HOT DISH: Keeping a Promise to Brad Paisley

Little Jimmy Dickens Surprises Fans in West Virginia and a Family in Alabama

(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

“Write about this, Hazel,” requested Brad Paisley as we sat in the Chet Atkins Room of the Sony RCA Building in Nashville. Here goes, Brad:

“I was in my room in the back of my bus when I heard a knock,” allowed Brad. “I opened the door, and there stood Little Jimmy Dickens.”

As a surprise, fellow West Virginia native Dickens and his brother had driven up from Tennessee to see Brad’s sold-out show at the West Virginia State Fair. The 84-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer later showed up onstage at Brad’s concert with a lampshade he’d lifted from the hotel. He stood in the wings until Brad was singing his smash, “Alcohol.” Right at the line in the song about people wearing lampshades, according to Brad, Dickens sashayed across the stage stepping high and dancing.

“The crowd went ballistic,” laughed Brad. “All those young people were screaming like he was U2 or something.”

When Brad met with the handful of reporters in Nashville, his new album, Time Well Wasted, had only been in stores a matter of hours.

“Hazel called to tell me my CD got the No. 1 review in Entertainment Weekly,” Brad said. Personally, I was impressed by EW writer Chris Willman’s review that hit the music on the head — from the songwriting, the Buck Owens & the Buckaroos influence and Hee Haw (the “Roger Miller influence,” I call it) to Brad’s majestic guitar work and the album’s spiritual feel.

“The idea on the CD cover of the clock hanging around the guitar I picked up from a Salvador Dali painting in a museum in Italy,” Brad explained. “Matter of fact, Kim and I had supper with Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger. I told Kenny not to pay attention to all the places Renee wants to go or things she wants to do, but if she says, ’Let’s go to Italy,’ do that,” smiled Brad. Minutes later, he sheepishly admitted he learned to paint after his wife, Kim, saw a modern piece she wanted for the house. Emulating the painting, frugal boy Brad admitted he saved $5,000 right there.

Like Porter Wagoner, Bobby Bare and the late Harlan Howard, Brad is a passionate fisherman. Asked about his favorite fishing partner and favorite fishing story, Brad again mentioned Dickens. On occasion, Brad and songwriting pal Kelley Lovelace have fished at a little pond owned by Lovelace’s in-laws in Sand Mountain, Ala. The pond is behind their house, and at noon, Lovelace’s mother-in-law will often call out the back door, “Kelley, ya’ll come and eat.” She’d have this great long table filled with garden fresh corn, tomatoes, green beans, limas, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and potatoes.

Brad heard Dickens liked fishing, so he sidled up and asked if he’d like to go. Dickens lit up like a Christmas tree. The Tater (as Hank Williams called him) loves to fish. “I’ll pick you up at 7 in the morning,” Brad promised. When Brad got to Jimmy’s house, he expected to drive his truck around back and pick him up. When he got in sight, he saw Jimmy standing at the end of the driveway beside the mailbox with two fishing poles in one hand and a tackle box in the other.

When they got out of the truck at Sand Mountain, the couple’s jaws dropped when they came outside to greet them. Little Jimmy Dickens was their favorite singer, and they could not speak. Turn about is fair play, however. When Little Jimmy faced the long table with all those Sand Mountain rations, his jaws dropped, too.

Today, Time Well Wasted is the No. 1 country CD in the nation and deserves to be.

P.S. If you want to feel the magic, listen to “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Brad’s collaboration with Dolly Parton on the new CD.

Mandrell Honored
The American Legion Auxiliary honored Barbara Mandrell with its 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award during the organization’s annual convention in Hawaii. The Auxiliary has presented woman of the year awards to Laura Bush, Erma Bombeck, Elizabeth Dole and others, but this is its first Lifetime Award. Said organization president Sandi Dutton of Mandrell, “She’s always had a place for God and country in all that she does and has always been a firm supporter of our men and women in uniform.”

All for the Hall
Vince Gill’s idea of the ongoing All for the Hall fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is taking root and beginning to have a snowball effect. Several country artists have donated one day’s work to the nonprofit educational institution. I see where Clear Channel vice president Tom English has forked out one day’s advertising revenue from Nashville country station WSIX to donate $25,000. And I also see where Radio & Records country editor Lon Helton issued a challenge to country radio programmers: Raise $500,000 for the Hall of Fame by the time Country Radio Seminar rolls around in February. Buddy, that is putting money where your mouth is!

Alison Does It Her Way
The only person I know besides the late Frank Sinatra who has the right to sing “My Way” and mean it is Alison Krauss. During the mid-’90s, every A&R department at every record label on Music Row chased Alison all over creation — to bluegrass festivals on every dirt road in the U.S.A. — trying to convince her to sign a recording contract. Alison repeatedly said, “No!”

She’s a renegade. She wants to do what she wants to do. She does not need a producer telling her how to sing and does not want an A&R exec choosing her songs. Radio chooses not to program Alison’s recordings, and it’s a shame. Even Hollywood knows there’s no greater female singer than Alison. Just look at the Cold Mountain and O Brother soundtracks. I say that to say this: When the VH1 Classic concert series, Decades Rock Live, honors another female renegade, Bonnie Raitt, the guest performers will include Alison, Norah Jones, Ben Harper and Keb’ Mo’.

On the Road and Off
Look for a mad rush of females crossing the Canadian border on Sept. 12. Cutie Dierks Bentley will be in Calgary on that date to present and perform at the Canadian Country Music Awards.

Selling out shows right and left across the country, Rascal Flatts are set to headline in Music City at Gaylord Entertainment Center. The group will donate proceeds from the Sept. 24 concert to benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

I ran into Michael Peterson coming out of a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with Jill Chambers, a colonel in the armed forces who works at the Pentagon. I could not help saying, “By the way, Jill, your boss, Donald Rumsfeld, visited the Grand Ole Opry when he learned Dolly Parton was performing. He liked Dolly.” She exclaimed, “Oh, Donnie! I’ll bet Donnie did like Dolly.”

Muscular Dystrophy Association youth chairman Billy Gilman will co-host the Jerry Lewis Labor Day MDA Telethon with Lewis, Larry King, Jann Carl and Ed McMahon on Sept. 4-5.

NASCAR and country music are always partners. Montgomery Gentry and Phil Vassar are among the artists set to perform Oct. 5 at NASCAR driver Tony Stewart’s benefit concert in Paducah, Ky. The event will raise money for several children’s charities, including the Victory Junction Camp founded by NASCAR’s Kyle Petty and his wife, Pattie. You know, Tony Stewart put the pedal to the metal in Indianapolis and outran everybody at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard where his pals, Diamond Rio, performed the national anthem.

Man of Constant Sorrow: The Story of the Stanley Brothers premiered last week at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., and will run through Oct. 2. The two-act play chronicles the life of Ralph Stanley and his late brother, Carter Stanley.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cherry Salad.