McSwain Theatre Revives "Grand Awards Show" Series

Award Show Celebrates 20th Anniversary, History and Music Heritage of the Ada Theatre


McSwain Theatre Revives “Grand Awards Show” Series

Award Show Celebrates 20th Anniversary, History and Music Heritage of the Ada Theatre

An event that honored a music industry legend and helped launch the career of a present-day superstar is returning to Ada.

The McSwain Theatre Grand Awards Show preliminary rounds will kick off May 18, with the finale set for Oct. 19; exactly 20 years after the original award show was conducted.

The inaugural 1993 McSwain Theatre Grand Award Show honored the “Queen Mother of Nashville” Mae Boren Axton for her influence on the music scene.

Axton, best known for penning Elvis Presley’s “Heart Break Hotel”, mentored several country singers during her long career.

“She helped so many people in the business and she was from Oklahoma,” J.L. Stillwell, long time McSwain manager, said.

Inspired by Axton’s legacy, the McSwain’s “Mae Boren Axton” Award has honored individuals who have positively impacted the country music industry.

It is the highest honor given by the historic theatre.

The awards show was a McSwain staple for almost a decade and honored the likes of Garth Brooks, the family of country music legend Reba McEntire, and several others.

Past honorees’ names are commemorated with brick pavers in front the McSwain Theatre.

1993 Grand Awards Show

The 1993 McSwain Theatre Grand Awards Show that honored Axton featured an Ada teenage newcomer by the name of Blake Shelton.

“Mae Boren Axton met Blake Shelton the night of the first award show,” said Stillwell.

“Blake was a regular on our show and he sang that night. Afterward, Mae told him if he came to Nashville she would be glad to mentor him.”

With the encouragement from the legendary singer, Shelton left for Nashville just two weeks after graduating Ada High School in 1994, according to Shelton’s website

Shelton is now an international superstar with dozens of chart-topping hits and gold records to his credit and has a starring role as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice”.

2013 Grand Awards Show

A red-carpet, Nashville-inspired entry is planned for the finale Oct. 19.

“We run it as close to the CMA’s (Country Music Association Awards) as we can,” Stillwell said.

Since the first Grand Awards Show in 1993, this event showcases the best local talent and gives the audience the power to choose the results.

In the preliminary competitions, participants will vie for awards in five categories; top male and female performers; best gospel and group performers, and best 16-and-under performer.

The top-five artists in each preliminary will be determined by audience vote and advance to compete for top overall honors.

The overall winners in each category, as well as an Entertainer of the Year, will be selected by audience vote and announced at the Grand Awards Show October 19.

Dates for the Preliminary Rounds are:

Saturday, May 18 16 and under Category

Saturday, June 15 Gospel and Group Category

Saturday, August 17 Female Performer Category

Saturday, Sept. 21 Top 5 Show

Tickets for the Grand Awards Show and all preliminary rounds are now available.

Contestants performing at the May 18 show include: Carlee Eaton, McAlester; Maddox Ross, Choctaw; Emily Faith, Kingfisher; Aleah Howard, Pauls Valley; Sierra Sikes, Choctaw; Emily Sconyers, McCloud; Skye Ann Purcell, Ada, and MacKenzee Crosby, Ada.

Contestants also on the ballot are Joei Whisenant, Ada; Macy Blackburn, Stratford; Macy McKown, Norman; Tanner Young, Colbert, and Tayler House, also of Ada.

Each concert ticket includes an Awards Show ballot, allowing ticket-holders to vote for their five favorites as well as a write-in choice for Entertainer of the Year.

For ticket information, contact the McSwain Theatre at 580-332-8108 or online at

The McSwain Theatre, owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation, is located at 130 W. Main in Ada.

About Mae Boren Axton

Encased in concrete on the sidewalk in front of the McSwain Theatre are two petite handprints and hand-written script stating “Mae Boren Axton.”

It was during the first McSwain Grand Awards Show in October 1993, when Axton was honored and her handprints were cast in concrete, said J.L. Stillwell, McSwain manager.

Several of Axton’s friends and country music performers attended the gala event in 1993.

She was also given the keys to the city by the mayor.

“It was a big deal in Ada.”

Former Sen. David Boren, who is now president of the University of Oklahoma, presented the award to his aunt, Mae Boren Axton.

Mae Boren Axton’s son, Hoyt, who was also a singer, songwriter and actor, sang at the 1993 awards show honoring his mother.

During her career, Mae Boren Axton worked with some of the biggest names in country music; including Mel Tillis, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Eddy Arnold and Tanya Tucker.

Many of those stars sent congratulations to Axton via video during the award show.

Axton is credited with writing more than 200 songs. “Heartbreak Hotel,” the Elvis Presley hit she co-wrote in 1995, is her most famous.

She made a life in music and ushered a crop of talent to the forefront of the country music scene. Mae Boren Axton died in 1997 at the age of 82.


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