Country music singer Mickey Guyton will make history Sunday when she hosts the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban.The 37-year-old singer from Arlington, Texas, will be the first Black woman to host the awards ceremony.And this isn’t Guyton’s first time making history in the country music world. In September 2020, she became the first Black female solo artist to sing her own song at the ACMAs. And in March, she became the first Black solo female artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category. At the ceremony, she performed “Black Like Me,” her song that address the discrimination she has experienced as a Black woman. The song was released just eight days after George Floyd was killed.
The door to country music has long been closed to many Black artists, with just a handful of exceptions. Starting in the 1920s, record labels deliberately marketed what was once called “hillbilly music” as the music of the rural White South, historians say.But the thumbprints of African American culture are stamped on virtually every facet of country music, including its vocal harmonies, instrumentations, and some of its most popular songs.
Black artists helped build country music.The banjo, for example, is a descendant of an instrument that was brought to America by enslaved West Africans. Many of the earliest “hillbilly” songs were adapted from slave spirituals, work songs, and from tunes by Black songwriters. One of Johnny Cash’s mentors was Gus Cannon, a Black blues musician and bandleader who was the son of slaves.Guyton posted about hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards on Instagram, saying, “Still can’t believe this is real.” She will perform her song “Hold On” during the show, which will air at 8pm ET on CBS Sunday.
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