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Although one honoree, Loretta Lynn, was unable to attend the sold-out taping at the Garden Arena in the MGM Grand complex, because of recent surgery, the Judds, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood all stayed in Las Vegas after the ACM Awards telecast to participate in their big night. The women watched a 'This Is Your Life'-style video and listened as a group of their country-music peers honored them in word and song.
The show kicked off fittingly, with the Judds' hit 'Girl's Night Out.' And throughout the evening, the songs that were chosen proved again and again just why women have had such an impact in country music. From Martina's 'Independence Day,' sung by Little Big Town, to Ronnie Dunn singing 'Stay,' the huge hit for Jennifer and her Sugarland duet partner, Kristian Bush, the performances had the audience on their feet time after time, saluting the women who have popularized these memorable hits through the years.
Blake Shelton had the task of introducing the women who would be honored, managing to inject a bit of his trademark humor into the situation when he came onstage. "Reba, I got my own gig," he said with a nod to his ACM Awards co-host of the previous night. He also buttered up his fiancee a bit, saying, "I have the hardest job tonight. I have to sing one of Miranda's songs ... but I know that as my future wife she will be happy to cut me some slack."
Rascal Flatts may have had the hardest job, as they were the first act to take the stage to sing for their appointed honoree, Reba. After a great job on 'Why Haven't I Heard From You,' the group was joined by Reba on 'The Heart Won't Lie.' She thanked the guys for being part of her portion of the show, adding, "I'm just glad I recorded that song first!"
Although the night honored Jennifer, her singing partner Kristian Bush took part by going to her hometown to tape a few scenes and visit with some of the people who knew the singer before she hit it big with Sugarland. After Ronnie performed 'Stay,' Jennifer joined him to sing 'Let Him Fly.' She also took time to thank the ACM, saying it was wonderful to be in such company. Then she turned to Ronnie and said, "I think we could take this show on the road. It's obvious Kristian has a new gig as a television show host, and I think you know what it's like to ride on a bus with someone else!"
Martina, with whom Little Big Town toured a few years ago, asked the quartet to join her to sing 'When Will I Be Loved,' a hit for Linda Ronstadt whom Martina cited as one of her biggest influences.
John told the crowd he was a huge Judds fan, then sang their hit 'Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain.' He then turned to the duo and said, "Naomi, you said it would be OK if I borrowed Wynonna to sing this song." He and Wy then rocked the house with John's iconic hit, 'Proud Mary,' which brought the audience to their feet.
As promised, Blake delivered his version of Miranda's 'Famous in a Small Town,' introducing it by saying to her, "I've met all the crazy characters in your hometown of Lindale (Texas), and I knew this was the song I had to sing." He stepped to the side when it came time for Miranda to perform, and she introduced a new trio, Pistol Annie, which she has formed with Angeleena Presley and Ashley Monroe. "I put this together as my backup plan," Miranda said before making their debut for a live TV audience.
Vince, who like Carrie is an Oklahoma native, told the superstar that deciding which song of hers to perform was a tough decision. "It was between 'Cowboy Casanova' and this one," he quipped before performing a beautiful rendition of the multi-award-winning 'Jesus, Take the Wheel.' He also put a few men in the audience in their place when they started whistling at Carrie. "Be careful boys, she married a hockey player," he cautioned. Their electrifying performance of 'How Great Thou Art,' was the only time all night that the audience gave a standing ovation before the song was even finished.
In addition to Sara Evans honoring the late Tammy Wynette with 'Stand by Your Man,' the JaneDear girls sang 'Wild Side of Life' in tribute to Kitty Wells. The Band Perry honored Patsy Cline with a rendition of her hit, 'Walkin' After Midnight.' Other performances included Jason Aldean singing 'She's Country.'
For the grand finale, all the honorees took the stage to honor Loretta. "Who doesn't idolize our next honoree?" asked Martina. "If she hadn't done it first, the rest of us wouldn't be here."
Loretta taped a message to the other honorees, thanking them for singing her legendary hit, 'Coal Miner's Daughter.' "I took that song into [producer] Owen Bradley to record and he looked at it and said, 'Loretta there has already been an 'El Paso.' You need to go in and shorten this.' It took me longer to shorten the song than it took me to write it!"
The Academy of Country Music's 'Girls' Night Out: Superstar Women of Country - The Concert of the Year' airs April 22 at 9:00 PM on CBS. Ticket sales from the taping of the special will benefit ACM Lifting Lives program.