HOT DISH: 2005’s Finest Party

Country Stars Go Platinum, Head to Washington for Inaugural Parties

(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

The star-studded birthday party hosted by Louise Scruggs to honor her hubby, Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs, on his 81st birthday was the hot place to be. Everybody who is anybody attended the event held at the Scruggs’ estate, including Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and the marvelous Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, his lovely/cool wife Matraca Berg (writer of the award-winning song “Strawberry Wine”) and his bandmate, Jimmy Fadden. Famed and near famed flocked to the kitchen table to visit with Earl and Mac Wiseman and sauntered over to the other table near the patio to visit with CMT’s Chet Flippo and yours truly.

The guest list included Travis Tritt, Fletcher Foster, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, the Whites, Ricky Skaggs, Tut Taylor and his son, Cowboy Jack Clement and Aileen Jackson, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Gordon Gee and his wife Dr. Constance Gee, Marty Stuart, Peter and Charlotte Cooper, Bill Anderson, the good-hearted Bob McLean (who recently bought Mother Maybelle’s guitar and presented it to the Country Music Hall of Fame), Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander (on their way to London), Bela Fleck, Larry Cordle and Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Guitar god Bryon Sutton, Dobro god Jerry Douglas, banjo god Charlie Cushman (and Earl, too!) and mandolin god Sam Bush were all in the same room, chowing down and saying howdy!

Sons Gary and Randy Scruggs were there, and the wonderful Melissa Scruggs (daughter of the late Steve Scruggs, granddaughter of Louise and Earl and a student at Belmont University) was visiting with Skaggs siblings Molly and Luke.

The Grammy-winning Earl Scruggs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is in the International Bluegrass Hall of Honor. In March, he and lifetime partner Louise will be featured in display in the Country Music Hall of Fame with a complete pictorial history.

I do want to mention that Jeff Hanna is very excited over the upcoming duo release on DreamWorks Records by his son, Jamie Hanna, and Jonathan McEuen. Jamie and Jonathan’s mothers are twins. Therefore, vocally, the boys are about as close to sibling harmony it can get. Jonathan is the son of Dirt Band member John McEuen.

Radio Broadcasters Honor Dolly
The Country Radio Broadcasters organization will honor the multi-talented Dolly Parton with its Career Achievement award at the Country Music DJ and Radio Hall of Fame dinner on March 1 in Nashville. Martina McBride and Catherine Britt will perform a tribute to Dolly during the evening.

Busy Sara
Sara Evans’ current album, Restless, has been certified platinum by the RIAA. One of George “W’s” favorite singers, Sara is set to perform at the Black Tie & Boots Texas event on the eve of Thursday’s (Jan 20) inauguration. Also performing are Neal McCoy, Asleep at the Wheel, Lyle Lovett and Clay Walker. The next day, Sara and hubby Craig Schelske will attend the inauguration, leaving directly afterward to make it to Pennsylvania for the Mud & Suds tour with Brad Paisley and opening act Andy Griggs.

Mark Chesnutt Goes With the “W” Brand
Mark Chesnutt is the first recipient of the W Award to be presented by the Republican Party of Florida at its Sequins & Stars ball in the nation’s capital this week as part of the inaugural events. I do believe Mark will also perform.

Trace Adkins Comin’ On Strong Platinum
Trace Adkins begins the new year with a new baby and his Comin’ On Strong turning into a platinum album. With the sales success, Trace’s label, Capitol Records claims his career is exploding. His long and steady eight-year career has hit a hot streak with a much-heralded performance at the Orange Bowl, sold-out tour dates, multiple RIAA certifications, acting roles and commercials, including a stint as national spokesperson for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Folks in Capitol’s sales department tell me Trace is primed to ascend to the top of the charts with his new single, “Songs About Me,” from his yet-to-be-titled CD scheduled for a spring outing.

Naomi’s Birthday
Celebrating a birthday, Naomi Judd is the only 59-year-old I know who is famous because she has a daughter named Wynonna, who sings like an angel and has sung her way and her mama’s way to fame. Most mamas are not that blessed. Most talented daughters won’t sing with their mother. Naomi was lucky.

Judd Girls at Hall of Fame
Wynonna and Ashley Judd showed up at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to announce they are very serious about informing young people about the prevention of HIV/AIDS. It’s an important issue that can save the life of your child or my child or some child we know. It is high time adults realize and tell their offspring that HIV/AIDS is not just a homosexual disease. Read all about the Judd sisters’ involvement in the fight against the disease in the current issue of Ladies Home Journal, sans mama.

