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If you tuned into ABC on the night of ‘The 51st Annual CMA Awards,” then you probably caught glimpses of some of the biggest stars in country music. Nearly everybody was there, from Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire to Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini.


But there was one person who didn’t make it onto television for the show this year, or any year – Grammy winner Sturgill Simpson. That’s because he was busking as a stunt out in front of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, where the awards show takes place every year. He also wasn’t invited to the ceremony, although he’s likely just fine with that.

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“Finally made it guys. Big show. They’re all out of seats. I couldn’t get a ticket, so I thought I’d come out here and play country music since we’re celebrating it in Nashville, Tennessee,” Sturgill, who has been known to criticize the country music establishment, said in a nearly hourlong Facebook Live video.

For his display, which mostly consisted of him taking questions from passersby and fans watching online, Sturgill had two signs propped up against his guitar case.

One sign read, “I don’t take requests, but I take questions about anything you want to talk about … because fascism sucks.” The other read, “Struggling country singer … Anything helps. (All donations go to the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union]). God bless America.”

The first poster seemed to take aim at the recent news surrounding the CMA press regulations, in which reporters were initially asked to avoid asking artists questions at the show about gun control, politics or the recent Las Vegas massacre. The CMA did, however, apologize and lift the regulations a few days prior to the show.

Even though Sturgill wasn’t nominated for a CMA Award this year (or ever), he shouldered the blame for that.

“I think that’s my fault. I think you have to submit to be nominated, and I’m not sure that we ever submitted or if anybody submitted for me,” he said, adding that he hoped Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Miranda Lambert would walk away with awards. “I’m not going to say that I was snubbed, because I don’t know that that’s actually true.”

Despite not having a chance in any CMA Awards category, Sturgill still took a minute to give an impromptu, hypothetical version of an acceptance speech.

“Nobody needs a machine gun, and that’s comin’ from a guy who owns quite a few guns,” he said. “Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road by a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. Hegemony and fascism [are] alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you very much.”

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By the end of Sturgill’s video, more than a dozen people had gathered around him on the street to hear him sing and chat, and to have their picture taken with him. Meanwhile, thousands of fans were also watching him online.

“Well, we made $13 for the ACLU tonight, so it was all worth it,” said, Sturgill, who won Best Country Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards for his album, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

Nashville-based writer and Rare Country contributor Melinda Lorge has always been passionate about country music. Follow her @MelindaLorge and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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