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Tim McGraw canceled his planned performance, abandoning rehearsals on Saturday after what his publicist calls a “major disagreement” with the show’s producers. Blake Shelton filled his spot on the show, playing an acoustic version of his hit “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” Brad Paisley also pulled out of the broadcast, but a more cheerful reason: The impending birth of his second child with wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley. He joined the program via satellite from Nashville.
Toby Keith used the backstage press conference as an opportunity to vent his anger at a Nashville newspaper reporter for printing a news item about an unflattering, and now disputed, anecdote in Rolling Stone magazine. In a story about Kris Kristofferson, author Ethan Hawke recounts seeing the onetime Army captain publicly upbraid Toby for impugning his patriotism in 2003. Toby and Kris both deny the incident took place.
Toby spent about seven minutes during the press conference tearing into Tennessean reporter Peter Cooper, who was on hand to cover the awards show. His profanity-laden tirade ended only when his publicist pulled him offstage.