ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES: KENNY CHESNEY & TOBY KEITH

Kenny Chesney

He's a "Big Star" with "The Good Stuff." And though he's been making hits for nearly a decade, it was in the past year that Kenny Chesney finally came into his own as a headliner. His No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems CD has gone double platinum and his current Margaritas 'n' Senoritas tour is packing houses everywhere.

When he's not doing the entertaining onstage, Kenny entertains himself by heading for the beach. In fact, he had just been sailing on the Atlantic Ocean when he found out about his Entertainer of the Year nomination.

"You're out in the middle of all this blue water, not a cloud in the sky and nothing for miles, and you're sure it can't get any better than this," Kenny says, setting the scene. "You're just so sure -- then you realize what today is, and you get worried, because even though you know it's not about nominations, you really hope that people are going to recognize what you're doing." When he got back to shore, Kenny found out about his nominations and was understandably thrilled.

He needn't have worried -- his success can't be ignored.

Toby Keith

The man they call the "big dog" left most of the competition on the porch this year, leading the ACM pack with eight nominations, including Entertainer of the Year.

And why not? After all, Toby's latest album, Unleashed, debuted at No. 1 and has sold two million copies, and his concerts have thrilled fans across America. But there's a lot more to Toby's popularity than facts and figures. He has figured out how to express the different sides to the ordinary guy's personality -- one minute he's the raging avenger in the post-Sept. 11 butt-kicking anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," and the next he's the sensitive guy ticking off the simple joys of life in "My List," the strutting loverman in "Who's Your Daddy?" and the steely cowboy of "Beer for My Horses" (on which he sang with one of his idols, Willie Nelson). Plus he's a family man who's also tussled with professional wrestlers -- and with Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, with whom he had a high-profile growling match.

But even with all that inside him, there's only one Toby Keith. Will he be the pick of the ACM litter?

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