HOT DISH: The CMA Awards and Thanksgiving Are Coming Up

Why Isn't the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Taking Place in Nashville This Year?

(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

It’s a crisp November, and I am still hot under the collar over the CMA hightailing its awards show to New York and Madison Square Garden. To make bad matters worse, they’re bragging about un-country stars making appearances on the country awards show.

I see in the local newspaper where Lee Ann Womack, with six CMA nominations, said she doesn’t understand why some powers in the music biz think it’s cool that Billy Joel is joining Shania Twain to present the CMA’s entertainer of the year award. Let me ask: What’s wrong with last year’s entertainer of the year winner presenting this year’s award? Unless, of course, Kenny Chesney gets the award for a second term. Hmm … could that be? There are those who think Keith Urban has earned the entertainer of the year nod. I see where Chesney is opening the show.

Lee Ann says she’s not sure what the powers are thinking to bring in Elton John to sing with Dolly Parton … or Paul Simon to present an award with Willie Nelson … or James Gandolfini from HBO’s The Sopranos and Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, co-stars of the upcoming Johnny Cash movie, Walk the Line, to present awards. Her label boss, Universal Music Group Nashville’s Luke Lewis, admits it has to do with increasing the ratings. But if I know Luke Lewis, I’m betting he agrees totally with Lee Ann and respects her for having the guts to speak up. It’s all about ratings. Dollars for heads. Money is slaughtering the music and its makers this year.

CMA Awards show producer Walter Miller was heard to say the highlight of the show will be Dolly and Elton John. Excuse me, but Dolly has been the highlight of shows for 40 years as a solo artist, duo artist (with Porter Wagoner, Kenny Rogers, Vince Gill, Ricky Van Shelton), trio artist (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt) and with a group (the Grascals). Dolly is always a highlight. Surely to goodness, Garth Brooks will be a highlight when he performs his hit single, “Good Ride Cowboy,” a tribute to the late Chris LeDoux. Faith Hill will no doubt bring the crowd to their feet when she sings “Like We Never Loved at All,” especially if hubby Tim McGraw sings harmony with her like he did on the CD. There will be other highlights, Walter.

Brooks & Dunn, hosts of the Nov. 15 awards show, will appear at Irving Plaza in New York on Nov. 10. The duo had such a blast earlier this year at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla., they figured a NYC club might be good for honky-tonking with their hot band. Maybe so, but I’m betting my farm there won’t be a New Yorker in the audience who can hum any B&D hit. Because they haven’t heard him before, I’m also betting the New York crowd will be shocked to hear how great Ronnie Dunn sings. And I am betting that before the night is over — and surely before the awards are over — Ronnie will be singing Bob Wills’ “Take Me Back to Tulsa” … but replacing “Tulsa” with “Nashville” on every other chorus.

Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful, eating too much, spending time with the family and watching TV. Aside from the football, there’s Kenny Chesney’s special on ABC, Faith Hill’s special on NBC and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. With the CMA Awards originating from New York, I thought for sure that the Macy’s parade would take place in Music City. One makes about as much sense as the other.

What’s Happening
While the rest of the females are trying on designer gowns and spiked heels for the CMA Awards, newcomer Danielle Peck is trying to make a run at country radio, and radio is saying “I do” to “I Don’t,” her debut single on the Big Machine label.

Speaking of Big Machine, Texan Jack Ingram is looking good where he’s supposed to — on his CD and in the mirror.

A gold album celebration for Jo Dee Messina’s Delicious Surprise took place last week in Nashville at the spanking new Italian restaurant, Maggiano’s.

ASCAP hosted last week’s party that found Sara Evans and songwriters George Ducas and Radney Foster celebrating the No. 1 success of “A Real Fine Place to Start”

Terri Clark has Reba McEntire to thank for her current single, “She Didn’t Have Time.” The night before the recording session, Terri learned Reba had a hold on the song. The next thing you know, Reba calls. They chat. Ten minutes later, Reba calls back and tells Terri, “You cut the song.”

Steve Azar is back with an attitude and a single, “Catfish Christmas,” set for a Nov. 29 release. Now signed with an independent label, Dang Records, Azar should have an album out just past tax filing time.

What do you think about a country music star who goes home to see his mama, daddy and family on his birthday? Pretty nifty, I say … especially if you’re Keith Urban and home is down under in Australia.

Rascal Flatts took home the breakthrough touring act trophy from the Billboard Touring Awards.

Maybe you’d like to know that Carrie Underwood was salutatorian of her high school graduation class.

The New York Times is getting smarter. Their decision to run a story about the great Bobby Bare proved so. Bare’s new album, his first in 22 years, is titled The Moon Was Blue.

Josh Turner has established the non-profit Josh Turner Fund to help music programs threatened by lack of funding in schools. Turner will accept used instruments or money. It’s all for the kids.

SHeDAISY filmed a music video for “God Bless the American Housewife.” The song is the lead track on the Desperate Housewives soundtrack. Marc Cherry, executive producer of the hit TV show, was all wide-eyed and smiles looking at the yummy SHeDAISY chicks.

Twenty-six 12-year-olds approaching womanhood — squealing and laughing, some of them the daughters of musicians — needed basketball uniforms and matching shoes. I needed help to make it happen. I was not surprised when RCA’s Joe Galante raised his hand first. You can always count on Joe. Next to volunteer was Robert W. “Bob” McLean, the man I call a saint. He’s the one who bought and donated Mother Maybelle Carter’s guitar, Bill Monroe’s mandolin and two of Johnny Cash’s guitars to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He’s the most unselfish human being I have ever met. Others who also raised their hands were Tony Conway of Buddy Lee Attractions, Paul Moore of the William Morris Agency, Ed Benson of the CMA and Steve Buchanan of Gaylord Entertainment. I am so thankful for you guys.

As a final note, our sympathy and love goes out to country music’s good friend, Bob McLean, on the passing of his mother.

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