HOT DISH: Fans’ Hearts Break for Kenny Chesney

A Good Man Does Not Deserve This Kind of Treatment

(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

My heart is absolutely breaking for Kenny Chesney.

A country music superstar. CMA and ACM entertainer of the year. A dear, sweet friend. Fans by the thousands love this man.

Like a country boy would do, Kenny, at 37, married the woman he wanted to be married to forever. He wasn’t flitting away her time.

His wife of four months, actress Renee Zellweger, filed for an annulment. Is there rhyme or reason? Who knows?

I hear she in is New York in acting school and working on a movie about a blind woman who plays a musical instrument — a remake of the Audrey Hepburn film, Wait Until Dark.

I pray Kenny survives this and turns out stronger than ever. But for now, my heart hurts for a good man who did not deserve this kind of treatment.

Hall of Fame Gets World’s Most Famous Mandolin
On Sept. 13, Bill Monroe’s friends, kin and fans gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the 94th birthday of the Man. Jerry Garcia called Monroe “the Man,” and he died wishing he’d played in Bill’s band. Bob Dylan was correct when he said to Monroe prior to a performance at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, “You are the only person to develop an original style of music in the 20th century.” Dylan expressed a desire to travel on the road with Monroe. But Monroe died in 1996, and it never came to be.

Museum executive director Kyle Young was almost bubbly when he took the microphone at the Ford Theater. He knew the museum had in its possession the crown jewel of country music instruments for the world to view. He correctly called Robert W. “Bob” McLean an angel, for he is the kind and generous man who purchased the famous Gibson F-5 mandolin for the museum. Other museums had failed to come up with the money to purchase the mandolin, built in 1923, which was priced at well over $1 million at one point.

McLean, a fan of country music, first raised his head when Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5 guitar was put on the market at an asking price of $575,000. He purchased the instrument and donated it to the Hall of Fame. McLean was the underwriter of the Earl Scruggs exhibit on display at the museum, and he also purchased Johnny Cash’s Martin D-35S guitar and black Gibson guitar and donated both instruments to the museum. It embarrasses McLean when I say he’s a saint, but doesn’t a saint answer prayers? I think so.

Monroe bought the mandolin in a barbershop in Miami in 1941 for $150. He and the instrument traveled all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia during their 50-plus years as a team. Bill loved the tone of the instrument and could recognize it. He once left the mandolin at my house. Later, when he called, my son Terry was playing it. “Who’s playing my mandolin?” Bill asked. “How do you know it’s your mandolin?” I asked. “The tone,” he replied.

Monroe, a proud Kentuckian, told me he named his band the Blue Grass Boys so folks would know where he came from. He began his solo career in October 1939. His music spread like wildfire and had an incredible influence on other artists and other genres, such as Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Byrds, Bob Dylan, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Country Gazette, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Mark O’Connor, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and others.

Want proof? I once sat next to Carl Perkins during supper at Harlan Howard’s house, and Carl told me how he tried to phrase lyrics and sing harmony like Bill Monroe. Sonny Curtis, who played in Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets, told me when they were rehearsing, Buddy would play Monroe’s records and tell them to sing harmony like Bill Monroe. And, of course, the Beatles emulated Holly. Most know the story of how Elvis crossed the Ryman stage to apologize to Monroe for “messing up his song,” referring to his faster rockabilly version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Bill’s laconic reply: “If it helped you get your music off the ground, I’m glad you done it.”

One year at the close of the Bean Blossom Festival, Bill had his arms full and was in a hurry to leave, so he placed his mandolin on top of his station wagon while he loaded up the back of the car. When he started the car and backed up, he heard a noise and realized he’d backed over his mandolin. It was in its case, but it was still a miracle that there wasn’t a broken string, a busted bridge or even a scratch on it. Years later, the instrument was literally “pokered” to pieces by a disgruntled female using a fireplace poker. Using a magnifying glass, it was repaired by Gibson’s Charlie Derrington.

During the ceremony at the Hall of Fame, James Monroe, Bill’s son, spoke of meeting Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Red Foley and all the great stars years ago when he was a kid. He mentioned the presence of his own son, Jimbeau Monroe, and his attorney before saying, “Hazel Smith is here. She loves this music and she loved my daddy.” Truer words were never spoken.

Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, performed several Monroe songs including “Toy Heart,” “Mother’s Not Dead,” “Bluegrass Breakdown” and “Uncle Pen.” In closing, the Grascals joined Skaggs’ band onstage for a ripping version of “Rawhide.” Guests included Vince Gill, Earl and Louise Scruggs, Brenda Lee, Cheryl White and Monroe’s longtime booking agent and manager, Tony Conway, who flew in for the event from a tour in Switzerland with John Michael Montgomery.

Evans Talks About Fashion, Music … and More
When I talked to Sara Evans last week about her upcoming album, Real Fine Place, she said right off the bat the songs were written while she was pregnant and her hormones were raging. Having more confidence, she said she wrote sexual and romantic love songs to her husband, Craig Schelske.

Sara had just returned from New York’s Fashion Week. She’d been touring with Alan Jackson, playing nightly for 20,000 fans, but when she stepped out of the limo for the Luca Luca show, there was all these cameras flashing when she heard someone exclaim, “Oh, it’s nobody.” She was not allowed to exit the same door as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

Her favorite song on the album — and mine, too — is her next single, “Cheatin’.” Like Trisha Yearwood’s “Georgia Rain” and Faith Hill’s “Mississippi Girl,” Sara honors her home state with “Missing Missouri.” When she performs the song for Missouri natives, they do the wave — and Sara chokes up.

She relates to the TV series, Desperate Housewives. With two children in diapers, she likes to make fun of herself, so she chose Loretta Lynn’s “One’s on the Way” for the show’s upcoming soundtrack album. A second tour with Brad Paisley is on tap, and Evans suggests she and Brad may be the next Loretta and Conway.

Like her friends Faith Hill and Martina McBride, Sara says she never sleeps. No time for pedicures and manicures, either. “Women are multi-taskers,” said Sara. “Craig can only do one thing at a time. If he tends to the kids, that’s all he does … whereas I hold the baby in my lap and do a radio interview.”

She adds, “It’s most important to keep marriage and family together. I am a child of divorce, and it’s devastating. I have a 12-year marriage. And the way I see it, the way to an amazing marriage is having sex … lots of sex. Sex keeps the marriage young. And a woman should maintain herself for her husband and stay attractive. I like to put the kids to bed, have a glass of wine on the patio or by the fireplace, and I ask Craig, ’What do you need of me?'”

Around and About
During lunch with Capitol’s Fletcher Foster at the Palm, I saw Tracy Lawrence, Clarence Spalding (Brooks & Dunn’s hotshot manager), Louise and Earl Scruggs and Universal Music Group exec Luke Lewis. Luke was hunkered down in a serious chat with CMA Awards show producer Walter Miller and video director Robert Deaton, so I accused him of brown-nosing Walter and Robert for primary artist spots on the CMA Awards for Sugarland, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack and other UMG acts. Miller, set to produce awards show for umpteenth time, got a kick out of the accusation. Luke shrugged and smiled.

John Carter and Laura Cash expecting again. They have a daughter, Anna Maybelle, and John Carter has a son from a former marriage.

Someone told me if Big & Rich are having problems, the remedy is to file for separate buses.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Broccoli Cheese Soup.