HOT DISH: Thank God for Fans

Where Would the Mainstream Superstars Be Without True Country Music Lovers?

(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.)

Thank God for country music fans! Were it not for the fans, where would Kenny and Toby be?

Have you ever noticed when a group of so-called country music experts are assigned to review albums of the year or singles of the year, they almost never mention the current roster of hit makers? Should you be in earshot of those experts — blessed with company plastic and sipping their supper — you will never hear a one of the illustrious know-it-alls say they like Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith. Where would we be without Kenny and Toby — the superstars?

I am so freaking tired of being asked, “Have you heard so and so’s record?” I shake my head, no. “Utterly cool,” they say. Listen honey, “utterly cool” sold less than 50,000 pieces and didn’t even bubble under on the charts.

Granted, some utterly cool is really utterly cool — and great. But some is like comparing a trained fiddler who reads music to a fiddler who plays by ear and uses God-given talent to fiddle from the heart. Read the next sentence loudly — like megaphone loud: Anything musical from the heart is head and shoulders above anything learned from a book or a piece of paper.

May I suggest to magazines and trade publications to use fans to review records. That way we know it is fair and from the heart.

Over platinum plastic at Music Town’s watering holes, I will be cursed tonight. It won’t be the first or last time.

Country Radio Seminar
Fans may be as crazy as radio folks, but there’s one time each year when all the craziness gets out of hand. Lines and lines of trucks filled with Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, Wild Turkey and every beer and wine known to humans were obviously headed for the Country Radio Seminar that took place last week.

During a dinner when the Country Radio Broadcasters honored the great Dolly Parton with its career achievement award, she smiled and drawled, “I think of radio like a great lover. You were good to me. You bought me nice things.” Her smile left as she added, “And then you dumped my ass for a younger woman.”

Country music personalities stinging from the truth gave Dolly a standing ovation. Over the laughter and applause, Dolly shouted, “Seriously folks, I’m still singing. Play my records.” After that, how can they refuse to play Dolly’s records?

Martina McBride and newcomer Catherine Britt serenaded Parton and the crowd with several Dolly hits, and RCA’s Joe Galante presented Parton with a plaque for sales in excess of 24 million for the label.

Here I sit high and dry wanting to attend some of the CRS events, especially the RCA Label Group’s cruise down the Cumberland River on the General Jackson showboat, but I’m under vocal rest. Rumor has it, there are those laughing because I ain’t talking.

To make bad matters worse, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie chose to come to Music Town last week to shoot footage for their TV show The Simple Life 3. Country radio folks don’t need to even touch Paris and Nicole. Besides being Hollywood and pop, those gals aren’t even choicey. Also, big-time photog Mark Seliger is all over town shooting MuzikMafia shots of Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich, James Otto and even Two-Foot Fred and Cowboy Troy for GQ‘s May issue.

Radio did not ask for my advice, but I have three words to say: Keep it country.

The Straight and Narrow
The preacher’s wife, Frankie Clapp, sends me items that help to keep me on the straight and narrow. Ever since Brother Clapp had hip replacement surgery in December, it’s been Frankie’s gig to do all the chores around the house. Today when I opened her e-mail, I howled when this sainted woman innocently sent me lyrics and music to the wonderful “Put Another Log on the Fire,” from the rich pen of Shel Silverstein and sung by the incredible Tompall Glaser. She had no earthly idea I was there 30 years ago when Shel first sang the song to Tompall and when Tompall recorded it. Frankie was just sharing with me what had been her lot in life for the past three months. Small world, ain’t it?

Plowboy Mansion
Remember when Fontanel, the outlandish, oversized, biggest log house in the world, was home to Barbara Mandrell, husband Kenneth Dudney and their family? The place outgrew the family, so they sold it.

Wonders never cease. I am told Fontanel is no more — and the place has been renamed the Plowboy Mansion by the MuzikMafia. It’s become the place for Big & Rich and their pals to party, play music, hang out and have target practice. Great day in the morning, somebody please warn those boys and girls that bows and arrows and guns do not mix with firewater, not even at the Plowboy Mansion.

