HOT DISH: Trace Honors Veterans and Country Music

More News on Billy Joe Shaver, Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger

(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

Nobody is more humble than a country star with real country roots, especially a man like Trace Adkins. Birth, death, a sad country song or troops in uniform will bring tears to their eyes.

It just so happened I caught the PBS broadcast of the national Memorial Day celebration on the west lawn of the nation’s Capitol with Trace and other artists, and am I glad I didn’t miss that. Having an uncle who was aboard the only LST [landing ship tank] that refused to turn back from Iwo Jima when all other ships departed, I understood when an 80-year-old veteran explained how they were under orders to shoot everything moving. I’d heard that line before from the lips of a man who could not sleep without alcohol — from Iwo Jima until he died a few years past. Of course, Tom Brokaw called them The Greatest Generation in his best selling book, and I agree that they were. However, it was life shattering for a 17-year old who’d never left home, who’d never seen an ocean or the mountains or a desert until he was drafted. Remember, this was before television, and his only source of entertainment were records by Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys played on an old RCA wind-up Victrola and when his dad, my Grandpa, played the fiddle.

On Memorial Day, there was Trace on TV, watching old men stand if they could. Many were too old and too tired to stand, and many were in wheelchairs after serving in all branches of the armed forces. Trace shook every hand and followed to see the faces of young men in their teens and 20s in wheelchairs with missing extremities after serving in the conflict in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Trace shook their hands, too. Representing country music in his proud and humble way, Trace made me so proud to be an American.

Then I got a phone call from Capitol’s Fletcher Foster, who accompanied him to the event, and I learned firsthand how Trace almost lost it as he told he crowd about the time back home in Louisiana when he was considering joining the Marines. In Washington, it almost got the best of him as he stared at all those uniforms and looked into the eyes of those guys and girls.

For a moment there, Trace felt he had missed his calling, but I know he didn’t. Over the weekend, Trace truly served his country, something he does every chance he gets. And, yes, he sang like the 6-foot-6 giant angel he is. Hey Trace, thanks for making Music City look good to the troops. God bless America. And God bless Trace Adkins.

Honky Tonk Hero
It was neat seeing Billy Joe Shaver on 60 Minutes II singing self-penned tunes “Black Rose” and “Georgia on a Fast Train,” the latter he boasted has been recorded by 16 different artists including Tennessee Ernie Ford, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Commander Cody. During the visit with Dan Rather, Shaver was reliving memories at the Piney Woods Picking Party in Mineola, Texas. He explained to Rather that he’d written “300 to 400” — “all good ones,” he says — and is recording his 17th CD.

Billy Joe told about his first day in Nashville and how he rode up on Harlan Howard’s front porch on a borrowed motorcycle. When Harlan bolted out the door, Billy Joe exclaimed, “I’m the best songwriter that ever lived.”

“I thought I was,” replied Harlan. “Come on in.”

He told about marrying and divorcing his wife, Brenda, three times and how they rode horses naked before their son Eddy was born. He also told about the pain he felt when Brenda died, when his mom died and then when Eddy died of an overdose of heroin in 2000. Shaver’s friend, actor Robert Duvall, spoke glowingly about his pal. I couldn’t figure out if it was Duvall or Rather or Billy Joe himself that called him a “Honky Tonk Hero.”

Billy Joe is 65 years old now. Lord knows, he’s lucky to still be around. My co-worker Chet Flippo and I recall very well Willie Nelson’s first Fourth of July picnic in Texas where Billy Joe performed his worst set ever, left the stage and wandered out into the desert to die — but afterwards told anyone who would listen that he was, in fact, Jesus Christ!

No Surprise: Chesney’s Wife Likes Country Music
Watching Kenny Chesney’s bride on Live With Regis & Kelly gave me an entire new perspective on actress Renee Zellweger. American Idol winner Carrie Underwood was also on the show, so host Regis Philbin asked Renee about visiting with her. “I’m into that now, you know,” she replied. Hanging her head shyly, she added, “You know my husband.”

“Into country music,” observed Regis.

Renee nodded and showed off the plain gold wedding band. She’s either totally smitten or just a great actress. Hopefully, she’s both.

Yep, I admit I take up for Kenny Chesney and will forever. Ten years ago, I predicted he’d be a superstar and he is. In October 1996, I was hospitalized from a heart attack. Kenny called and sang to me on the phone. I got a solo! Think about it.

Around Town
I celebrated my birthday at the Palm with Robert Hicks, who’s responsible for bringing George Ducas and numerous other singer-songwriters to Music Row. At the restaurant, I saw several friends, including Sony Music Nashville head honcho John Grady (the man who had the good sense to sign Gretchen Wilson to a record deal) and Buddy Lee Attractions president Tony Conway (who helps keep George Strait, Patty Loveless, Tracy Lawrence and scores of others out there booked on the road).

I see where Shawn King’s record, “In My Own Back Yard,” is going for adds at radio on June 20. Shawn is the wife of TV host Larry King. Larry’s sometime substitute host is Mrs. Paul McCartney. Sir Paul himself had promised Shawn to record a duet for her Lofton Creek album but didn’t keep his word. He backed out. Not nice, even for a Beatle.

Miranda Lambert says she got the thrill of a lifetime when she was called onstage in Columbus, Ohio, to sing “Redneck Woman” with its architect, Gretchen Wilson. Later backstage, Gretchen introduced Miranda to Kenny Chesney and his new wife.

If you saw ugly women with beards riding bicycles down Music Row in Nashville, in reality it was songwriter Kenny Beard, who promised to do cartwheels naked down the Row if the Jeff Bates single he co-wrote, “Long Slow Kisses,” made it into the teens on the chart. After 38 weeks, it did. The other two uglies were members of Jeff’s band.

Jamie O’Neal, Keith Anderson and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood will sing at the CMT 100 Greatest Duets concert set to tape Wednesday (June 8) at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center. Fans, if you plan to be in town for the CMA Music Festival, you don’t want to miss the major stars at this big event.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop’s Midnight Jamboree is a long-standing institution in Music City. You’d never think about Lily Tomlin appearing there, but she did during Dottie Rambo’s recent appearance on the show and was very funny doing her Ernestine and Edith Ann routines.

Dorfman Pacific and its Milano Hat Company have teamed up to produce the Toby Keith hat collection.

Person: Sara Evans. Place: Valley of the Fire State Park in Nevada desert. Assignment: Shooting video for “A Real Fine Place to Start.” The first thing that unnerved Evans was the audio of a rattlesnake. Then her wardrobe almost caught fire. And to top it all, she was standing too close to a ledge when they asked her to gaze at the sun. She did, got dizzy and … oops.

Hot Apple Pie sang “God Bless America” at the Cincinnati Reds baseball game. It must’ve helped: They beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-2.

You probably won’t believe this. Driving to shoot the video for his hit single, “Alcohol,” Brad Paisley was a couple of hours late. Why? A beer truck overturned on the interstate and blocked traffic for hours.

Pictures speak louder than words. More photos have been taken of my 3-week-old granddaughter, Mattie Lyn, than of Kenny Chesney’s wedding! Photos of Mattie’s two brothers holding her spoke volumes since 21-year-old Adam Smith was wearing a J.D. Crowe T-shirt while 18-year-old Jeremy Smith wore an Earl Scruggs T-shirt. The Crowe shirt is retro from over two decades ago when it was worn by the dad of these three. Honestly, the box was ready for Goodwill.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Persimmon Pudding.