Country music's biggest night: What is the Country Music Association?

NASHVILLE -- Country music stars will soon descend on Nashville for the CMA Awards -- known as country music's biggest night.

Nashville is known as Music City USA for a reason -- it's mecca to those looking for their big break.

A statue of Bill Monroe, known as the Father of Bluegrass Music, stands outside what's been called The Mother Church of Country Music. The Ryman Auditorium is entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon met the CEO of The Country Music Association (CMA), Sarah Trahern.

"CMA was created in 1958 in a hotel room in Miami when Elvis Presley was taking over the radio, and country radio stations were turning from country to rock & roll," she explained.

In fact, a recent PBS documentary called "Country Music" by Ken Burns, shows how this format survived that challenge and others through the years with the help of the CMA and its awards show, which was first telecast back in 1968.

Dan Rogers, the General Manager of The Grand Ole Opry, took Kenyon on stage at The Ryman to show where, "folks like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn would've been sitting out there in the pews, hoping that their names would be called."

He is one of 7,500 eligible voters who get to determine the winners on Wednesday night. Singer Gretchen Wilson is another.

"I vote on songs based on how they make me feel," Wilson said backstage at Bridgestone Arena after a rehearsal. "Because if a song moves you, then it means something."

Behind the glitz and glamour of country music's biggest night stand industry professionals who make their living in this format. Some, like Wilson and Sara Evans, are stars.

"I just kinda go with my gut and, you know, may the best song win," Evans said.

Others work behind-the-scenes, like Rogers. But here, everyone is a fan.

Coverage on Wednesday evening starts with a live streaming event at ontheredcarpet.com at 6:30P EST followed by a half hour pre-show hosted by Kenyon and KABC-TV's George Pennacchio.

The 2019 CMA Awards will air Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT | 7 p.m. CT on ABC.
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