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ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS WINNING COUPLE RIDING HIGH MCGRAW, HILL EACH GET TIPS OF THE HAT.

Byline: Fred Shuster Staff Writer

Husband and wife country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill won top male vocalist and top female vocalist at Wednesday night's 35th annual at the Universal Amphitheatre.

``I'm having the time of my life and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love doing,'' Hill said, adding that she thanked God for her two children.

Sassy country diva Shania Twain won the statuette for entertainer of the year. Twain, however, did not attend because she was in Switzerland, where she lives with her husband.

The country music awards are decided by 3,200 members of the country music industry. The three-hour show was televised by CBS-TV.

The academy statuette, presented in 12 categories, is a silver-plated cowboy hat.

The Texas-based Dixie Chicks won group and top album prizes for ``Fly.''

Youthful country singer Brad Paisley took the honor for top new male vocalist.

Backstage, Paisley said he was carrying the torch for traditional country music.

``I'm not opposed to pop-country, but as long as we can remember where we're from, that's the key,'' he said.

The top new female vocalist award went to teen Jessica Andrews, who will open for Trisha Yearwood on Sunday at the Greek Theatre.

``I just want to keep creating new music, that's what it's all about,'' Andrews told reporters. ``This probably won't sink in for a couple of weeks.''

Lonestar's ``Amazed,'' the biggest wedding hit of the summer, was the winner as best song and single Wednesday.

In 1995, Lonestar won for top new group.

``We were fortunate to have a song like 'Amazed' come along,'' said Lonestar's Dean Sams. ``It's great to win awards, but when we hear that our song gives people strength, that's what is important to us.''

The late country innovator Tammy Wynette was named the first female posthumous recipient of the academy's special pioneer award.

Lively Dolly Parton hosted the event.

Another husband and wife team, Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black, won the prize for top vocal event of the year for their song ``When I Said I Do.''

Backstage, Clint Black said he had been telling his wife for months that they would not win Wednesday, but said, ``You should have seen her face when they called our name.''

The rambunctious Montgomery Gentry won for top new vocal duo or group.

``We didn't plan on this,'' said the duo's Troy Gentry. ``We came out here to visit our friends and play a little bit.''

The show's performances had a traditionalist flair that included songs by George Jones, Asleep at the Wheel and a banjo-picking bluegrass tune by Parton.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo: (1 -- color) Winners Faith Hill, left, and husband Tim McGraw sing a duet Wednesday at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

(2 -- 3) Members of the Dixie Chicks, above, accept one of their two Academy of Country Music Awards, for best group and best album. At left, Wynonna and Naomi Judd offer a musical tribute to the late Tammy Wynette, whose image provides a backdrop to their performance Wednesday at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

Box: The winners
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 4, 2000
Words:526
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