Have you heard the one about Alan Jackson walking out during Beyonce's CMA Awards performance? Yep, in 2016 he stood up for traditional country music because he was sick and tired of awards shows bringing on pop or hip-hop stars to boost ratings.

Except, he wasn't. The morning of the show, Jackson said he understood it, and on that night in 2016, he left the show early for a totally different reason.

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Beyonce's return to country with "Texas Hold 'Em" has made Jackson's protest relevant again. His reported actions on Nov. 2, 2016 continue to gas up a debate about what is and isn't country music.

As you read through newly-recognized evidence, ask yourself if response to Beyonce or cross-genre influence would be any different if traditionalists didn't have that Alan folklore to push off of.

Alan Jackson and Beyonce at the CMA Awards — the Origin Point:

There's one source for this tall tale. Four days after the CMAs, Billboard quoted an unnamed Nashville manager as saying: "I was sitting behind Alan Jackson, and he actually stood up from the front row and walked out in middle of the performance, so I think that spoke volumes for the traditional, real country acts."

Unnamed sources are only worth the publication, and Billboard's reputation is sound. Had a celebrity gossip site been the source, it's likely we'd have ignored this, especially because the source hardly sounds like an unbiased narrator.

"I think it was a flat performance overall, and a lot of industry people I have talked with were not impressed for a variety of reasons," the mystery person said. "The overall show was great, but in my opinion, that seemed out of place and felt forced."

Watch the performance again. Everyone from Kelsea Ballerini to Miranda Lambert to Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys was smiling and cheering. When Bey and the Chicks finished, the place erupted in cheers:

Problem No. 2: Logistics 

Jackson performed twice that night. He opened the show with an all-star medley and then — about nine songs later — sang two songs with George Strait. Keith Urban's performance of "Blue Ain't Your Color" was all that was between this second performance and Beyonce and the Chicks' "Daddy Lessons."

This means Jackson had between four and eight minutes (assuming a commercial break) to finish his song, do what he needed to do post-performance and walk back to his seat. That's totally doable, except that even in 2016 he was a man moving slowly due to what we would later find out is Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Do we think he gritted his teeth and rushed back to his seat just to leave two minutes later?

Why We Think Alan Jackson "Protested" Beyonce

The Billboard quote is the main reason this story ran wild, but Jackson seems like the guy who would do this kind of thing, doesn't he? Cite his 1999 CMAs disruption, when he switched to singing "Choices" as a way to defend George Jones.

Picture of Alan Jackson and George Strait at the 2016 CMA Awards
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

There was also his 1994 ACMs protest, when he told his drummer to play without sticks because he didn't like being told to play to a track. There have been numerous confirmed instances when Jackson spoke up to defend traditional country music from a pop invasion. Each of these examples was big, bold and public.

Jackson stands up loud and proud for what he believes in — he doesn't skunk away in a manner that literally only one person sees.

Was Alan Jackson Even in the Crowd?

We watched back on 90 percent of the 2016 CMA Awards on YouTube, Daily Motion and anywhere else performance videos live in time. At no point did the camera turn to Jackson and his wife, Denise, who were supposedly in the front row. You won't find him in the background, and you won't spot the white cowboy hat he wore all night during panning crowd shots.

Jackson has been described as quiet or shy, so a backstage room or a tour bus are more likely places to retreat between performances. That is, unless there was a small backstage table set up for the legend and his friends to watch the other big event on television that night.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven
Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Why Alan Jackson Left the 2016 CMA Awards Early

Nov. 2, 2016 was also the night the Chicago Cubs topped the Cleveland Indians in extra innings to win Game 7 of the World Series. It was a huge event that slashed CMA Awards ratings, and one of the four sources we conferred with confirmed that Jackson and his pal George Strait were stationed at a table watching the end of the game before Garth Brooks was named Entertainer of the Year and host Brad Paisley sang "Today."

Did Jackson have Beyonce on his mind? Or baseball?

Other sources add important context about how awards shows work: Most don't believe Jackson ever stood up to leave because he was mad about Beyonce, and the rest couldn't provide a verifiable story to confirm as much.

So here are Alan Jackson's real thoughts on pop stars at country awards shows. His words aren't definitive, but he hardly seems angry.

The 2016 CMA Awards were the 50th show, and until 24 hours before they aired, no one knew Beyonce would even be there. Yahoo asked Jackson about that:

"Yeah, they may play some real country music. But I understand the dang television station trying to get the ratings with whatever they think is gonna prop it up, with some big event with some other type of artist on there. Yeah, hopefully it’ll be a good country music show for a change."

The story of Beyonce's road to the CMA Awards is riveting and controversial — it's worthy of an oral history someday, because certain details are wild. As for Jackson's cries that night? He remains innocent until proven guilty.

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