HOT DISH: McGraw/Hill Continue to Grow and Prosper

More on Toby, Dixie Chicks, Hillbilly Money and CMA Nominations

(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.)

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
It doesn’t appear that success has spoiled the marriage or career of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Since the birth of Audrey, their youngest, the couple seems to have grown more family oriented and closer than ever. When Tim goes on the road, Faith goes with him. Or if she’s home, she drives Gracie and Maggie to school. If both parents are home, Tim has the honor of transporting their little princesses to and from school.

When Faith was in Connecticut filming The Stepford Wives, Tim spent time there and even invited the Warren Brothers to hang out and they wrote songs. When Faith finished her movie and Tim finished filming Friday Night Lights alongside Billy Bob Thornton, the couple met in Colorado and sneaked off alone for some needed “downtime.” I do believe that’s called “making every minute count.”

Tim took off two weeks mid-tour to be with Faith while she was rehearsing in Nashville and performing in Vegas, where she grossed $1,901,900 in five nights and did not have to ride a bus to her next gig. On the other hand, Tim’s sell outs in Memphis, Baton Rouge and Anaheim grossed a hefty $1,658,051. So the McGraw/Hill bank account continues to amass while their marriage continues to last.

Their continued generosity to others deserves mentioning, too. Both McGraw and Hill will join John Mayer, Robin Williams, Ray Romano and other famed (and near famed) for the Andre Agassi Grand Slam for Children in Las Vegas on Oct. 2.

Tim’s CD Live Like You Were Dying topped both Billboard‘s Country Albums chart and Top 200, the results from sales of a whopping 765,739 copies the first week in the marketplace.

Tim brought his dad, baseball legend Tug McGraw, to his home in Nashville where he died of a brain tumor last January. Hopefully the pain of the personal loss has been somewhat eased with the help of his faith and the lyrics of “Live Like You Were Dying.” Like Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” a song that helped his sorrow for the passing of his brother, the song went on to help the sorrow of others. So will Tim’s song.

Hillbilly Money in Vegas
Harrah’s Las Vegas and Toby Keith signed a deal to open a new venue, screamed the press release. Slated for a summer 2005 opening, expect a bar-lounge, restaurant and retail store as well as a stage where live country acts, including Toby, will appear. A similar concept for Toby is being developed at Harrah’s North Kansas City. Lord knows, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a hillbilly with money.

By George
Trying not to get political, the elder George Bush, 80 years old, said on Imus in the Morning radio show, “These elitist up here in New York and New England think I should prefer Bach and Beethoven, but I like country music. I love to hear Larry Gatlin sing and Reba and Moe Bandy. Moe went with us to Athens last week [to the Olympics].” Quoting Bandy’s hit, host Don Imus interrupted with, “It Was Always So Easy (To Find an Unhappy Woman).”

I’d bet my farm that Bush granddaughters Jenna or Barbara Bush (daughters of current prez and Laura Bush) do not have an inkling of the song or the singer their granddad and Imus were talking about. But I know. I went on a bus loaded with Music Town’s best flacks and hacks to Branson when Bandy opened his Americana Theater. Bush Senior had been there. There’s a photo of me and ole Moe from that event in a collage on my office wall. By George!

Dixie Chicks
I see where the Dixie Chicks performed on a new children’s album titled Mary Had a Little Amp with proceeds going for the American Way’s Project Kid Smart and Start Smart America. That’s fine and good, but what I want to hear is some fiddle and banjo and Dobro and Natalie’s incredible vocalizing with Emily and Martie’s harmony coming on strong.

Nosy Us
All you smart folks that click on to CMT’s Hot Dish who asked what Donny Osmond was doing at Tony (wow) Brown’s big do last week, he’s mastering an album with the master, George Massenburg. Surely you recall Donny got his show-biz start singing with his brothers and has a singing sister named Marie.

CMA Nominations
Hosts for the 38th annual CMA Awards in November, Brooks & Dunn say they won’t change outfits as much as Reba McEntire did when she hosted the ACMs the past two years. Good to see Reba in the CMA running again for female vocalist. I talked with her current producer, Buddy Cannon, and he allowed that Reba and her husband-manager Narvel Blackstock are two of the nicest and most down to earth people he’s ever worked with. Buddy’s a song man. Give Reba’s CD a listen.

Alan Jackson topped the 2004 list with seven CMA nominations. If Alan wins two, he will tie with top CMA award winner, Vince Gill.

Of his nominations Alan said, “It’s very fulfilling when somebody likes your songs, or it touches someone. I’ve had so many comments on ‘Remember When’ (nominated for song, single and video of the year) like, ‘Oh, my wife cried when she heard that song.’ It makes you feel good. Performing is a whole other side. You walk out there, and you get appreciation for your songs and your singing.”

