The Academy of Country Music® (ACM) announced yesterday the inception of the ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award. Approved by the ACM Special Awards Panel and voted on by the ACM Board, this new award will honor uncompromising artists in the spirit of Merle Haggard, while acknowledging a man who has figured prominently in ACM history. The Academy will bestow the inaugural ACM Merle Haggard Spirit Award at the 10th Annual ACM Honors™ to a recipient still to be announced. Hosted by multi-ACM Award-winning group Lady Antebellum, the 10th ACM Honors will tape on Tuesday, August 30 at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, and make its television debut on Friday, September 9 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
One of the leading voices of “California Country” and the Bakersfield Sound, Merle Haggard was an early supporter of the Los Angeles-based ACM and its first Entertainer of the Year in 1970. That honor also made him the Academy’s first Triple Crown recipient, having been awarded Male Vocalist of the Year in 1966 and Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1965. Overall, he is a 20-time ACM honoree and was bestowed with the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and the Poet’s Award.
“Merle passed shortly after our 2016 awards show and after this year’s Special Awards were announced,” says ACM Board President Ken Tucker. “That said, there was simply no way the Academy could hold what may be its most heartfelt event – ACM Honors – without creating a lasting way to acknowledge his legacy. Celebrating and encouraging artists whose work echoes Merle Haggard’s indomitable spirit is beyond fitting. On behalf of the board, and with the blessing of his family, we are thrilled to create this important honor.”