HOT DISH: Earl Scruggs Did Not Journey Alone

Allison Brown Plays As Good As Anybody, Kenny Rogers Signs a New Deal

(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

According to two old sayings, “Behind every successful man there’s a woman,” and, “Man is head of the house, but woman is the neck that turns the head.”

Earl Scruggs picked the banjo, but Louise Scruggs picked the concert venues, picked over the contracts and, if the truth be told, it was Louise who more than five decades ago sat on the front row of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and picked Earl out of Bill Monroe’s band. The audience was screaming for Earl’s three-finger picking style, while Louise was thinking, “That new guy, the banjo player in Monroe’s band, is cute.”

Through the years, promoters called Louise tough. She was. However, the price she was quoting or whatever she was requesting was what her husband, Earl, told her he wanted for Flatt & Scruggs. A North Carolina mountain boy, Earl knew if you didn’t ask, you didn’t get anything, and he taught the practice to Louise. They were a team. Earl also knew it beat the daylights out of working in the cotton mills like his kin in Flint Hill, N.C.

Like my friend and associate Ed Morris so aptly wrote in his article, fans and friends recently jammed into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to view the new exhibit, Banjo Man: The Musical Journey of Earl Scruggs. Attended by more than 1,500 people, including sons Randy and Gary Scruggs, it was another glorious event provided by Robert W. “Bob” McLean, a man I called a saint back when he purchased Mother Maybelle Carter’s guitar and donated it to the Hall of Fame. McLean, a businessman from Murfreesboro, Tenn., stepped up again “to avail rather than to talk.” In underwriting the project, he has provided fans and family of Earl Scruggs a display everyone can be proud of.

Hang a shingle and call him Dr. Scruggs. Five days after the exhibit opened, faculty from the Berklee College of Music in Boston presented Earl with an honorary doctorate degree. Performing during the event at the Hall of Fame were Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Bela Fleck and Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.

Allison Brown: Banjo Girl
Giving a listen to Allison Brown’s new Compass album, Stolen Moments, I was proud when my son, Billy, allowed, “Allison plays banjo as good as Bela Fleck or anybody else.” Billy did not incorrectly say Alison plays banjo good as a man or like a man. Billy stated she plays as good as Bela Fleck, who happens to be one of the best around.

Kenny Rogers Signs With Capitol
The legendary Kenny Rogers has signed a long-term recording agreement with Capitol Records. During the signing, Rogers was surprised with the presentation of his 26th gold record for his 42 Ultimate Hits released in June 2004. Signing Rogers, in my opinion, is a smart move on Capitol’s part. Don’t tell me Kenny Rogers cannot sell records. He’s already sold 500,000 copies of the 42 Ultimate Hits album alone in the past 10 months and became the daddy of twins! Hot dang.

NASCAR and Country Music
In the beginning, drivers who raced red dirt tracks in North Wilkesboro, N.C. and down Georgia way loved country music. It hasn’t changed. And if someone loves NASCAR, they naturally love country music. So when I found out Phil Vassar would be at the Atlanta Motor Speedway this past Friday (March 18) to serve as grand marshal of the thundering herd at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, it did not come as a surprise to me. And Vassar’s likeness was painted on the hood and sides of Bobby Labonte’s No. 47 Silverado. Rev ’er up.

Amazing Music
Members of Lonestar and songwriters Marv Green, Aimee Mayo and Chris Lindsey were honored by BMI for 5 million radio spins of their hit, “Amazed.” I see a lot of zeros on mailbox money for the very fortunate (and rich) songwriting threesome.

Amazing, too, is that Craig Morgan and his indie label, Broken Bow Records, celebrated their first No. 1 this week with “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”

Hall of Fame Visitor
When I answered the phone, Jeremy exclaimed, “You’ll never believe who just walked through the Hall of Fame.”

“Who?” asked I.

