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Zac Brown Band wins New Artist of the Year at CMA Awards
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The Atlanta-based Zac Brown Band, whose members include Gainesville High graduate John Hopkins and Dahlonega native Zac Brown, won the New Artist of the Year award at the 44th Annual Country Music Association Awards program in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday night.

The band was also nominated for Entertainer of the Year, Vocal Group, Song ("Toes") and Musical Event, but did not win those awards.

Zac Brown Band was the first act nominated for both Entertainer of the Year and New Artist since Ricky Skaggs in 1982. The Entertainer of the Year award went to Brad Paisley.

During the program, the band performed its song “As She’s Walking Away,” which is currently No. 4 on the Billboard Country Music charts.

Hopkins moved to Gainesville from Texas at age 2. He graduated from Gainesville High School in 1989.

The band had a humble start in Dahlonega, playing local coffee shops before breaking into country radio with its hit single “Chicken Fried.” The song earned them a 2009 Country Music Television award for “US Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year,” and the band picked up four Academy of Country Music awards this year and three Grammy nominations. The band won the Grammy for “Best New Artist.”

Hopkins is the son of Joan and Ralph Hopkins, who still reside in Gainesville. His parents watched the award show on television, as they baby sat his daughter Grace, 2.

Other CMA winners were:

* Song of the Year — “The House That Built Me,” Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin.

* Single of the Year — “Need You now,” Lady Antebellum

* Vocal Group of the Year — Lady Antebellum

* Album of the Year: — “Resolution,” Miranda Lambert

* Vocal Duo of the Year — Sugarland

* Video of the Year — “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert

* Male Vocalist of the Year — Blake Shelton

* Female Vocalist of the Year — Miranda Lambert

* Musical Event of the Year — “Hillbilly Bone,” Blake Shelton

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