The Gibson Brothers headed home from Nashville Friday with two big International Bluegrass Music Association awards.

Their song "Ring the Bell" won them Song of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year.

"It's still kind of a blur," said Eric Gibson, who with brother, Leigh, fronts the band, with Mike Barber on bass, fiddler Clayton Campbell and Joe Walsh on mandolin.

On Thursday evening, the Gibsons and Campbell attended the star-studded awards in Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

"That's the stage where all our heroes played," Eric said.

And where the Gibson Brothers have performed three times.

AACEPTANCE SPEECH

As old-time folk artist Hazel Dickens and Peter Rowen, who'd sung with legend Bill Monroe, prepared to announce the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year, the brothers squabbled lightheartedly over who would say a few words if they did happen to win, Eric said.

Just after he'd told Leigh not to worry about it; they probably wouldn't win anyhow, their name came out on top.

"We had to do some fast thinking," Eric said. "I hopefully said all the right things."

"It's funny," he repeated some of that impromptu acceptance speech. "We found the gospel Song of the Year in a barroom in Muncie, Ind."

Their gospel connection goes far deeper, though. The brothers had played instrumental music in church as teenagers.

"Finally, the minister told us people like to hear words," Eric said via cell phone from Tennessee Friday morning. "That's when we first got the courage to sing to anybody."

BEAR HUG

Bluegrass legend Michael Martin Murphey presented the Gibsons the Song of the Year prize.

"He gave me a great big bear hug," Leigh said. "Never met him in my life."

Chet O'Keefe, who wrote the call and response piece "Ring the Bell," also said a few words.

The Gibsons were also nominated for Vocal Group of the Year and Album of the Year. Dailey & Vincent won both of those titles and also nabbed Entertainer of the Year.

Album of the Year would have been nice, Eric said, "because we really felt strongly about this one ('Ring the Bell') as a whole."

But he isn't complaining. To win any of the awards is an honor, he said.

In fact, Eric and Leigh treated themselves to new suits for the occasion.

"I thought we had a chance to win something or I wouldn't have done that," Eric joshed.

Big names in Thursday night's crowd included Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss.

"Dierks Bentley congratulated us," Leigh said. "It was a lot of fun."

'tickled'

The brothers flew to Nashville but drove home in a rental car they'd had to leave there on a recent trip. As their car rolled through Tennessee woodland, their cell phones collected a myriad texted congratulations.

"I haven't heard from the president yet," Leigh said, laughing. "But we're keeping our fingers crossed.

"It's going to be a lot shorter drive than it would have been had we not won an award," he added. "We're tickled."

E-mail Suzanne Moore at: smoore@pressrepublican.com

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