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"This is hard to wrap my head around," Buddy said as he acknowledged the other musicians nominated with him -- Gurf Morlix, Kenny Vaughan, Sarah Jarosz and Will Kimbrough.
When he received a standing ovation for Artist of the Year, Buddy joked, "This is not right because I know this is a sympathy vote! I got cut on a few years ago but this can't go on forever."
Gregg Allman got the biggest ovation of the evening when Keb' Mo' presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. "When he sings we are given a glimpse of his soul," the blues singer said, adding, "Gregg Allman has held the torch for traditional soul and the blues with his music."
The iconic musician and singer, who took a moment to thank his 94-year old mother, was humble in accepting the honor. "You are too kind. I have always said I can sing to you, but I can't talk to you. So thank you very much."
The presentation was one of five lifetime achievement awards presented throughout the evening. Lucinda Williams walked away with the first one, for her songwriting.
"This is such an honor," the singer/songwriter told the audience. "I was on my bus a few days ago trying to figure out what I would say, and it ended up being a reflection on when I picked up the guitar at 12 years old. It has taken me from flea markets to New York City. I even opening for Ted Nugent, just me and that guitar.
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"One of the most rewarding things for me has been helping new artists struggling to make it," she continued. "I want to honor this award for these artists working hard to make it so it can all come true. I am standing here, living proof that it can."
Alison Krauss presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for instrumentalist to Jerry Douglas, who often plays in her band Union Station. "It is a pleasure to present this award to one of the finest musicians this world has seen," she said upon handing Jerry his trophy. "He revolutionized the resonatic guitar and bluegrass music."
Jerry received a standing ovation as he walked onstage. "My father gave me my start playing in bars when I was 13 or 14. At 16, I climbed aboard my first tour bus and drove away. I would never let my kids do that today! Thank you for this award. It's like a big 'yeah' from people who think like I do and aren't afraid to go out and try new territory."
Candi Staton, a soul gospel singer who was discoverd by Musicle Shoals producer Rick Hall, presented him with the Jack Emerson LIfetime Achievement award for music business executives, saying, "Rick looks for that feeling in the artist and in the song."
Rick, who owned FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala., told the audience that he remembered sitting in the back of the Ryman when he was 16 years old, watching Hank Williams perform. "He sang 'Lovesick Blues,' and they must have brought him back five or six times, and I knew I wanted to be in the music business. And here I am! What a great award. Thank you. After the other people who have received this tonight, I feel pretty small."
FAME was home to many hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including Aretha Franklin's 'I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,' Etta James' 'One Bad Apple' and Wilson Pickett's 'Mustang Sally.'
BBC2 deejay Bob Harris was honored with the final Lifetime Achievement award of the evening as a trailblazer. It was presented by Emmylou Harris, who said, "He has broken many bands into mainstream consciousness over the years. He gave me his stamp of approval in 1974 and '75 when I went over to Europe with the Hot Band. It's good to give a little to someone who has given us so much."
Bob said walking on the Ryman stage to accept an award was a dream come true. "When I came to Nashville for the first time, I felt like I had found my spiritual home," he said. "The music community in Nashville is warm and friendly, and I thank you. The music you send to me is special to me and to everyone in the UK."
The Avett Brothers were named Duo/Group of the Year, with Scott Avett commenting, "Since we were kids, it was always good to hear someone say we were doing well, and that's what this means to us. Thank you."
Song of the Year went to 'Harlam River Blues,' written and performed by Justin Townes Earle. Son of singer/songwriter Steve Earle, Justin said he wrote the song after reading 'The Basketball Diaries' by Jim Carroll.
Last year's New Emerging Artist the Greencards presented this year's award to Mumford and Sons, who were unable to be at the awards due to their tour schedule. Jerry Douglas accepted for them, reading a note he had received from the group saying thank you to Nashville for embracing them and continuing to inspire them.
Robert Plant's 'Band of Joy' took Album of the Year honors. The former Led Zeppelin band leader thanked Nashville for his warm welcome. He also thanked Buddy Miller for producing the album and Patty Griffin for breathing life into the project.
Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss opened the show with a tribute to the ten year anniversary of the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou' soundtrack. Joining them were Buddy Miller, Jerry Douglas and Don Was as their band. A banjo sitting onstage wearing a bolo hat was a worthy remembrance of the late John Hartford.
Other artists who performed were host Jim Lauderdale and Gregg Allman, who was performing for the first time in nine months, after having a liver transplant. Justin Townes Earle, Elizabeth Cook, Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, the Avett Brothers, Hayes Carll and Amos Lee also performed. Many of the singers joined together for the final number, a rendition of 'Glory Halleleigh,' which was on Gregg's last CD.
The Americana Awards show will be edited and aired on PBS television in November. Check local listings for air times in your area.