“Little Jimmy Dickens,” he blurted. “And I told him, ’I’m Jeremy Smith. Hazel Smith is my grandma.'”

According to Jeremy, Little Jimmy replied, ’Hazel Smith … I just love her.’

It is truly wonderful to be loved by someone as great as Little Jimmy Dickens. High school senior Jeremy, who works at the Hall of Fame, proudly escorted him to the elevator.

Didja Hear?
Songwriter extraordinaire Hank Cochran is resting comfortably following successful triple-bypass surgery at a Nashville hospital. Hank, whose songs include standards like “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You” and “The Chair,” has been writing hits for 40 years and ain’t apt to stop no time soon. Come on friends, let’s all of us lift a prayer up for ol’ Hank.

Katrina Elam, the opening act on Keith Urban’s current concert tour, got a hometown welcome when the tour hit Oklahoma City. Fans gave the youngster a big standing ovation when she walked onstage. Did Katrina actually do three meet and greets?

Just after Jessi Alexander’s Tonight Show debut, the driver of van carrying the singer and her band ran a red light and rammed into a car in Burbank, Calif. Jessi got a stiff neck, but there were no serious injuries.

Kenny Chesney dedicated “The Good Stuff” to the late Chris LeDoux during his concert at the Houston Rodeo. You may recall the song refers to a lady who had cancer and lost her hair to chemotherapy, so her husband shaved his head. I’ll never forget that “The Good Stuff’ is a true story written about the wonderful Rusty who heads up security at offices of the RCA Label Group in Nashville. Rusty shaved his head when his wife lost her hair from chemo. Like Chris, Rusty’s wife didn’t make it.

I see where Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw joined Tracy Lawrence on his next single, “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are.” And Brad Paisley and John Conlee joined Craig Morgan on “Blame Me,” a tune on Craig’s new album.

Jimmy Wayne, raised in foster homes in the mountains of North Carolina, did a benefit for Our House, a foster home in Columbus, Ga.

Congratulations are in order for a couple of my friends that were deservedly upped by the CMA. Bobette Dudley was named vice president of events and program development, and Rick Murray was named vice president of strategic marketing. Good folks.

Mark Wills, Jerry Reed, Aaron Tippin, Craig Morgan and other acts will perform at the Ryman Auditorium for TV tapings produced for the Armed Forces Network.

Come Oct. 27-31, Trent Willmon, Shelly Fairchild and Jeff Bates will be cruisin’ the
Caribbean — country style. For $599, you can join the threesome for four fun-filled days and nights. Departing Galveston, Texas, on Carnival Cruise Lines, the ship will travel to Cozumel. There will be shopping, snorkeling, diving, private concerts, cocktail parties and meet and greets. Just looking at Jeff Bates makes the trip worthwhile.

Aaron Tippin’s all hot and bothered over Congress spending too much time addressing the issue of steroid use among professional baseball players while ignoring important issues like youths dying in Iraq, national security, border security, Social Security and energy. Tip blatantly asks why Barry Bonds has been overlooked in the so-called steroid investigation and points out that steroids are unlawful drugs. Makes me wonder if anybody in Washington can read.

Jo Dee Messina is about to unveil her first CD in four years. She calls it Delicious Surprise. I was surprised to see that Jo Dee wrote or co-wrote five of the 13 songs included on the record that’s set for release April 26. Her current chart-climbing single is
“My Give a Damn’s Busted.”

It was great visiting with Terri Clark at the luncheon where she announced the finalists for the 2005 CMT Music Awards. Says she’s busy finishing up a new CD and touring. I asked her about the Dodge truck commercials. Dodge obliged her with a brand new big truck in exchange for her singing their praises. You think Terri is lucky? Dodge is lucky to have that long-legged, jean-clad, hat-wearing gorgeous girl singing about its vehicle. Fans, don’t you forget to vote in this, the only fan-voted awards. The voting is underway here at

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chocolate Cherry Trifle.