Milton native and Cape High grad Jimmie Allen went home with one of music’s biggest honors Nov. 10, when he was named the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year for 2021.
Allen’s eyes widened when his name was revealed as the winner. Wiping away tears as he gave his acceptance speech, Allen thanked his late father for introducing him to country music as a child and spoke of living in his car in Nashville while he pursued his dream.
Five years ago, Allen said, he spent his last $100 to come to CMA’s 50th anniversary to watch country music legend Charley Pride perform. Last year, he shared the CMA stage with Pride, who passed away just a month later from complications due to COVID-19.
“This is for my hometown in Delaware,” Allen said to conclude his speech. “I love y’all.”
The CMA New Artist of the Year is considered one of the organization's most notable awards, honoring artists who have achieved national prominence and who are expected to have great success going forward. An artist can be nominated twice in the category before becoming ineligible; Allen was also nominated in 2020.
“It felt great to win the award, because one of my biggest goals is to be accepted for who I am as a music creator,” Allen said via an emailed statement Nov. 19. “Winning the CMA, which is voted on by the country music industry, lets me know they respect me as an artist.”
Allen is the second African American artist to receive the award, after Darius Rucker won in 2009.
“Greatness is not bound by color,” Allen said. “And when you are great at something and you work for it, it’s only natural that your greatness eventually reaches the light.”
The CMA award follows his recognition with the Academy of Country Music New Male Artist of the Year Award in April.
Just two days before being named CMA’s New Artist of the Year, Allen and his professional dance partner Emma Slater performed for eight weeks before being voted off ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” after a double elimination.
“First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to vote,” Allen said. “There’s nothing better than having the support of your hometown. I love where I’m from, and I love the people in it. Even though I didn’t win the Mirror Ball Trophy, I still had a chance to represent our hometown and give the world a little insight into the people of Sussex County.”
Allen has never forgotten his Cape Region roots, visiting whenever he can, fishing with friends and family, and stopping in at local establishments including Surf Bagel and the Milton Quick Stop while often wearing Del Made apparel.
Well-known locally for his philanthropic efforts, Allen has visited several area schools over the years to perform and speak with students, and hold concerts benefitting Cape district PTOs, raising tens of thousands of dollars.
In May, he was given the key to the Town of Milton. Two days later he performed at a sold-out benefit concert at the Bottle & Cork for the family of slain Delmar police officer Cpl. Keith Heacook.
In August, Allen headlined the inaugural Bettie James Fest at Hudson Fields, a multi-artist concert named in honor of his late father James and his grandmother Bettie Snead.
“I will be back for my annual charity shows this December, and Bettie James Fest will be back in 2022,” Allen said.