NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country, rock 'n' roll and R&B colorfully collided as surprise guests ZZ Top joined Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo to open the CMT Music Awards on Wednesday.
The superstar mashup was just the first of many scheduled during the 2½-hour awards show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. John Legend, Jennifer Nettles and Hunter Hayes are scheduled to team up later in the show and Eric Church will be joined by hard rocker Lzzy Hale.
ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill started the show off with their song "La Grange" before Bryan, FGL members Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, and Derulo popped up through the stage floor. Bryan and FGL sang "This Is How We Roll" before Derulo kicked in with his hit "Talk Dirty."
Gibbons said he was originally headed to London on Wednesday, but show producers pitched the idea and the blues rockers couldn't resist.
"It's a little mixup, mashup, a little bit of this, a little bit of that," Gibbons said on the red carpet before the show. "It's kind of exciting. I don't think it's been done quite like this."
The performance could be the first of many spins for a new remixed version of "This Is How We Roll," featuring Derulo. Florida Georgia Line had a huge crossover hit last year with "Cruise," featuring Nelly, and there's hope this song will cross over as well.
"Fingers crossed. You don't want to jinx it," Kelley said. "What we can say is he did an amazing job and there's not one thing we would change. And that's what it felt like with Cruise when Nelly touched it."
Bryan and FGL also helped host Kristen Bell kick off the show by re-creating Jay Z and Solange Knowles' elevator escapade, complete with grainy black-and-white footage. The Band Perry won the night's first award, group of the year, for "Done" and Cassadee Pop took breakthrough video for "Wasting All These Tears" shortly after a star-packed red carpet shut down. Derulo and Legend walked the carpet, as did the night's oddest couple, singer Tyler Farr and good buddy Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls.
Jason Aldean showed up with new girlfriend Brittany Kerr. The former "American Idol" contestant and Charlotte Bobcats cheerleader was making her first public appearance with Aldean since the singer filed for divorce a year ago.
The ZZ Top-Bryan-FGL-Derulo mega-performance won't be the end of the interesting mashups. Church invited tourmate Hale to underscore his rocking inclinations on "That's Damn Rock & Roll."
"I think it's an opportunity to do one thing that you're not normally going to do and you let it live in that space forever," Church said. "That's what I like about them. You can do it one time and it will get the maximum amount of eyes and it will live as that one show's performance forever. It makes sense to do something different."