- Associated Press - Sunday, April 3, 2011

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The biggest names in country music converged in Las Vegas Sunday hoping to get lucky at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards _ and win big on the nearby casino floors.

Husband and wife singers Joey + Rory, who won top new vocal duo in 2010, were trying their luck again this year at the blackjack table.

“I’m pretty much addicted to gambling,” said Rory Lee Feek on the red carpet outside the award show at the MGM Grand hotel and casino, his arms wrapped around his wife’s waist.

“That’s why I don’t give him any cash,” Joey Martin quipped.

Darius Rucker said his time in Sin City had been divided between the rehearsal stage, a golf course and “gambling too much.”

Jason Aldean, an entertainer of the year nominee, said he was up $3,000 after a stint on the casino floor.

Then there was Randy Rogers of the Randy Rogers Band, who was having some trouble getting into a Las Vegas state of a mind.

“This year’s been lame. I wish I had a better story,” said Rogers, whose band was nominated for their third top vocal group award. “I was in bed by 11:30 last night.”

____

Country music maverick Eric Church, whose songs about teen pregnancy and marijuana have raised eyebrows, said he owed his career to his mother.

“She believed in me musically before anyone did, even my dad,” he jested. “You still have to convince him.”

____

John Rich of Big & Rich is promising a shocker on “Celebrity Apprentice” that will make The Donald’s hair stand up.

“You are going to see a curveball that you’ve never seen on ‘The Apprentice,’ even Trump didn’t see it coming,” he said.

Rich is trying to become the top earner in “Celebrity Apprentice” history. He is on the show raising money for St. Jude’s Hospital.

“‘Apprentice’ is a tough show to be a part of but if you’re there for the right reasons, it’s great,” said Rich, who was a project manager on Sunday’s episode.

The biggest difference between rocking out on stage and moonlighting as a reality TV star? “In music, you don’t have Gary Busey in your face,” he said.

___

Going on tour with Tim McGraw? Don’t forget your Air Jordans.

Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry said she expects McGraw to live up to his reputation as a basketball junkie while they are all on tour this summer. She and her band mates may not be varsity-worthy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to put up a fight on the court.

“What we lack in height and stature, we make up in feistiness,” she said.

___

Sara Evans said you won’t see her in the sweeping dresses preferred by many of her sister sirens on the red carpet.

“I hate gowns,” said Evans, dressed in a sparkly black mini-skirt, a black tank top and an ornate black jacket. “You can act sexier and all that because you are not so restricted.”

She said her favorite warm weather outfit is a T-shirt and shorts.

“The shorter, the better for me,” she said.

___

Taylor Swift, who just wrapped her international tour, greeted fans outside the MGM Grand on Sunday.

“It’s been crazy being in a different country every couple of days,” she said. “I am a little jet-lagged, but it’s all good.”

Swift, dressed in a pale pink Elie Saab gown, said her North American tour will include a few new surprises.

___

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman turned their trip to Las Vegas into a family vacation. Kidman said the family had spent the morning at the pool, with their older daughter Sunday Rose helping three-month-old Faith Margaret in the water. Kidman said she is happy her two youngest daughters will have the same close relationship she had with her sister growing up in Australia. She and Urban held hands as they walked the red carpet before the show.