HOT DISH: The World’s Got the Willies

"Busy" Doesn't Begin to Describe Nelson's Schedule of Shows and Recordings

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

Actor Martin Sheen, blessed or cursed, was on the flight to Dublin, Ireland, with a couple of Texas gals who were going to see a Willie Nelson concert there. They showed Sheen their Willie dolls, and when others started coming up to Sheen, he would say, “Can you believe these gals are going all the way to Ireland to see Willie Nelson?” Going to Dublin to see Willie sounds normal to me.

Here in the U.S., Willie’s in concert from shore to shore with Bob Dylan this summer while planning some extra stops along the way. On July 3, he appears at his first annual National Barbecue and Chili Cook-Off south of Dallas at Carl’s Corner Truck Stop, a place offering biodiesel fuel. He’ll also be at his 32nd annual Fourth of July Picnic at the Fort Worth Stockyards with Bob Dylan, Los Lonely Boys, David Allan Coe, Jessi Colter, Ray Price, Johnny Bush, Billy Joe Shaver, the Doobie Brothers, the Geezinslaws and others.

Is Willie recording anything these days? Well, he and his longtime friend, record producer Fred Foster, are working on an album of Cindy Walker songs. Willie is also working on a project with Booker T. Jones, who produced his incredible Stardust album. Then there’s the forthcoming album being produced by Chips Moman, who produced the very successful projects for the Highwaymen. And finally, there’s an Internet album in progress that will not be available in stores but can be downloaded from the Internet for a fee.

Willie’s long-awaited reggae album is set for release on Aug. 2 on the Lost Highway label. On August 5, The Dukes of Hazzard movie will hit theaters — and there is a soundtrack CD. Willie says he has three or four songs on that. CMH Records has released Picking on Willie, a bluegrass album featuring some of his most famous songs. Angels & Outlaws, a proposed movie starring Willie, Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith and Tex Cobb, could begin production as early as October.

Serious Cash Required to Buy Johnny’s House
The Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash estate just north of Nashville is on the marketplace with an asking price of $2.9 million. To move in, it’s 20 percent down and estimated payments of $12,913 per month. Located at 200 Caudill Drive in Hendersonville, the 13,880-square-foot house sits on 4.6 acres and has seven bedrooms, six bathrooms and four fireplaces. The front of the house is on Old Hickory Lake.

Looking at the monthly payments, I can’t help but say it’s more money than my daddy ever made in a year, and I’d wager Johnny could probably say the same about his dad.

Not Just Another Hank Book
Southern writer Paul Hemphill, raised in Birmingham, Ala., and now living in Atlanta, has captured Hank Williams’ very soul a half century after his death with the upcoming book, Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams. Hemphill’s search for material led him to Nashville and the Country Music Foundation, where he uncovered several interviews most people assumed were long lost.

An uneducated, unhealthy, abused genius controlled by alcohol, women and loneliness, Hank put a No. 2 pencil to a 5-cent tablet and turned his life into some of the greatest songs in the world. And he did it in a span of six years before dying at age 29. My theory is Hank lived a lifetime in those few short years, so maybe God just took him home.

Published by Viking, the book will be published in September. It’s not just another Hank book.

Kenny’s Still Got It at Stadium Shows
Yes, Mrs. Kenny Chesney was at his show at FedExField near Washington, D.C. No, Renee did not deliver Kenny’s onstage margarita that night.

“Kenny’s still got it” is the word I got from the mouths of those who were there. Did they expect “I do” to cause him to lose it? Just wondering. In a crowd of 45,761 fans, only two held up signs opposing the marriage. One car sign said “Lose Renee.” My guess is that Kenny would rather lose that fan.

Yep, fans say Kenny, Keith Urban and Gretchen Wilson put on a great show. “Best I’ve ever seen,” said one person. Everybody wondered why Sammy Hagar was there to sing three songs. He’s not country. One of Kenny’s friends? So are Tim and Faith and George Strait. Kenny’s fans would rather see them.

Some fans shrugged over Uncle Kracker and shrugged harder over Pat Green. Bottom line: It was a Kenny thing. They loved Keith and Gretchen. End of story.

Thought You Should Know
The title cut of Ralph Stanley’s brand new CD Shine On comes from the rich pen of Dolly Parton. Of the CD’s 14 songs, there’s not a loser in the bunch.

Vince Gill and almost country Sheryl Crow have added harmony vocals to “Building Bridges” on Brooks & Dunn’s upcoming CD.

Sugarland’s Kristian Bush (no kin to George or George W.) and his wife Jill have a new baby girl born June 7. Camille Grace weighed in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces.

Claiming he likes Nashville recording studios better than those in L.A. or N.Y., American Idol runner-up Bo Bice is reportedly house shopping in Music City. Maybe Bo is looking to Travis Tritt, Montgomery Gentry and certainly the late Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash for hillbilly inspiration.

Expecting her third daughter any day now, Martina McBride did not attend her 10th annual benefit auction in support of YWCA that took place Saturday (June 11) during the CMA Music Festival. By the way, Mattel has a couple new Barbie dolls — one of Martina and the other of LeAnn Rimes. The dolls will be in Toys “R” Us stores in July for $19.99.

Welcome Visitors
For those of you visiting Nashville this summer, I really feel for all out-of-towners trying to follow a map through Music Town. With all the piddling construction on roads with orange and white barrels and cones everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to get downtown from my Madison residence. Forget driving through Nashville. One-way streets, blocked streets, closed bridges and unbelievable traffic are enough to cause tourists to turn around and go home. Sometimes even I get turned around, get lost and have to find my way out.

Remembering Fan Fair
The CMA Festival just wrapped up Sunday (June 12) in Nashville, and I wonder if fans will ever get as excited as they did when it was still called Fan Fair and being held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Here are some things that also crossed my mind:

Remember fans waiting for a Garth Brooks autograph 23 hours? He didn’t even stop to pee!

How about the gal who drove up, bopped out of her car, bolted inside and returned at sundown and her poor car was still locked and running. It had been running all day.

Remember long lines for Ricky Van Shelton curling through the building and outside. I miss Ricky Van.

Even Shania graced Fan Fair and met Robert “Mutt” Lange, who flew in for her show. Pretty soon, they became an item and some months later wed in Canada.

I have a photo taken of George Strait and me in his Fan Fair booth. How ’bout that!

I remember Garth Brooks sitting alone in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop booth before anyone knew who he was. I told my friend Susie French, “That guy will be a superstar.” Boy, was I right about that. Susie still talks about talking to Garth.

The smell of onion rings frying outside in the scalding hot sun was heavenly.

Brad Paisley walking off the stage and asking if his britches were tight enough to suit me.

Bawling when Alan Jackson sang “Farewell Party.”

Fan clubs cared about getting an award for the best booth. Boy, that’s passé.

Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette had Fan Fair booths.

Even Johnny Cash and Waylon came to Fan Fair at least once. The world must miss them. I know I do.

The biggest hit at Fan Fair 2005 — American Idol’s Carrie Underwood.

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