Daughtry, Rascal Flatts win early at American Music Awards

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Chris Daughtry may not have won "American Idol" -- but his band, Daughtry, won the breakthrough artist award at the American Music Awards on Sunday.

Carrie Underwood, who won the award last year, presented it to the rockers, who thanked God and their wives.

Rascal Flatts was named top country duo or group.

Both bands were among those who started the night with multiple nominations. Daughtry, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park had three nominations each, while Akon, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Young Jeezy, T.I. and Carrie Underwood had two nods each.

They were the center of a full roster of celebrity performers, including Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Chris Brown, Celine Dion, Duran Duran, Sugarland, Maroon 5, Lenny Kravitz and Rihanna.

Fergie opened the show with a trio of songs from her debut album, followed by her main producer and Black Eyed Peas bandmate will.i.am. and his protege Nicole Scherzinger.

The list of presenters was just as stellar, with Christina Applegate, James Blunt, Blair Underwood, Tony Hawk, Snoop Dogg, Slash, Gene Simmons and Usher among those set to hand out trophies in 20 categories.

After two weeks of writer-strike-imposed reruns of his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel returned to live TV as host of the three-hour ceremony, broadcast live on ABC from the new Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The show's basic script was written before the strike began last week, but there were no writers to provide Kimmel with his trademark quips about current events.

Kimmel said the Writers Guild of America strike prevented him from writing any jokes for the show.

"It may not look like it, but I'm striking right now in my heart," he said, apologizing to the crowd for having to tolerate "made-up crap."

Screaming fans cheered arriving stars before the show.

A dozen video screens on towers played songs by nominees, amplifying the energy outside the new venue, which has about 7,000 seats and is part of the new L.A. Live development.

"I saw it at rehearsal," presenter Josh Groban said of the theater. "It's amazing. It's a nice alternative to an arena."

Now in its 35th year, the American Music Awards honor pop-rock, country, soul-rhythm & blues, rap-hip hop, Latin, alternative, soundtracks, adult contemporary and contemporary inspirational music. Nominees were selected based on national sales and radio play.

For the first time in show history, winners were chosen by public votes cast online.
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