Chris Stapleton may not be known to a ton of mainstream country music fans, but that’s about to change after Wednesday’s Country Music Association Awards.

The Kentucky bluegrass musician, who released his solo debut album “Traveller” earlier this year to rave reviews, basically walked away with the show. He won three trophies (male artist, new artist and album of the year) and collaborated with pop mega-star Justin Timberlake for a wildly entertaining duet of his “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away.” By the end of the night, Stapleton’s album was No. 1 on iTunes.

[Chris Stapleton stuns with CMAs sweep — here are three moments that explain why it happened]

“This is an unbelievable thing for me,” Stapleton, 37, said on stage beneath his giant cowboy hat, nearly in tears as he picked up his third award. “And I’m not going to take it lightly.”

Meanwhile, Little Big Town was the other big winner of the night, as the quartet took home vocal group of the year and song and single of the year for their smash “Girl Crush.” As vocalist Karen Fairchild noted on stage, the actual controversial aspect is that it’s “a 6-8 ballad about jealousy and heartache” that succeeded on country radio.

The unstoppable Florida Georgia Line won vocal duo of the year while Miranda Lambert kept her female vocalist streak alive, winning for the sixth year in a row. Superstar Luke Bryan picked up the biggest prize for entertainer of the year with a gracious speech that gave a shout-out to Stapleton, who co-wrote one of his recent hit songs, “Drink a Beer.”

[Blake Shelton tries to ‘win’ his break-up at the CMAs. Was that really necessary?]

Here are the best and worst moments from the three-hour show; a full list of winners and nominees is below.


* That Chris Stapleton/Justin Timberlake collaboration.

Sure, Justin Timberlake — you can go country. Just promise to make every performance like this one.

* Kacey Musgraves and “Dime Store Cowgirl.” 

Another critically-acclaimed artist ignored by country radio with an impressive performance of her latest single. There were unicorns and lots of glitter involved.

* Miranda Lambert and “Bathroom Sink.”

Despite the fact that her ex-husband Blake Shelton publicly confirmed to the world mere hours earlier that he was dating Gwen Stefani, Lambert held her own with the performance of her latest tune. Unfortunately, her pink hair earned lots of comparisons to Shelton’s new girlfriend.

* Sam Hunt’s lack of performance nerves.

For one music’s fastest-rising stars, Hunt has appeared pretty nervous during his past TV performances. But he was much stronger this time with “Take Your Time,” even after co-host Brad Paisley zinged him for his talk-and-sing style of music.

Sam Hunt at the CMAs. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

[This is Radio Disney Country’s secret weapon for launching a new country station]

* Some of those “Star Wars” jokes.

Yes, we know Disney owns both ABC and Lucasfilm, which is why there was an extended “Star Wars” gag at the beginning of the show…but some of the names were pretty clever. Come on, Luke Stagefaller? That’s not bad. Luke Bryan falls a lot.

Luke Bryan accepts the award for Entertainer of the Year. (Harrison McClary/Reuters)

* Brad Paisley’s line introducing presenter Steve Martin.

“The father of my bride, Steve Martin.” Because Paisley’s wife is Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who played Martin’s daughter in “Father of the Bride.” (Okay, maybe it’s not funny if you have to explain it.)


* Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert awkwardness.

You knew something weird would happen with the very recent exes (and former country music power couple), but who knew Shelton would bring it on himself? About 20 minutes before the show started, his publicist released a statement to saying that Shelton is now dating his “Voice” co-star Gwen Stefani. Okay then. Later, Lambert looked a bit forlorn as she accepted her trophy for female vocalist of the year. “I needed a bright spot this year, so thank you,” she told the audience.

Miranda Lambert performs “Bathroom Sink.” (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

* Most of the Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood monologue.

While this pair is usually pretty flawless hosting the show, their eighth year of opening monologue/song parodies fell a bit flat. After a lot of build-up, they took it pretty easy on Shelton and Lambert: Noting that there were some high-profile break-ups this year, Paisley said “On a completely unrelated topic: Howdy, Blake!” and made a joke about him singing a duet with Ashley Madison.

Speaking of which, Paisley and Underwood sang a parody of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” called “My Cheatin’ Site” about the hacked infidelity web site, with a shout-out to Josh Duggar at the end. That was as controversial as they got, save for a comment about Bruce Jenner being a “babe” now. Oh, and they got political a couple times, calling out Trump for sliding in the polls and poking fun at Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal.

* Thomas Rhett and Fall Out Boy.

“Crash and Burn” and “Uma Thurman” is already an odd mix. Throw in the fact that it was after Stapleton and Timberlake’s standing ovation … this collaboration was doomed to disappoint.

Thomas Rhett performs with Fall Out Boy. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

* William Shatner cameo.

Why was William Shatner as a stormtrooper besides a promotional tie-in for the new “Star Wars” movie? We’ll never know. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t funny.

Entertainer of the Year

Garth Brooks
Luke Bryan — winner
Kenny Chesney
Eric Church
Miranda Lambert

Male Vocalist of the Year
Dierks Bentley
Luke Bryan
Eric Church
Blake Shelton
Chris Stapleton — winner

Female Vocalist of the Year
Kelsea Ballerini
Miranda Lambert — winner
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood
Lee Ann Womack

Album of the Year
Jason Aldean, “Old Boots, New Dirt”
Kacey Musgraves, “Pageant Material”
Little Big Town, “Pain Killer”
Kenny Chesney, “The Big Revival”
Chris Stapleton, “Traveller” — winner

New Artist of the Year
Kelsea Ballerini
Sam Hunt
Maddie & Tae
Thomas Rhett
Chris Stapleton — winner

Single of the Year
“American Kids” Kenny Chesney
“Girl Crush” Little Big Town — winner
“I Don’t Dance” Lee Brice
“Take Your Time” Sam Hunt
“Talladega” Eric Church

Song of the Year
“American Kids” Kenny Chesney
“Girl Crush” Little Big Town — winner
“Like a Cowboy” Randy Houser
“Like a Wrecking Ball” Eric Church
“Take Your Time” Sam Hunt

Vocal Group of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Little Big Town — winner
Rascal Flatts
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band

Vocal Duo of the Year
Brothers Osborne
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line — winner
Maddie & Tae
Thompson Square

Musical Event of the Year
“Django and Jimmie” Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
“Lonely Tonight” Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe
“Raise ‘Em Up” Keith Urban featuring Eric Church
“Smokin’ and Drinkin’” Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town
“Wild Child” Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter

Music Video of the Year
“Biscuits,” Kacey Musgraves
“Girl Crush” Little Big Town
“Girl in a Country Song” Maddie & Tae — winner
“Little Red Wagon” Miranda Lambert
“Something in the Water” Carrie Underwood