Alan is proud of being nominated for entertainer of the year, adding there are different kinds of entertainers. “I’m not a high-energy act with blow-up toys flying over my head. Fireworks work great for certain artists, but you know, I’ve never been that type entertainer. I’m a songwriter who sings.”

CMA voters, you should have nominated the legendary Loretta Lynn in one category.

I am privileged to have a copy of Keith Urban’s great new album titled Be Here that he is already promoting in his native Australia at the present. Matter of fact, he awoke down under to learn of his CMA male vocalist nomination. Keith quoted from his self-penned song, “God’s Been Good To Me” from his new CD, these words of appreciation to CMA voters for this honor: “He put me smack dab in the middle of paradise/In the heart of the city where my dream have come alive/And everything I have, and everything I see/Is just another reminder that God’s been good to me.” In that song, Keith Urban wrote and sang my feelings for this wonderful place I call home — Nashville, Tenn.

Thought you’d like to know, the night before announcing the CMA nominees from the Country Music Hall of Fame early Monday (Aug. 30), Gretchen Wilson strung barbed wire to keep her horses from getting out of their fence and getting into the neighbors fence. Gretchen has five nominations and claims if she wins the Horizon award, she will have Big & Rich go up with her to accept.

Ain’t show biz grand? Two new stars went to a lot of trouble to help Gretchen announce the CMA nominees. Big & Rich appeared in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sunday night (Aug. 29), caught a private Learjet to Music Town’s airport, where they were met by their road manager on their bus. The road manager said, “Sleep,” and pointed to their bunks in the bus. And that’s where the CMA nominated duo slept — in the parking lot of the Country Music Hall of Fame. “Wanted to be sure they woke up,” said the man who awakens the duo on the road. B&R have two noms. John Rich also has a song nod for co-writing “Redneck Woman.” He and Big Kenny claim if they win Horizon, they will have Gretchen Wilson go up with them to accept.

Dierks Bentley was at the Hall of Fame when he got the news that he was nominated for a CMA Horizon award. Said Dierks, “I’ve had a great year, and a lot of cool things have happened to me. Getting a nomination for the Horizon award is just another awesome honor. I’m just excited to get to be in the same building that night with some of my heroes in the business, like George Strait and George Jones.” If Dierks wins Horizon, he will probably walk onstage alone, drying his tears.

“We are very humbled and overwhelmed to be included in such great company,” said Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus, “and we are honored to be recognized by the CMA.” The reigning vocal group of the year are nominated again in the same category.

I reckon Joe Don, the one who took his britches off in that video, had nothing to say.

Lonestar say they are honored to be nominated for vocal group of the year. Lonestar lead singer Richie McDonald was inducted into the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame in Lubbock, Texas this past week. Richie joins prior inductees Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Tanya Tucker and other legends.

Newcomer Josh Turner, nominated for the Horizon stated, “This is an award that you can’t be nominated for every year. It’s a huge honor having been considered. I am extremely grateful.” For his second nomination, song of the year for “Long Black Train,” Josh said, “Being nominated in this category is a huge surprise. I still consider myself to be a beginner at songwriting, so having this nomination is a huge morale booster.”

The innocence of newness is amazing to me. After decades on Music Row, I have to say “Long Black Train” is one of the all-time great songs. Lord, let’s hope this talented boy’s ego never catches up to him and his songwriting.

Guess What
Newcomer Jessi Alexander (“Let Me Stay or Let Me Go”) is a native of Jackson, Tenn., and named for Jessi Colter.

Dolly Parton and the Grascals, her hot new band, appear at Dollywood Sept. 24-26.
I’ll see you there.

Tim McGraw’s 10th annual Swampstock is set for Sept. 19 at the sports complex that bears his name in Rayville, La. Appearing in concert with Tim are wife Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Jeff Bates, Big & Rich and the Warren Brothers. McGraw still has the desire to give back to his hometown.

Modern Management partners Ted Greene and Brenna Van Meter announce the addition of MCA’s Josh Turner to their artist management roster. They also oversee the careers of Sara Evans and Diamond Rio.

Shania Twain is set to release a 21-song Greatest Hits CD on Nov. 9 and will feature three new songs along with her chart-topping hits. Shania will be special guest at the CMA Awards on that very same day.

The family-endorsed book The Man Called Cash will hit the stores on Sept. 13. All of Johnny’s children contributed to this project. Lou Robin, Cash manager for 35 years, said author Steve Turner found out things about Johnny that he never knew.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Stewed Tomatoes.