Goldie and Carl: A Handsome Couple
Last year’s Country Music Hall of Fame medallion ceremony was a special moment as Nashville honored inductees Carl Smith and the late Floyd Cramer. With his still-angelic vocals, Carl blew us all away — especially Kix Brooks.

Chet Flippo and I were totally impressed by the twin granddaughters of Carl and his wife, Goldie Hill. They were granddaughters of legends, yet as unspoiled and normal as any teen from small-town Tennessee could be. Chet and I were absolutely surprised when they made us aware they’d never even heard their grandpa sing before that day.

It is amazing that Carl and Goldie retired to raise horses, kids and grandkids and never allowed music to mess up their family. Carl and Goldie were a most beautiful couple. The two of them made one. They loved their daily breakfast at Cracker Barrel and their morning walks around their property. Carl never failed to tease Goldie about not making biscuits.

We send our love and sympathy to Carl and their children, Lori Lynn, Carl Jr. and Dean. The beautiful Goldie Hill Smith, who died Feb. 24, will be missed by all who knew her. If you knew her, you loved her.

Eye Saw
Eye saw the great big diesel tractor pulling the massive trailer with lettering broom-handle tall proclaiming “TOBY KEITH’S BIG THROW DOWN” at Nashville’s Rivergate Mall where I shop. I was rightly impressed that Toby’s big truck was on the average side of town!

Whadda You Know?
Lord have mercy, I’m getting calls from all over the U.S.A. Me, my CMT.com column and my illness were mentioned in the New York Times. Reporter Phil Sweetland’s at it again!

The wonderful Jeff Bates, who also had a bout with the flu, called to check up on me. Said Jeff, “The doctor said I surely would have died had I not eaten those chicken dumplings you made.” There’s a man who may get more chicken dumplings.

Yes, while I was hospitalized, Brooks & Dunn sent me flowers. Yes, Ellen DeGeneres sent me flowers. Yes, so did Joe, Renee and Bill, Fletcher, RCA, Dennis, Brian, CMT, Beverly, Gina, Kenny and Kathy, the Waaras, the Mirendas and Martha and Chet. No, I will never forget. Wanna know love? Kix and Ronnie sent me enough flowers to cover a casket. XXs and OOs to all.

Darryl Worley wrote a $5,000 check to the Civil War Preservation Trust, then took himself to the nation’s capital to bring attention to the preservation of history. Boy, that is putting one’s money where one’s mouth is.

Jamie O’Neal’s 20-month-old daughter Aliyah refused to let Jay Leno hold her while visiting The Tonight Show. Would you let Jay Leno hold you? “Not I,” said the big redneck.

The fabulous Eric Heatherly has signed with Koch Records.

Willie Nelson’s Jan. 9 charity concert has become a CD and DVD, Songs for Tsunami Relief: From Austin to Southeast Asia, set for release April 12. Besides Willie, the concert featured the great Joe Ely, Spoon, Patti Griffin, Alejandro Escovedo, Jon Dee Graham, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis and a special appearance by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. It’s just like Willie to do another wonderful thing for people who might never know his name or his music. But God knows.

Billy Joe Gets in a Hurry
“Things need to happen in a hurry at my age,” said 65-year-old Billy Joe Shaver to one of my media pals. Billy Joe was referring to his upcoming nuptials. He’s set to marry a not-yet 40-year-old nurse he met at a restaurant two months ago. Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman will be a part of the wedding.

Lord, I don’t know why my mind keeps drifting back three decades to a Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic in Dripping Springs, Texas, where Billy Joe — obviously stoned out of his mind — allegedly performed the worst set in the history of country music, concluded he was Jesus and went out in the desert to die. Missing for a week, he showed up in Los Angeles at a club where Waylon Jennings was performing and claimed he did not recollect where he’d been or how he got there.

You won’t read about this incident in Billy Joe’s wonderful new autobiography, Honky Tonk Hero, but there’s some very interesting stuff in his book. As a matter of fact, he reveals in the book what I’d suspected about his son’s death from a heroin OD. It was Rosie Nix, the second daughter of June Carter Cash, who turned Eddie Shaver on to heroin. Rosie also died from a drug overdose.

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