HOT DISH: Happy Country Music New Year

Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins Get a Head Start on Making News in 2005

(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.)

One can best describe a country music star as someone with talent, a good heart and helping hands. Such is the case with my friend, Brad Paisley, a native of Glen Dale, W.Va., way back in the holler. Brad, a child prodigy, was playing guitar on the Wheeling Jamboree when he was 12 years old. So naturally when he received a letter postmarked “Wheeling,” he ripped it open. A 15-year-old boy wrote complaining that there was no place to skate in West Virginia. Brad, a skateboard enthusiast, got in touch with officials in his home state and made a hefty donation to the Wheeling Skate Park Committee. Brad requested the amount he donated not be revealed, but I’ve learned the 20,000-square-foot facility is estimated to run between $200,000 and $250,000 and will be the first free concrete skate park in the state. Big-hearted Brad is also set to perform a benefit concert Saturday (Jan. 15) in Wheeling for victims of last year’s flooding in the Ohio Valley.

Trace and the Orange Bowl
The word from Florida’s Orange Bowl is that Trace Adkins, pro that he is, waltzed in and blistered his new single, “Songs About Me,” to kick off 2005 with a bang. Not so with Ashlee Simpson. Ashlee was nice to Trace, but I hear she drove the ABC-TV folks up an orange tree — changed her mind a blue-zillion times. (I was once asked, “Don’t you have to have talent to sing?” My reply: “Only if you’re country.”) A big Auburn fan, Trace loved seeing the game. Drawled Trace, “Shoot, I’d lip-synch to ‘Like a Virgin’ to see this game.” Trace does not lip-synch. Guess who does?

New Year’s Cheers for Toby and Kenny
Billboard magazine named Toby Keith its top country artist, top male country artist, top country album artist and top country singles artist for 2004. His No. 1 country singles included “American Soldier” (which topped the chart for four weeks) and “Whiskey Girl.” His Greatest Hits 2 CD, released in November 2004, has sold more than 1 million copies. Rocker Ted Nugent is set to open shows for Toby during January and February.

Radio & Records, on the other hand, is rooting for Kenny Chesney. Based on his performance on the trade publication’s singles charts, R&R named Kenny its overall MVP and male MVP for the year.

Kenny’s Greatest Hits CD, like No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem, is quadruple platinum for shipments of 4 million copies. His CMA album of the year, When the Sun Goes Down, is triple platinum, and Kenny is the CMA’s entertainer of the year. The fan-voted all-genre American Music Awards voted Kenny its favorite artist, outpolling Usher, Norah Jones, Evanescence and OutKast.

FYI: With sales of 3,072,224 copies, When the Sun Goes Down outsold all country albums between Jan. 5, 2004, and Jan. 2, 2005. Question: All these smart people who do album reviews or list their favorite albums never include Kenny, but I do. Us young girls love Kenny and his music.

Kenny’s new album, Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair, will hit the stores Jan. 25, and he will appear on The Tonight Show on Feb. 1.

Grammy Honors
When the Grammy Awards are handed out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, among the many deserving artists set to be honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement awards are three of country’s finest — Eddy Arnold, Jerry Lee Lewis and the original Carter Family. We send congratulations to the Grammy folks for being smart enough to honor these people.

“Pickup Man” Can
Joe Diffie has entered into an agreement with Applebee’s, the “eating good in the neighborhood” restaurant. Joe will re-record his No. 1 hit from 1994, “Pickup Man,” to help introduce Applebee’s new food-to-go service. Joe’s re-written version of his hit will appear in radio and TV spots in all 50 states and 12 foreign countries throughout 2005, according to Buddy Lee Attractions.

The White Escalade
The driver of the big white SUV trimmed in gold recently stuck in a horrific traffic jam near the I-24/I-40 intersection in Nashville was none other than the Possum, Mr. George Jones. Instead of wasting your money on paying bills and buying groceries, let me suggest that you buy yourself a copy of 50 Years of Hits by the Cadillac Escalade-driving George Jones — just so you can remember how country music is supposed to sound.

Dierks’ New Girl
Rumor has it, too-cute-for-words Dierks Bentley has a new girlfriend. She’s Tennessee Titans cheerleader Stephanie A. When Dierks sang the national anthem before the Monday Night Football game in December, he met her, and they became an item. Let’s hope she likes Jake, the dog. That is not an option. It’s a have to.

