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Singing Red, White And Blue

Patriotic themes dominated an Academy of Country Music Awards led by Brooks & Dunn, who took home three trophies Wednesday night, including one for entertainer of the year.

Alan Jackson also won three awards, including two for his patriotic anthem "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."

Brooks & Dunn, who also won for top vocal duo and top video, now have 16 country music awards, breaking the record of 15 previously held by Merle Haggard.

"Playing for y'all is reward enough, but this is incredible," Kix Brooks said from the stage.

"It's sacrilegious to even compare what we do with Merle Haggard," he added backstage.

"We are so proud to be here after this many years," Ronnie Dunn said earlier after accepting the top vocal duo award.

The awards for Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn included top country video for "Only In America," which extols the benefits of living in a nation "where we all get a chance, everybody gets to dance."

"It's the new hip thing," Dunn said backstage, correcting a reporter's question about the prevalence of "old-fashioned patriotism" at the show. "We're very proud to be Americans."

Jackson, whose awards included top male vocalist, dedicated his awards for best single and song of the year to the victims of Sept. 11.

"I don't feel like I can accept the award for this song without sharing it and dedicating it to the thousands of people, men, women and children, who died and suffered and are still suffering all because of that cowardly and heartless attack on America and mankind," he said as he accepted the first of the awards.

Backstage, an emotional Jackson said the words to the song just came to him.

"I didn't want to write a patriotic song," he said. "This song just came out of nowhere."

Martina McBride, named top female vocalist, thanked country veteran Reba McEntire, saying McEntire "set the standard for all of females in country music. I'm taking this home in your honor," she said.

The soundtrack from the Coen Brothers film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" won album of the year honors. The bluegrass album also won a Grammy earlier this year.

Lonestar, which put out the crossover hit "I'm Already There," led off the show by winning honors for top vocal group.

McEntire was host of the 37th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which was broadcast on CBS-TV from the Universal Amphitheatre.

The three-hour show was music-heavy with scores of performances, including a tribute to Waylon Jennings, who died in February, and the presentation of the Pioneer award to Ronnie Milsap.

McEntire won the first ever Home Depot Humanitarian Award for her charitable work.

A highlight of the show was a performance by hip-hop artist Kid Rock and country star Hank Williams Jr., who parodied their rebel images as they teamed up to perform "The F-Word."

Rock, who was accompanied to the event by his fiancee Pamela Anderson, said backstage that he spent his youth listening to hard rock bands such as Black Sabbath and AC/DC. As he got older and learned about the blues, he got turned onto country music, which he described as "the white man's blues."

A surprise at the awards show was veteran band Alabama's announcement backstage that the group is retiring from touring.

"After long thought and thinking very deeply, and while we still love one another, while we still care very deeply about one another, we want to announce to the fans all across the world that starting next year in 2003, it will be our farewell tour," band member Randy Owen said.

Toby Keith, nominated for six awards, walked away empty-handed.

Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?" was last year's top album.

Brooks and Dunn also went into the show with six nominations, including entertainer of the year, best duo or group, top album, top song ("Ain't Nothing 'Bout You") and top record and video ("Only in America").

Jackson, Tim McGraw and Travis Tritt each had four nominations, and all three competed for top male vocalist against Keith and Kenny Chesney.

Nominees and winners are picked by the 3,000 members of the academy.