George Strait, the laid-back Texas crooner who got his first success singing at Army service clubs, repeated as the County Music Associa-tion's Entertainer of the Year.
"I'm truly speechless. I really don't have a speech," said Strait, who beat out Clint Black, Ricky Van Shelton, Kathy Mattea and Randy Travis Monday night for the top award in country music.Strait gave special thanks to his band "that are out there on the road with me every day. It's so much fun to play with them. They are so solid."
Strait's victory, in what most observers believe was the stiffest competition in recent years, was not surprising since the Country Music Association has shown a tendency for repeat winners in the '80s with Barbara Mandrell, Alabama and Hank Williams Jr. all multiple winners.
There were two double winners, Garth Brooks and the rollicking country group The Kentucky Head-hunters.
The Headhunters, the country-rockers who have given a new meaning to reinterpretation of some country standards such as Don Gibson's "Oh, Lonesome Me," was named Vocal Group of the Year.
Lead singer Ricky Lee Phelps in his acceptance told his mother that he wore a buttoned up shirt. He also thanked the people who bought tickets and records for the past year. The group was virtually unknown a year ago, and country radio has only recently given them total acceptance.
The Heads, as their fans now affectionately call them, also won the Album of the Year award for "Pickin' on Nashville."
The Headhunters, who have been around the music scene for more than 20 years, were given a contract by Harold Shedd, formerly the producer for Alabama. Shedd once told the band members that he was taking a chance on them but the public ought to have a chance to hear them. Shedd, Nashville's Polygram Rec-ords top executive, told the group they both may be out on the street selling hamburgers.
Brooks, who led with five nominations, won the Video of the Year award for "The Dance."
Brooks, an Oklahoma native who is living out the dream of his mother Colleen Carrooll, a country singer in the 1950s, also picked up the prestigious Horizon award.
Vince Gill won the Single of the Year award, which is given for the best performance of a single recording.
Country Music Association award winners
Entertainer of the Year: George Strait.
Male Vocalist of the Year: Clint Black.
Female Vocalist of the Year: Kathy Mattea.
Single of the Year: "When I Call Your Name" by Vince Gill.
Album of the Year: "Pickin' on Nashville" by the Kentucky Headhunters.
Vocal Duo of the Year: The Judds.
Vocal Group of the Year: The Kentucky Headhunters.
Vocal Event of the Year (performers who do not normally sing together): Lorrie Morgan and her late husband, Keith Whitley.
Song of the Year (songwriter's award): "Where've You Been" by Jon Vezner and Don Henry.
Horizon Award (career development): Garth Brooks.
Music Video of the Year: "The Dance" by Garth Brooks.
Musician of the Year: Johnny Gimble.