Chris Stapleton and Ricky Skaggs were the big winners at the 54th annual ASCAP Country Music Awards, held Monday night (Oct. 31) at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

Stapleton was the 2016 recipient of the Vanguard Award, given to those believed to be shaping the future of American music. Mike Sistad, senior creative director at ASCAP, presented Stapleton with the trophy.

"I moved here 15 years ago and walked into his office; I'd been in town less than a week. We've had a great friendship ever since," Stapleton shared from stage. "I probably owe ASCAP a lot of money for a few cocktails back in those days.

"I don't know what to say about everything that's happened in the last year and a half or so. I'm enjoying this moment I'm getting to have. To get invited to this party was a huge, huge deal," Stapleton continued. "When I found out you could have a job being a songwriter, I thought, 'That's the greatest job in the world, and I've got to figure out how to do it.' I got to do it, and I continue to get to do it, and it's a wonderful thing."

Stapleton also reminisced with Skaggs about a time when a younger Stapleton met Skaggs, and asked Skaggs to autograph his mandolin, before he concluded his speech by thanking so many of the people who helped him become a successful songwriter and artist.

"I'm so grateful for all of the friends and people in this room that I've learned from," Stapleton said. "I try to learn something from everyone I write with. It's a great joy to get to be a part of things with so many people who made this possible ... It's an amazing honor to get this award tonight. I'm truly grateful for it. Thank you so much."

Skaggs, meanwhile, received the Founders Award, one of the highest honors bestowed on an ASCAP writer, in recognition of those who have made pioneering contributions in music. Marty Stuart, who called Skaggs a "guiding light," presented Skaggs with the honor, and Peter Frampton and Gordon Kennedy performed "My Cup Runneth Over," from Skaggs' 2010 album Mosaic. Additionally, Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson performed "Waitin' for the Sun to Shine," the title track of Skaggs' third studio album, and Garth Brooks performed "Highway 40 Blues," from Skaggs' 1982 album Highways & Heartaches, with Sam Bush and Justin Moses.

"Not being a real known, famous songwriter, I would have never dreamed that something like this would have happened and that I could receive an ASCAP award," Skaggs admitted while accepting his honor. "What an awesome thing, to just be honored like that with all my friends. I really appreciate that so much."

Skaggs thanked several influential people in his life and career, including his wife of 35 years, Sharon White, before reflecting on the significance of winning the Founders trophy.

"I'm still making music. And I came to this town to make music; I didn't come here to win awards, I didn't come here to have big records and all that stuff. I came here because, when I was born, I was hearing music," he said. "All my life, I've heard music in my head, and my mom and daddy encouraged me ... and I'm just so grateful for Godly parents; they instilled in me something so special. My mother used to tell me, 'You're no better than anybody. But you're as good as anybody.'"

Other winners at the 2016 ASCAP Country Music Awards included Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley, whose recent cuts include Cole Swindell's "You Should Be Here" and "Middle of a Memory;" Jon Pardi's  "Dirt on My Boots;" and "Saltwater Gospel" by the Eli Young Band. Additionally, Brothers Osborne won Song of the Year for their chart-topping single "Stay a Little Longer."

Stapleton is nominated for six CMA Awards at the 2016 ceremony, including Male Vocalist of the Year and the night's highest honor, Entertainer of the Year. The awards show is set to take place on Wednesday (Nov. 2) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena; it will air live on ABC at 8PM ET.

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