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Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker take over as CMA Awards hosts

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country stars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker are promising laughs and good music when they co-host this year’s CMA Awards in November.

McEntire, a Country Music Hall of Famer and veteran host of country music awards shows, returns after hosting last year with Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton. It will mark her fifth year as a host. Rucker, who crossed over from the rock world about 15 years ago and is a Grand Ole Opry member, will be a first-time host of the CMAs when the show airs on Nov. 11 on ABC from Nashville, Tennessee.

“We both love to giggle and laugh and cut up. Whatever they give us to say, I have a feeling that we’re going to be adding a little bit of our own kind of sense of humor,” said McEntire, during an interview with Rucker with The Associated Press.

“One of the cool things about getting to do this with Reba is we can both be the straight man, or we can be the person who delivers the joke,” said Rucker.

One of the first people that Rucker said he was planning on telling about his new co-hosting gig was country icon Charley Pride. Pride was the first Black country artist to co-host the awards show, in 1975 with Glen Campbell. Pride had won the CMA’s top prize, entertainer of the year, in 1971 and paved the way for artists like Rucker decades later.

“When I started in this business, I was at my very first CMAs when I won the best new artist,” said Rucker, of his 2009 win. “I said to my manager, ‘I want to host this someday.’ I was joking. And to be here 14 years later hosting with Reba freaking McEntire? Wow!”

While COVID-19 restrictions would make the show’s production different this year, the pair said they were aiming to deliver an uplifting night of music and entertainment.

“We’re trying to keep it upbeat and light. We as a country, we as a nation, we as a world, we need entertainment,” said McEntire. “I think people sitting at home in front of their TV screens or their computers, I think they want to see what we can deliver.”

The show will be airing from a new venue, the Music City Center, a convention center just across the street from the show’s regular home at the Bridgestone Arena. Rucker said they will be addressing the pandemic and the struggles that many people have experienced this year, but he said the focus will be on the music.

“They want to hear music. They want to see stars. They want to see collaborations they haven’t seen before,” said Rucker.

Although the pandemic may change some behind-the-scenes production, McEntire promised she would keep up her awards show tradition of multiple outfit changes throughout the broadcast.

“Darius and I talked about that,” said McEntire. “He told me he’s gonna change clothes about six or seven times, so I am going to have to go eight at least.”

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