HOT DISH: Keith Urban Is Too Busy for Romance

Searching for the Turners and Wondering How Willie Keeps Up the Pace

(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

Keith Urban, the CMA male vocalist of the year, has very little to complain about, but he’s bellyaching. What he’s worked toward for a dozen years is almost in sight, and he’s on the verge of superstardom. No two ways about it, Keith is one of country music’s hottest acts.

So why’s he complaining?

“I’m so busy,” said the handsome singer, songwriter, musician and entertainer. “Busy is good, but there’s no time for romance,” he whined.

Already a superstar in his native Australia and in Canada, Keith is leader of the pack of wannabes in the good old U.S. of A. His first headlining tour is a success, his merchandise sells like hotcakes, his self-titled debut CD is platinum, Golden Road is double platinum and his current Grammy-nominated album Be Here is platinum after only 10 weeks. With a total of five No. 1 singles, “Somebody Like You” stayed at No. 1 for 8 weeks and “Days Go By” chart topped with incredible speed. And his fan club is reportedly one of the best.

“No time for a relationship,” reiterated Keith, who had just completed two shows at the trendy Wiltern Theater in L.A., followed by another “biggun” in San Jose, before calling it quits for 2004. Off to Australia for two weeks with family and friends, the cutest guy in country music might be too busy for a relationship, but he’s managed to turn on a million or more cute girls with his music, class and charm. And as long as he’s single … well … girls have hope. You better believe Keith’s new video, “You’re My Better Half,” will be a must see.

Who Are the Turners?
I receive beau coups of Christmas cards from friends, family and acquaintances from around the world. I know these people and enjoy reading their annual messages. But there was one in a red envelope from the Turners with a local address that I failed to recognize. Inside was a nice picture card of a jeans-wearing couple with stocking caps. The handsome man, wore a Clemson University sweater and was embracing a very pretty girl. I did not have a clue as to who these people were. I called all over Music Row trying to locate the Turners.

Finally, I received my issue of Country Weekly and inside there’s the couple! Josh Turner and his wife, Jennifer, are the Turners. And the person in my mirror felt very stupid.

Speaking of Christmas cards, I loved Alan Jackson’s card with his dog, and I loved Willie Nelson’s calendar/card. Loretta Lynn in her Manuel dress with her personalized guitar and silver boots made my day. Riders in the Sky always remember me.

When Will Willie Find Time?
As usual, Willie Nelson will take off mid-December until mid-February for a little rest and relaxation in Austin, Texas, and Maui, Hawaii. Later in February, his Old Whiskey tour takes him to performances in New Zealand and Australia. Mid-March until April 6, Willie and company can be found in Scotland and England. The man never stops.

What I want to know is when will Willie find time to play the role of Uncle Jesse in the big screen production of Dukes of Hazzard? They’re saying to expect a July release.

Tony Brown Honored
One of the good guys, Tony Brown, was presented the Nashville Symphony’s 2004 Harmony Award during the 20th anniversary Symphony Ball at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. The Harmony Award honors a person who contributes to the development and appreciation of the music culture in Nashville. Brown, who served plenty years as president of MCA Nashville, produced records for George Strait, Reba McEntire, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood and a passel more and played piano for Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. He’s also a senior partner at Universal South Records and a member of the Notorious Cherry Bombs. Yearwood, who received the Harmony honor in 1998, presented Brown with the award.

Chesney Style
It’s no secret, Kenny Chesney, with the hat over his eyes, thinks Today’s Katie Couric is too cute for words. Would you believe? Last week on the show, Katie had her fur hat pulled down over her eyes exactly like Kenny wears his. Made me wonder, is Katie sending Kenny a message?

His new CD, Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair, is set for release Jan. 25, and Kenny will perform songs from the album on The Tonight Show on Feb. 1. Seems a ways off, but it’ll be here before we know it.

Chesney sold more concert tickets this year than anybody in the world, except Prince. And Prince does not count in my book. Shania’s tour was the most successful country tour, but she charges more money for tickets than Kenny does.

Ryman Music
Many of you will remember the late Biff Collie, one of the first inductees into the DJ Hall of Fame. Biff’s youngest daughter, Sharon, works at LifeWay Christian Stores, and she is my daughter-in-law. So I took myself to the Ryman Auditorium for the annual LifeWay Music of Christmas concert. The program, titled “Heirlooms,” was based on an original idea by Sharon Collie Smith! Was I ever proud when the perfect harmony of “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” performed by Sharon and three friends, wafted through the historic Ryman.

