The big Kentucky moments at Wednesday’s CMA Awards spilled onto the street outside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena as Sturgill Simpson popped open his guitar case and did some busking.
“Finally made it, guys — big show,” Simpson says, strumming his guitar on a Facebook Live video of the appearance on his page. “They were all out of tickets, I couldn’t get a seat, so I thought I’d come down here and play some country music, because we’re celebrating it this evening in Nashville, Tennessee.”
(Note: Simpson is pretty free with the language in the video below.)
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Simpson, who was born in Jackson and raised in Versailles, has a notoriously bad relationship with the country music establishment, even though he won best country album at this year’s Grammy Awards for a “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” and the album topped the country charts. Possibly his best known dust up was when he criticized the Academy of Country Music for naming an award after Merle Haggard and celebrating him after his death, while Simpson says the country icon was shunned by the country music establishment in his later years.
Writing on Facebook, he said, “If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bull---- they've been pumping down rural America's throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bull---- and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.”
On Wednesday night’s video he says, “I haven’t been recognized once,” by fans heading to the arena. “It’s been pretty cool.” Eventually fans did gather around Simpson, and the video has more than 323,000 views, as of late Thursday morning.
On the video, Simpson says he doesn’t know many of the honorees inside the awards and adds that he is hoping Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert and fellow Kentuckian Chris Stapleton win.
Two signs sat outside his guitar case, one reading “I don’t take requests but I take questions about anything you want to talk about because fascism sucks” and the other saying, “Struggling’ country singer … anything helps. (All donations go to the ACLU) God Bless America.”
The Country Music Association generated some negative press before the ceremony by telling media outlets to avoid questions about October’s mass shooting at a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas, gun rights or politics at the ceremony. The move was even criticized by awards co-host Brad Paisley, and the restrictions were later lifted.