HOT DISH: Vince and Lee Ann Wow Indy Race Fans

Mellencamp Helps Kenny, Tim Helps Nelly and Dierks Helps County Fairs

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Vince Is Still Plumb Perfect
As I’ve told fans in Indianapolis, Vince Gill, the most loved star in country music, is plumb perfect. With Vince, what you see is what he is — a great singer, great musician, great songwriter, great humanitarian and a great human being. Vince performed at the Brickyard 400 last weekend. According to one report I received from fans and radio pals at WFMS radio in Indy, “Vince is everything you say he is and more.” Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO Tony George and the racetrack crowd were very pleased with Vince’s concert. Vince admitted he’s filling for his wife Amy Grant’s guitarist next week. Seems Amy’s guitar player is busy elsewhere. “So, I’ll just stand back and pick,” allowed Vince. My question is: “Will Amy pay Vince — or will they work it out in trade?”

That race took my mind back many laps ago to the Indy 500. You may not be aware of the real winner in that race. First off, it was not Jessica Simpson — not by any stretch of the imagination. Miss Popster Simpson forgot the words to the national anthem. Shame, shame. Of course, David Letterman’s car driven by Buddy Rice took home the big bucks but was not the real winner. Dario Franchitti — married to the most beautiful woman in the movies, Ashley Judd — took home cash while sister-in-law Wynonna and mom-in-law Naomi looked on. But he was not the real winner, either.

Ask anybody from that crowd of 350,000, “Who was the big winner?” and they will tell you it was Lee Ann Womack. Fans and critics alike say Lee Ann did country music proud. Lee Ann rared back and did what she came for — singing like a saint and not forgetting the words. Tony, baby, keep that music country at the racetrack.

She Hissed Johnny Cougar
Kenny Chesney and company bused to a concert in Allen County, Ind., knowing Peyton Manning and a passel of Indianapolis Colts would rush them. They did. From the clouds, though, a plane landed in a field and out rolled Bloomington, Ind., resident, John Mellencamp and his lovely bride, Elaine. Kenny has been closing his shows with Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” for a couple years, plus the twosome performed the song on CMT Crossroads.

Kenny thought about Donna, his friend from the eighth grade in their hometown of Lutrell, Tenn., who had “Hurts So Good” written all over her notebook and school books. Kenny finally got up nerve and asked her what it meant. “Johnny Cougar,” hissed Donna, in Tennessee rattler fashion.

Of course, Kenny and John sang “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good” for the Indy homefolks. Backstage, the beautiful Elaine sidled up to Kenny to tell him, “John has only sung at two shows where he wasn’t doing something — Bob Dylan’s and yours.”

Phil Vassar Give ‘Em Hail
Performing at a PGA concert at Denver’s Castle Pines Golf Club, the heavens opened up and all hail broke loose, but Phil Vassar kept on singing. The freak hailstorm blew in from the Rockies, covering the course with ice and turning sand traps into lakes. The show went on — and the hail and rain and wind did not dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm, nor Phil’s.

Dierks Breaking Records
Even a heavy thunderstorm couldn’t keep Dierks Bentley offstage at a recent outdoor concert in Davenport, Iowa. While the fans braved the storm, Dierks told the crowd, “It looks like Woodstock out there.” Dierks continues to do big business at country fairs, breaking attendance records at the Sangamon County Fair in New Berlin, Ill. Fair officials in Cole County, Miss., report that Dierks drew the largest Thursday night attendance in its history — more people than the fair could handle, in fact. Dierks signed autographs there until 2 a.m., which proves the boy’s serious when it comes to his fans. Dierks has also drawn huge crowds at county fairs in Indiana and Nebraska.

This ‘n’ That
Trace Adkins expecting his fifth daughter around the first of 2005. This will be the third child for Trace and his wife, Rhonda. He has two daughters from a former marriage.

Willie Nelson performed at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Darryl Worley will perform at the Republican National Convention in New York City. To each his own, I reckon.

Out this month: Reba’s new single, “He Gets That From Me.”

Julie Roberts is scheduled to appear on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon during the Labor Day weekend.

Since it was released, I don’t hear much about the movie The Stepford Wives, starring Nicole Kidman with Glenn Close, Faith Hill, et al. It’s like it came and went.

Shooter Jennings, son of the late Waylon Jennings and his true love Jessi Colter, is set to play the role of his famed dad in the upcoming movie I Walk the Line, the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Rapper Nelly has new music coming out next month with several special guests, including Tim McGraw. Tim met Nelly at a celebrity basketball game where our man McGraw was named MVP. Tim and Nelly swap vocals on a song titled “Over and Over.” Tim sings, “I can’t keep picturing you with him.”

Speaking of pictures, last year I thought sure Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow would do more than have a hit video called “Picture” on CMT. These days and nights, the sometimes Nashville resident — 42-year-old Ms. Crow — is spending time on a bicycle built for two with six-time Tour de France winner, 32-year-old Lance Armstrong.

William Lee Golden had a mild heart attack on the Oak Ridge Boys bus in Wausau, Wis., that required a stent in an artery and four weeks of rest. Get well, my friend.

Good guys Jamie O’Neal, Steve Azar, Amy Dalley and Bering Strait are performing a fundraiser Wednesday (Aug. 18) for Micah Jones, a 23-year-old Music Row intern who was recently struck by a car. The driver, an off-duty policewoman, was issued a DUI citation.

A female recently dropped her pants at the House of Blues in L.A., revealing to Pat Green a tattoo of his signature. Oh well, some people show their fanny without pulling down their pants.

The 30,000 Marines Brooks & Dunn were expecting to attend their concert at Camp Pendleton, Calif., managed to push and shove enough to allow 15,000 more military personnel and their families in for the party. After it was over, Kix and Ronnie regretted not filming the show.

RCA’s newest find, Australia native Catherine Britt, received a royal welcome from Sir Elton John during one of his Vegas performances. When Elton introduced the teenager from the stage, she started crying. Catherine has been out promoting her debut single, “Upside of Being Down,” that arrives at radio this week

The Cowboy King — George Strait — is set to release 50 Number Ones on Oct. 5. It’s the definitive anthology from the man who has scored more No. 1′s than any single country artist in history. This is the Strait man’s 32nd release during his 23-year career. He’s sold 62 million records.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Mashed Potatoes.