New News
Congratulations to Blake Shelton on his No. 1 single, “Some Beach.” No. 1 singles help new acts, especially this one. Rumor has it Blake was thinking of “hanging it up.” But not now.

If Lee Ann Womack’s new single, “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” is any indication of the contents of her forthcoming album, There’s More Where That Come From, I’d wager my farm she has kicked up her career a notch.

Sawyer Brown have plugged in! Yep, the band has been doing concerts and making records, but now they’re really plugged into the Internet with an updated Web site. Even e-mail. Sorta like when Ernest Tubb and Bob Dylan plugged into electric — and into another world.

Phil Vassar was performing at the Las Vegas Hilton during the National Rodeo Finals for three nights when members of the pop band Journey showed up backstage. Later, Phil dashed over to Gilley’s where Johnny Lee is still singing “Lookin’ for Love.” Phil couldn’t help it, so he hopped onstage and sang several hits including his latest No. 1 smash, “In a Real Love.”

Nominations have been announced for the fan-voted People’s Choice awards to be presented Jan. 9. The favorite country group nominees are Alison Krauss & Union Station, Brooks & Dunn, Lonestar, Rascal Flatts and SHeDAISY. Favorite male country singer nominations went to Jimmy Buffett, along with Alan, Toby, Tim and Willie Nelson. The nominees for favorite female country singer are Loretta, Martina, Reba, LeAnn Rimes and Shania. Dolly Parton and Norah Jones are included in the favorite combined forces category for their recording of “The Grass Is Blue.”

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store will sponsor Alison & Union Station on their 2005 Lonely Runs Both Ways tour kicking off in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Jan.12. I’d wrap my bus in a Cracker Barrel logo any day, and that’s just what Alison plans to do.

Look for Jo Dee Messina on the NBC-TV skating special Katarina & Friends on Jan. 2.

And look for cover boy Brad Paisley on front of the new issue of The Journal of Country Music. FYI: Brad and his dad, Doug Paisley, have placed the red Corvette in route from Los Angeles to West Virginia via Music City. If you remember, it was this column that made Doug aware that his son was giving him the Corvette. You can bet your bottom quarter, there’s a plethora of pickup trucks but only one Corvette in the West Virginia holler.

SHeDAISY recently appeared on ABC-TV’s The View.

When Big & Rich reach New York’s Times Square for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2005, they’ll be met by Regis Philbin, who calls this upcoming gig “the greatest temp job in the world.” Regis is filling in for the ailing Clark.

Driving Jeremy to school at 7 a.m., he asked if I’d combed my hair. After pulling down the visor, I lifted the lighted mirror and looked. It was scary. Staring a moment, I said, “Jeremy, Rascal Flatts spend tons of money trying to make their hair stand up like mine — and mine just does it naturally.”

Things got uncommonly hot at Keith Urban’s recent concert in Tucson. So hot, in fact, they had to cancel the show. Seems a fire got out of hand next door where a movie was filming. Five movie employees were hospitalized, but Keith was just fine.

Dolly Parton and the Grascals set to perform Feb. 4-5 at the Grand Ole Opry. Tickets are going fast.

The always-generous Garth Brooks gave the 300 plus needy kids in Hendersonville, Tenn., a party prior to their Wal-Mart shopping spree hosted by country music’s bus drivers. It must have been 20 years ago when the late Conway Twitty’s bus driver started the Christmas for Kids shopping event. An adult accompanies each child, and this year a 21-year-old assistant knew firsthand the shopping trip means the world to kids. When she was but a tyke, the bus drivers provided Christmas for her and her siblings. What goes around … comes around.

On their way to Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever there are soldiers, Darrell Worley and Mark Wills dropped by Vice President Dick Cheney’s Christmas party. That same week, I attended Vanderbilt University chancellor Gordon and Dr. Constance Gee’s holiday soiree. Personally, I prefer the latter.

Toby Keith doesn’t drop his pants during his interview in the Janaury issue of Playboy, but he doesn’t leave much hidden.

Have a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Sausage Balls.