Chris Willman
November 07, 2007 AT 10:25 PM EST

The CMA Awards telecast, airing tonight on ABC, has historically billed itself as “country’s biggest night.” And Garth Brooks is, by any measurable commercial standard, the biggest star country music ever had. (Just this week, the RIAA certified him as the biggest-selling solo artist of all time, ahead, finally, of Elvis.) Brooks wanted to be on the show, and the CMAs wanted him on. Plus, he just put out a new release, The Ultimate Hits, yesterday, and when a country act puts out an album the week of the CMAs, it’s a given that they’re counting on some TV promotion to drive sales. So why won’t Brooks be on the show tonight?

The story, as confirmed by both the CMA and Brooks camps, is that Brooks wanted the awards telecast to do a live remote from a performance in Kansas City, MO, where the singer booked a week of shows to promote his new release. (Although Brooks famously considers himself in “retirement” from touring until his kids graduate from high school, he makes exceptions for special events.) But the CMAs have a new policy barring via-satellite performances from the kudocast because they can be a bit of a show-stopper, both for the people in the arena where the awards are being handed out, as well as for folks at home, who may not believe that the piped-in appearance is really live after all. Some CMA honchos suspect that it just never occurred to Brooks, when he booked the Kansas City dates, that they would turn down his request.

Brooks isn’t sulking, though. A rep points out that he will be calling in from Kansas City to an official CMA after-show radio broadcast for a live interview.

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