NASHVILLE, OCT. 12 -- Former catfish cook Randy Travis won three honors and veteran Hank Williams Jr. was voted entertainer of the year tonight at the 21st annual Country Music Association Awards show.
Travis, 28, worked less than three years ago as a cook in a Nashville nightclub, where he also sang part time. Tonight his awards included male vocalist of the year, album of the year for "Always and Forever," and single of the year for "Forever and Ever, Amen."
"It's a good night for me," Travis said. "It's great to be nominated with people I've been a fan of for years."
The awards ceremony, hosted by Kenny Rogers, was televised nationally from the Grand Ole Opry House.
In accepting the entertainer of the year award, a happy Williams, 38, called himself by his nickname: "This is the one. This is the one ol' Bocephus been looking for, I'll guarantee you," he said.
Williams' album "Born to Boogie" is No. 2 on the country music charts. His albums "Hank Live" and "Montana Cafe" have both been on the charts during the past year.
Twelve years ago, Williams fell 500 feet in the collapse of a snowfield on Ajax Mountain in Montana. The singer underwent nine operations during a year-long recovery.
Reba McEntire, a former rodeo barrel racer, won top female vocalist for an unprecedented fourth straight year. She broke the record set by Tammy Wynette from 1968 to 1970.
"It's absolutely fabulous," she said. "I'm thrilled to death."
The Judds were voted vocal group of the year for the third straight time.
"I'm not going to say our music is the most important thing in our life, but it's right up there with oxygen," said Naomi Judd, the mother of the mother-daughter duo.
Rod Brasfield, a Grand Ole Opry humorist from 1944 until his death in 1958, became the 44th member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Other winners included: Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White, duo of the year; Holly Dunn, Horizon Award for young talent; songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz for song of the year for "Forever and Ever, Amen"; fiddler Johnny Gimble, instrumentalist of the year; Frances Preston, president of Broadcast Music Inc., a special award for contributions to country music; and Williams for best video, "My Name Is Bocephus."
Other finalists for entertainer of the year, the top award, were Travis; McEntire, who won last year; the Judds; and George Strait.
Joining Travis as finalists for male vocalist of the year were Strait, Williams, George Jones and Skaggs.
Other finalists for No. 1 female vocalist were Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea and Dolly Parton.
Winners were chosen by the 7,500 members of the CMA. They include singers, songwriters, musicians and disc jockeys.
It was the year's fourth televised country music awards show.
The others were the Music City News songwriter awards in January, the Academy of Country Music show in April and the Music City News awards program in June.