Urban Continuation
Beginning ’05 like he ended ’04, Keith Urban’s honors, sold-out performances, award nominations and accolades continue. Along with Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson, Keith was honored for his contribution to the arts during Saturday’s (Jan. 15) dinner in Los Angeles highlighting the second annual G’Day L.A: Australia Week. Later this week in L.A., Keith and John Fogerty will team up to tape a CMT Crossroads show that’s set to air Feb. 19. He’ll be back in L.A. on Feb. 13 for the Grammy Awards, where he’s nominated in two categories (best male country performance for “You’ll Think of Me” and best country album for Be Here). But Saturday (Jan. 22) in Nashville is Max It Out, an annual event benefiting meningitis research, hosted by Keith and featuring 30 country music pals.

Gretchen and Chevrolet Shine
Gretchen Wilson’s tour sponsor, Chevrolet, came through big time for cancer survivors in Nashville. Ten survivors, ages 19 to 30, were presented brand new 2005 Chevy Cobalts on New Year’s Eve after Gretchen made the announcement during a segment of American’s Party With Ryan Seacrest on Fox-TV. Chevrolet partnered with the T.J. Martell Foundation and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to select the honorees.

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
The Houston Livestock & Rodeo will run from March 1-20, and there will be country music stars performing nearly every day. Among the cream of the crop are Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney (who broke attendance records there last year), Brad Paisley, Neal McCoy, the Charlie Daniels Band, Martina McBride, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, Keith Urban, funnyman Jeff Foxworthy, Pat Green, Montgomery Gentry, Clay Walker, Clint Black and others. I do hope I live to thank the organizers of the rodeo in person for using country music for this annual event.

Studying Martina
English professor Dr. Ron DePeter at Salem College in Winston Salem, N.C., is teaching a course to young women titled “Happy Girl/Broken Wing: Martina McBride as Text.” By analyzing songs and videos from McBride’s Greatest Hits and Martina albums, the professor plans to use the singer’s voice as a vehicle to convey a woman’s experience artfully and in its entire dimension from heartbreak to gratitude. Folks, this is a new one, and they could not have chosen a better subject.

Bits & Pieces
Deana Carter’s next CD, The Story of My Life, is set for March 8 release on Vanguard Records.

Terri Clark is singing on TV these days and nights for Dodge. Lucky Dodge.

Cracker Barrel is sponsoring Alison Krauss & Union Station’s 2005 tour that debuted last week in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Marty Raybon is set to host Indian Mound Bluegrass Festival in Okeechobee, Fla. Taking place Feb. 10-13, an extra day was added to raise funds for tsunami relief.

Having completed treatment for cancer of the bile duct, Chris LeDoux is resting at his home in Wyoming and says he is confident he is rid of the disease. Send prayers to this good man.

Winners at the People’s Choice awards included Tim McGraw (country male singer), Shania Twain (country female singer) and Brooks & Dunn (country group slot). I’m proud for these artists, but I can tell you right now: The People’s Choice Awards show was sooooooooo boring, I fell asleep.

Cledus T. Judd has been named master of ceremonies for the Montgomery Gentry/Trace Adkins Turn It Up and Bring It On tour. You will not fall asleep at this concert.

Proceeds from “Come Home Soon” bracelets on SHeDAISY’s Web site will be donated to the American Red Cross. The girls have already sold 15,000.

Julie Roberts returned from Los Angeles where she performed at a benefit for the Animals Rescue Foundation (ARF) with Vince Gill, Amy Grant and several pop acts before heading to Nashville’s Belmont University to perform during her alma mater’s homecoming weekend. I’m hearing nothing but good stuff on this act.

Jessica Andrews recently celebrated her 21st birthday at Quebec City, Ontario.

Lee Greenwood and John Michael Montgomery will join Gloria Estefan and others onstage Tuesday (Jan. 18) for the Saluting Those Who Serve event at the MCI Center in Washington. Greenwood is set to perform “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” What happened to “God Bless the USA”?

It was a two-party day for Lonestar and “Mr. Mom” when the group celebrated yet another No. 1 hit at both ASCAP and BMI.

The tall and wonderful Darryl Worley is a good all-American guy who supports the armed forces, supports the needs of the homefolks back home in Savannah, Tenn., and loves country music. So it gives me great pleasure to congratulate Darryl on his very deserving No. 1 hit, “Awful, Beautiful Life.” His entire album is killer great.

I see where Belmont University music biz professor Don Cusic has compiled a book of Johnny Cash song lyrics which will make good reading. When my son Billy recently ran into Cusic, he said to Billy, “Had it not been for your mama, I would have starved to death in this town. I was living in my car.” Cusic had a donut with coffee for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and instant soup for supper in my office — and he survived. Now he’s teaching music biz to the nation’s finest. Cusic has written a bunch of books so he don’t go hungry no more.

A Feb. 8 release date has been set for Lee Ann Womack’s wonderful new CD, There’s More Where That Came From, and it’s an excellent body of work. It is called country music.

The last person on earth I’d expect to serve as judge is Phil Vassar, unless it’s being a judge of talent and/or songs. And that’s what Phil is gonna judge when Nashville Star returns in March.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Banana Nut Bread.