From Garth Brooks' special first-time performance with George Strait to Blake Shelton's co-hosting stint with Luke Bryan, several Oklahomans will be involved in the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
That's just the way R.A. Clark, the show's executive producer, likes it.
“Not to discount any of the other states, but a lot of great country performers come out of Oklahoma: Reba, Toby, Vince, Garth, Blake, I'm sure I'm missing a few. But I mean, there seems to be a hotbed of creativity of folks that ... touch the experience of America. That, to me, comes out of those folks that come from Oklahoma,” Clark said in a teleconference earlier this week.
“RAC, they're texting right now from Texas,” Academy of Country Music CEO Bob Romeo deadpanned.
“Yeah, RAC, George Strait's on Line 2,” cracked Jack Sussman, executive vice president of CBS specials and live programming.
“I just think it's an interesting coincidence that there seems to be a lot of folks who come out of Oklahoma who rise to the forefront in country music,” Clark added, laughing.
The 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards will air live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Shelton, his wife Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Thompson Square, Toby Keith, Vince Gill and Rascal Flatts are among the superstars with Oklahoma ties who have been nominated for ACM Awards.
In addition, Shelton, Lambert, Underwood and Brooks have been confirmed as performers for the show, and Lambert and Reba McEntire, the show's former longtime host, have been announced as presenters.
An Ada native, Shelton will co-host for the third year, with Luke Bryan joining for his first live TV co-hosting gig.
“These two guys genuinely like other, they have a great time together, and on occasion, they might forget they're on live television,” Sussman said.
The gregarious co-hosts are unlikely to forget that Shelton and his wife of two years are making history: Romeo said as far as he knows, the Tishomingo residents are the first husband and wife in ACM history to compete for the top prize, entertainer of the year. Bryan, Jason Aldean and reigning ACM entertainer of the year Taylor Swift will compete with Shelton and Lambert for the entertainer award.
To add even more intrigue, Shelton and Lambert share a song of the year nomination for co-writing her heartbreaking ballad “Over You.”
“They truly support each other and just have such great satisfaction in each other's success. They're two of the biggest talents in this format or any format today, and the fact that they're married is just amazing coincidence,” Sussman said.
“I would be willing to bet that Blake or Luke will have something to say.”
A Texas native, Lambert also will compete as a recording artist for single and song of the year for “Over You” and will defend her title as female vocalist of the year. Along with their shared song of the year nod and his entertainer of the year nomination, Shelton garnered his third consecutive nomination for male vocalist of the year.
Checotah native Carrie Underwood snagged two ACM Awards nominations: for female vocalist of the year and album of the year for her 2012 release “Blown Away.”
Reigning ACM vocal duo of the year Thompson Square, comprised of Miami, OK, native Keifer Thompson and his wife Shawna, will defend the title at the 2013 awards.
Norman resident Toby Keith is nominated for male vocalist of the year, while Norman native Vince Gill shares a nomination in the vocal event of the year category with original “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson for their collaboration “Don't Rush,” which she will perform on the show.
Rascal Flatts, which includes Picher-bred guitarist Joe Don Rooney, also received a nomination in the vocal event category for “Easy,” the band's heartrending ballad with British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield.
Shelton and Lambert won't be the only Oklahoma-Texas connection during the ACM Awards: Brooks and Texas troubadour George Strait will team up for the first time to play a special tribute to Clark's late father, Dick Clark.
“When you talk about Garth, when you talk about Luke, you talk about Blake, you talk about Taylor, the fans find them to be real. They can relate to them,” Romeo said. “I think when people can relate to you — that artist — and their music, I think that's what makes an artist go to that superstar level.”