CMT Hot Dish: Hazel Smith Breaks New Ground

New Column Launches With Notes on Randy Travis, Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson and More

(Editor’s note: This is the first installment of CMT Hot Dish, a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. She is the author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars.)

Breaking New Ground With the Same Plow
Next to God, family and good friends, I love country music fans. Thanks to CMT — the coolest spot on television — I’m proud to be doing my part to keep the wonderful fans of country music informed with this new column at Many of you know I’ve been to New York on the Food Network with the great Chef Emeril Lagasse showing off my culinary skills and my cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars. Also, I trekked off to Hollywood for The Ellen DeGeneres Show several times and have been asked to return.

As I continue to break new ground with the same plow, here’s the Hot Dish from Nashville.

Randy Travis Still Can
One of the all-time great Blue Ridge Mountains crossings was when Randy Travis left Marshville, N.C., heading for Nashville. He was hauling a God-given country voice and a head filled with dreams. Beginning in 1985, the once troubled lad allowed us to daydream while he sang. Randy proved radio wrong when he first released “On the Other Hand” in 1985. While most of Music Row fell in love with the song and the singer, the song quick-stopped at No. 67 on the almighty country chart. Warner Bros. Records then gave radio a helping of “1982,” a song that zoomed to No. 6 to prompt the re-release of “On the Other Hand” eight months after its initial try. Radio, having wiped the egg off its face, gave Randy his first, well-deserved No. 1 hit with the second go-around of “On the Other Hand.” He was 26 years old.

With hit after hit followed by a long string of one-nighters — crisscrossing America first in a bread truck then a Silver Eagle tour bus — Randy grew tired. Real tired.

So he crossed another mountain — well, sort of — when he went to Hollywood. A boyhood fan of cowboy movies, especially Roy Rogers, Randy in the early ’90s followed the acting trail with measured success. But he missed the music — and the fans missed him more.

A couple years back, he cut another trail when he recorded a gospel CD that contained the incredible, “Three Wooden Crosses.” Although it was released as a gospel record, country radio had no intention of making the same mistake twice with Randy. When the No. 1 gospel song crossed over, country radio jumped on “Three Wooden Crosses” like a duck on a June bug and took the song all the way to No. 1. The most-talked-about act of the ’80s became one of the most talked about acts of the past two years.

When I spoke with Randy the other day, he was in a Santa Fe, N.M., recording studio, working on yet another gospel recording with his producer, Kyle Lehning. Mentioning a particular song, Randy said, “I hope you like the way I did it.”

“Lord honey,” I replied, “I loved ’On the Other Hand,’ ’Forever and Ever, Amen,’
“Digging Up Bones.'” Rattling off every hit he ever had, I ended up with his latest and biggest, “Three Wooden Crosses.”

Welcome back, Randy. Sit down and make yourself at home. Can’t wait for your new music in November.

Driving Who Crazy?
It takes more than an automobile to drive a girl crazy. These days, Keith Urban drives a Hummer, but sometimes he takes his Harley — both hillbilly wheels. Apparently, though, Keith is not driving either vehicle to visit model Niki Taylor. From what I hear, that relationship is history. Also driving females crazy, Joe Nichols says it’s over between him and Playboy bunny Stephanie. Maybe I should start a mix and match dating service called “Cooking Lasts, Kissing Don’t” to drive men to the kitchen to find real women.

By the way, employees and clients at the trendy Illusions salon in Nashville’s Green Hills were all a-twitter last week. The reason: Keith was coming in for a tanning session.

A Glass of Wine?
Sara Evans recently mentioned that the way she got pregnant was when she and hubby Craig split a glass of wine. Now I’ll bet God is really surprised with that miracle.

Brad and Kim Shrug
Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kim Williams-Paisley (According to Jim), were recently asked when they would start a family. Brad looked at Kim and shrugged. Kim looked at Brad and shrugged. Did the shrugs mean “whenever”? Or did the shrugs mean they could already be? Of course, maybe the shrugs meant “none of your business” or “It’s OK if we get pregnant. We have a license.”

Gretchen Parties All Over the World
Platinum-selling Gretchen Wilson of “Redneck Woman” fame did a media blitz down under. Was it worth the time of day? I would say so. Her CD Here for the Party debuted at No. 2 on the Australian sales chart. Now she’s heading to Norway, Sweden and Germany. I wonder how they say “redneck” in those countries?

No. 1 for Toby
“Whiskey Girl” is Toby Keith’s 17th No. 1 single. Toby’s gone far, but he’s got a ways to go to catch the Cowboy. George Strait has 50 chart-toppers — more than anybody.

InVince-able and Amy

The very best Fourth of July performance this year — and I saw them all — was Vince Gill and Amy Grant’s version of “God Bless America” from the nation’s capital. They suggested that perhaps the song is really a prayer. Maybe so, maybe not, but Vince and Amy sure made it a prayer that night.

Riding That Alan Jackson Highway
The long-legged wonder, Mr. Alan Jackson was honored Friday (July 9) when a stretch of I-85 outside his hometown of Newnan, Ga., was named the Alan Jackson Highway. The reigning CMA entertainer of the year was present for the event hosted by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Kenny’s Latest Milestone
Kenny and Wanda Rogers named their identical twin boys born this week, Justin Charles and Jordan Edward. Just think: When those boys reach 21, Kenny will be 86 and not a wrinkle in sight!

See this week’s Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: World’s Best Banana Pudding