HOT DISH: Garth and Trisha Make News in Bakersfield

Nobody Knew When or Where, but Proposal Was No Big Surprise

(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

It was a huge event in Bakersfield, Calif., this past Wednesday (May 25) when thousands of fans arrived at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace for the unveiling of the Legends in Bronze statues of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Garth Brooks and Owens. But what followed will be etched in history.

Along with Owens, others attending the event included Garth, the Hag and Jones. Garth’s was the final statue to be revealed, and he escorted Trisha Yearwood onstage with him. He pointed at the wedding ring on the statue’s finger, got down on one knee and proposed. Trisha said, “Yes.” Garth then gave Trisha a ring. Although not scheduled to perform, he sang George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” and his signature hit, “Friends in Low Places.”

The proposal comes as no surprise to me. Garth and Trisha were together in Nashville earlier this month for a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater honoring inductees Kris Kristofferson and Jim Fogelsong, the man who signed Brooks to his record deal on Capitol. At the Hall of Fame, I told him, “Trisha looks great.” Garth turned, stared at Trisha and said, “I look at her every day and watch her grow more beautiful.”

Garth told reporters at the Crystal Palace, “I don’t know how Trisha can leave the farm [in Oklahoma] and go on tour. She loves it there.” Referring to his three daughters, he added, “And she’s gotten extremely attached to those babies.”

One, Two, Three for Urban, Adkins and Bentley
Remember the little engine that said, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”? Capitol Records is the little label that never thought, “I can’t.” Label head Mike Dungan and the entire staff, like the little engine that could, have a positive attitude — and it’s paid off.

Capitol occupies the top three positions on Billboard’s country singles chart for the week of June 4. At No. 1 is Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us,” in tandem with Trace Adkins’ “Songs About Me” at No. 2 and Dierks Bentley’s “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do.” Congratulations to those in the ditches and those on the stages.

Urban has proven he is a superstar singer, songwriter, musician and entertainer. Being from Australia, he had to prove he was country to Music Row, to radio and to the fans. Lord knows, his parents raised him on the music of Don Williams, Glen Campbell and Charley Pride. Country is the music he loves. After arriving in Music Town, it took Urban 10 years of saying, “I think I can” before he began reaping the benefits. Currently, Keith is CMA and ACM’s male vocalist winner, and his Be Here was named the ACM’s album of the year.

Like Toby Keith and through no fault of his own, Adkins has been shuffled around by different presidents at the same label. When his producer, Scott Hendricks, was head honcho, Adkins’ debut album shot to platinum in a hurry, and he thought, “This is easy. Ain’t nothin’ to it.” But it took eight long, hard years and three different label leaders to reach that lofty position a second time with Comin’ On Strong. All along, Trace never gave up. As hard as it was, his attitude was, “I think I can.”

Bentley is the hardest-working man in country music today. When he showed up in Music City a decade ago, he did not like the music on radio, so he hung out at Nashville’s premier bluegrass club, the Station Inn. Once he got a record deal, he began performing anywhere they’d allow him to sing. It’s no secret he was on the road 300 days last year and did not complain. His self-titled debut album is certified platinum and his just-released sophomore CD, Modern Day Drifter, is looking good in the Top 10 of the country album charts. Dierks is not ashamed to say, “I think I can” and not afraid to say, “I know I can.”

Pulling for Sara
Because her huge hit, “Suds in the Bucket,” was the most-played song by a female country artist in 2004, her Mud & Suds tour with Brad Paisley and special guest Andy Griggs was a huge success. She’s done tons of TV over the past 12 months, and she’s opening shows this year for Alan Jackson. I wasn’t the only one in Music City who thought the ACM’s top female vocalist award would go to her. After all, Martina McBride had served a graceful three-year reign, so it seemed Sara was the queen in waiting. I got tons of e-mails, calls and howdys saying, “Did you see Sara Evans on camera when Gretchen Wilson was named top female vocalist? She was mad!”

I’ve known Sara since she hit town, so I went to the source. From her management, I learned that — like the other four nominees probably were — Sara was disappointed, but she is happy for Gretchen’s success because she believes it’s good for all of the country artists.

I’m still pulling for Sara to take home the queen’s trophy. She is currently in the studio recording what she calls “a country record.” Yee haw!

Sympathy and love to the four daughters of the late Johnny Cash — Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara — on the death of their mother, Vivian Liberto Cash Distin.

And to the family of studio musician and Hee Haw banjo player Bobby Thompson, we also send love and sympathy. In addition to his work in the band Area Code 615, he recorded with everyone from Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley to the Monkees and Neil Young. He also played on several film soundtracks, including Coal Miners’ Daughter, Smokey and the Bandit and Urban Cowboy. Bobby was wheelchair bound for years with MS prior to his death earlier this month.

Did You Hear
When Kenny Chesney’s best friend, Tim McGraw, was asked what he thought about Kenny’s sudden marriage to actress Renee Zellweger, McGraw jokingly replied, “I thought he was gay.” Kenny’s bride got a star last week on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Kenny and Renee have been seen working out and being cozy at a Nashville gym. Look for Kenny on the Tonight Show on June 23.

Sugarland’s debut single “Baby Girl” spent an incredulous 46 weeks on the chart to make it the longest-running country single since Billboard began using electronic monitoring to compile its charts. But let’s never forget that Willie Nelson’s Stardust album remained on the albums chart for an unprecedented 10 years.

Lee Ann Womack’s performance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show airs Monday (May 30).

Country Carrie Underwood is the latest American Idol.

Gretchen Wilson is set to sing the national anthem at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in Richmond, Va., on Sept.10. Look for her name and likeness on Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 car.

Lucky Miranda Lambert joins cute Keith Urban for several shows on his Alive in ’05 tour.

If you’re coming to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival, don’t forget that Terri Clark and Trace Adkins are set to co-host the taping of the CMT 100 Greatest Duets concert on June 8 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The top 12 songs will be performed live by legends like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, along with Lee Ann Womack, Joe Nichols, Clint and Lisa Hartman Black, newcomer Shooter Jennings, Raul Malo, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart and Rebecca Lynn Howard.

It’s worth mentioning two new books by Stephanie P. Ledgin, a writer and photographer who focuses on bluegrass, traditional and folk music. Homegrown Music: Discovering Bluegrass is an introduction to bluegrass published by Praeger Publishers. The other, From Every Stage: Images of America’s Roots Music, is a book of her photography published by University Press of Mississippi.

Heroes Honoring Heroes Memorial Day
Montgomery Gentry performed Saturday (May 28) on the retired USS Intrepid on the Hudson River overlooking New York City for thousands of military personnel returning from Iraq.

Toby Keith is entertaining our troops all over the Middle East, including Iran and Afghanistan.

Clint Black performed for the troops up at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

All-American Charlie Daniels had a 16,000-mile tour that included three performances daily for the troops in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq and Germany.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Ground Beef Stroganoff.