the awards we're based in a tiny booth backstage alongside press and media from all around the world, and last year Dale was on top form - talking to Brad Paisley about Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear, chatting to country legend Barbara Mandrell about her cats and showing off an encyclopaedic knowledge of the country charts. All this plus some one on one interview time with two of his (and my) favourite women of all time - Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, and a chance to try on some Rhinestone studded jackets made by the famous Nashville tailor Manuel. Why take Dale Winton if you can't make the most of country music's camp possibilities!
When the Awards show wraps at 10pm, that's when my work really starts and for the next 24 hours I'm imprisoned in my make-shift editing suite in my hotel room....editing, mixing, structuring the show and writing Dale's script (which he then adapts and personalises in his own inimitable style). On Friday afternoon we decamp to Audio Productions Studios on Nashville's Music row where we put the final touches to the show, call up London and at 4pm Nashville time we get ready to roll.
You can hear the results on Dale's Best of the CMAs which goes out on Radio 2 at 2200 on Friday 12th November.
Al Booth is producer of Radio 2's CMA coverage