HOT DISH: People, Us, Me, You and Kenny

More News About Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Others

(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

I could not believe it. There I was in line at Kroger, a cart filled with groceries, and staring me in the face, I see a copy of People magazine with the same identical cover photo they used to announce the May marriage of Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger. I read People cover to cover, and I also read Us cover to cover. I am here to tell you, neither People nor Us know any more about the Kenny/Renee split than you and I do. People did run a list of celeb couples whose marriage lasted four months or less that they called “the end game.” Fairly cheesy, if I do say so myself.

According to Wes Vause at BNA Records, Kenny Chesney’s single, “Who You’d Be Today,” is the No. 1 song on the iTunes country chart. That’s downloading, baby. That’s country.

And speaking of K.C., I see where the producers of the 2005 American Music Awards are smart enough to ask him to perform on the ABC-TV show set for Nov. 22. The show originates from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Rascal Flatts Make a Donation to Children’s Hospital
It was Doug Howard, Lyric Street Records’ senior vice president of A&R, who told me about Rascal Flatts’ visit with the patients at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville. “Those three guys met with, visited with, read to, talked with and sang to each one, going from room to room, touching and hugging each and every sick child,” Doug said. “I’ve never been so moved in my life, and I have never been so proud.” Doug paused for a moment, then said, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Maybe it was the visit — seeing the hospitalized children face to face — that spurred Rascal Flatts’ idea. Whatever it was, in my humble opinion, it was God-sent. Never has there been a concert at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center with as much importance for humanity.

The outcome? Rascal Flatts’ sold-out concert on Sept. 24 generated $600,000 for the sick kids. Leaving it up to hillbillies, this was the largest fundraising event ever for the hospital. Teasing the crowd at the concert, lead singer Gary LeVox thanked the fans and exclaimed, “It’s all your fault,” before thanking everyone for helping. The band never took a cent.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Disney, which owns Lyric Street, sent Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Snow White and Cinderella and a bunch of characters to visit with the kids.

Urban’s Golden, Platinum and “Silver”
Hotter than a two-dollar pistol, Keith Urban’s live concert DVD, Livin’ Right Now, hit stores Tuesday (Sept. 27). The day before, he got word his steadily-selling Golden Road album is certified triple platinum. Listen. You’ll almost hear the chant: Golden’s platinum, Golden’s platinum.

Have you read Miranda Lambert’s diary on You know she’s been busy doing what every female singer in Nashville wants to do — open shows for Keith Urban. The part I enjoyed reading was when she was returning to her bus from working out and Keith, guitar in hand, invited her to his home on wheels. Keith allowed he’d listened to her CD the night before and told her she was a good songwriter. He then suggested they perform a duet on the show that night. They settled on Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings.” When Miranda walked onstage to sing with Keith, she was taken aback. Keith was wearing a Miranda Lambert T-shirt. Then she realized all of Keith’s band members were wearing her T-shirts. The best part Miranda does not know? Since that night, Keith has been seen onstage again wearing a Miranda T-shirt. Does Nicole Kidman know?

Here’s the Skinny
I see where Faith Hill brought her eldest daughter, Gracie, to Gwen Stefani’s very first fashion show for her L.A.M.B. clothing line during New York’s Fashion Week. After viewing the rock ’n’ roller’s designs, Faith allowed, “I’m going to order several things.”

I can understand Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who star as Johnny and June Carter Cash in the forthcoming movie, Walk the Line, attending the CMA Awards in New York City and presenting an award. It’s good business sense for them and for the movie. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out why on earth Donald Trump is a presenter. Maybe it’s because he and his young third wife are expecting his fifth — and their first — child.

Something else I cannot understand is why concert attendance figures of great country artists are compared to those of pop artists. My opinion is that Kenny Chesney’s attendance should be compared to another country star, like maybe Tim McGraw. Brooks & Dunn’s attendance should be compared to someone like Rascal Flatts. I don’t give a continental dang how many pop fans buy tickets to see Prince or Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. None of those acts are putting shoes on the children or food on the table of Nashville songwriters and musicians.

Yep, Brooks & Dunn’s Kix Brooks went solo. No! Wait! Kix might be a tad crazy, but he ain’t stupid. He played golf — not music — without partner Ronnie Dunn. When it was over, Kix did have to brag about golfing with Arnold Palmer, John Daly and Natalie Gulbis at the Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, N.Y.

Hank Williams Jr., singer, songwriter, performer, hunter, fisherman and legend, has spent lots of time along the Gulf Coast, and he aims to go back Oct. 14 to perform at Pearl River Resort in Biloxi, Miss. After the show, Hank says he plans to leave $125,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I’m not surprised at Hank Jr.’s decision. Said Bocephus, “With what those folks have been through, I can’t take their money.”

Tracy Byrd and his family, like many other residents in Beaumont, Texas, evacuated to Dallas before Hurricane Rita hit. Upon returning, the Byrds discovered trees uprooted in their yard. Fortunately, there was not a lot of structural damage to their home. The major problem facing Tracy and all Beaumont residents was the lack of electrical service. With power lines down all over the city, the report I got is that it will be at least two months before they can get those high lines up and running again. In the meantime, Tracy and his family are in Galveston, Texas, where they plan to stay until it’s safe for them to return home. I’ve tried to get a report from Mark Chesnutt and his family who also reside in Beaumont but have not been successful yet.

Congratulations to Montgomery Gentry for their trip to No. 1 with “Something to Be Proud Of.” This may be the first No. 1 for a duo with one partner (Eddie) wearing a wrist brace and the other (Troy) in a leg brace. Crip and Crip.

I had an e-mail from a nice lady complaining that country music is not appreciated in other countries, specifically France, as here in the U.S. Now I get info that the French Association of Country Music announced its winners last weekend. And guess what? Their honors resemble ours. Alan Jackson was named best male singer, Brooks & Dunn got the duo of the year award and Brad Paisley was named musician of the year. Sounds right to me.

Reviewing his album, Time Well Wasted, Rolling Stone described Brad Paisley as “a cowboy-hat guy that even city slickers can love.” They gave him three and a-half stars. Nothing to fret about.

Remember Paulette Carlson from the group Highway 101? She’s back. This time Carlson has a new album, It’s About Time. I loved Highway 101’s hit single, “The Bed You Made for Me.”

Guess who is opening shows for George Strait next year? Tracy Lawrence. Tickets are already on sale for the Feb. 4 concert set for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Sour Cream and Noodle Casserole.