Big Baghdad Adventure
Two of my friends, Clear Channel/Minneapolis executive Mick Anselmo and KEEY/Minneapolis morning man John Hines, rang in the New Year in Iraq. The duo carried phone cards with more than 500,000 minutes of calling time to troops from Minnesota as part of the company’s Operation Northern Lights project to connect deployed troops and their families at home. Thanks, Mick. Thanks, John. Hello, radio … wanna say, “Me too!”?

Country Fans Are Best in the World for Jeff Bates
Ol’ gravel-throat Jeff Bates claims country fans are the best in the world. Jeff spends lots of time with fans after shows. He shakes hands and signs autographs as long as anyone is there. Since Jeff had no fan club, his followers decided to start one and called themselves “Women on a Mission,” a phrase from Jeff’s song, “Lovin’ Like That.” The funny part, though, is that there are guys in the club, too, and they have helped the ladies raise funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Toys for Tots. On top of that, imagine Jeff’s surprise and amazement on Christmas when his producer presented him with a top of the line electric guitar bought with money contributed by his fans. Jeff, the tough guy from Mississippi, broke down and cried like a baby.

Stuff Worth Knowing
The great songwriter Bobby Braddock became a grandfather recently when daughter Lauren gave birth to Braddock James Havey. Dad is PR man Jim Havey. Bobby, whose songwriting credits include George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” produces Blake Shelton’s recordings.

LeAnn Rimes kicked off the third season of the Nashville Star TV series recently at the Wildhorse Saloon. Her assistant — Cledus T. Judd.

When the people at NBC who are putting together an all-star show together set to assist victims of the tsunami, Kenny Chesney didn’t need to be asked. He volunteered, “Where do you need me to be?” He’ll be there Saturday (Jan. 15).

Jamie O’Neal sang the national anthem in Indianapolis at the game between the Colts and the Denver Broncos.

It’s a Kinky Thing
Come Feb. 3, singer, songwriter, author, columnist and entrepreneur Kinky Friedman will be at the Alamo in San Antonio to officially announce his candidacy for governor of the state of Texas on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning and via syndicated radio across the country. Kinky is probably the only person in America with these two photos on his wall — one of President George W. Bush and himself and one of former President Bill Clinton and himself. Like I’ve told you before, Kinky does swing both ways.

More Stuff Worth Knowing
Lee Roy Parnell has signed with the Universal South label.

Brooks & Dunn’s Kix Brooks, who also volunteers as board chairman at the Country Music Association, recently spoke before Rotary Club members in Nashville. His talk was titled “Bringing the Music and Business Communities Together.” Lord knows, this is sorely needed.

The little girl with a big voice, Julie Roberts, recently made her second appearance on The Tonight Show.

Bluegrass fans will want to know that the award-winning Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver will have a new gospel album titled You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper set to be released in March.

Someone claims they have George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s last bedroom suite from their home in Nashville and have it for sale on eBay with a starting bid of $8,500. The seller, who claims he was Jones’ accountant, says he bought the suite from Jones and has other furniture that belonged to the couple.

Dolly Parton has been commissioned to write the music for a Broadway production.

Due to problems with his shoulder, Sonny Osborne of the legendary Osborne Brothers has quit doing road dates, but he will continue to make Grand Ole Opry appearances. His singing partner and brother, Bobby Osborne, and the Rocky Top X-press will continue touring with their band.

Unknown at the start of 2004, Gretchen Wilson’s Here for the Party is triple platinum. Rolling Stone ranks the album as one of its Top 50 records of 2004 and Entertainment Weekly listed her at No. 8 with a two-page spread, while both People and Time listed her album in their Top 10 picks.

More than 12,000 fans filled Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., for Montgomery Gentry’s rocking New Year’s Eve party with special guests Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trace Adkins and Blue County.

Allison Moorer and Steve Earle are an item.

Banjo Man Honored at Country Music Hall of Fame
Banjo Man: The Musical Journey of Earl Scruggs opens March 4 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville and will remain on exhibit until June 16, 2006. Earl’s wife and business partner, Louise Scruggs, will also be honored. The exhibit will trace Scruggs’ life from his rural North Carolina roots through his years as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, to the evolution of Flatt and Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys and the folk-rock of the Earl Scruggs Revue. A Grammy winner, Earl is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and his star is a part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is truly an American original.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Collard Greens.