Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde represent the range of current artists influenced by Daniels' music, which spanned from session work for Bob Dylan to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and other songs that toed the line between country music and classic rock.
What began with Bentley's stripped-down solo rendition of "Long Haired Country Boy" led into an all-star version of "Trudy" featuring Brothers Osborne. McBride took center stage for "Texas" before rocker at heart Aldean sang lead on the obligatory nod to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Jenee Fleenor, Nashville's best fiddler and the only woman to win (or be nominated for) CMA's Musician of the Year award, was scheduled to rosin up her bow and fill the opening number's most important role. She was removed from the lineup last-minute after testing positive for COVID-19.
"I'm absolutely honored the CMAs asked me to perform on the Charlie Daniels tribute, and I was so looking forward to putting on some sparkly clothes ... and sawin' my heart out," Fleenor wrote on Instagram. "I reckon it's just another bump in the road of 2020."
Daniels died on July 6 at the age of 83. A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after doctors said he had a stroke.
The Daniels tribute was the first of several CMA Awards nods to artists we've lost. Co-hosts Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker will sing "In the Ghetto" for its writer, the late Mac Davis, while Little Big Town will pay homage to Kenny Rogers.