HOT DISH: A Public Apology to Country Fans in New York

Brooks & Dunn Concert Proves City Dwellers Know and Love Their Country

(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 son, Terry Smith of the Grascals, thinks I may owe an apology to Brooks & Dunn’s fans in New York City. I honestly did not dream folks in Gotham knew country music, including the music of Brooks & Dunn, and I said so in a recent column. After the Grascals opened the show for Brooks & Dunn at Irving Plaza in New York, Terry called me to say, “Mama, you made a mistake.”

“Me? Mistake?”

“These New York fans know Kix and Ronnie’s songs,” allowed Terry. “They are singing along,” he exclaimed.

“Are you drinking, Terry?” I asked, kidding, of course.

To the fans of the CMA’s 13-time vocal duo of the year, I must say I am sorry. Listen, there’s no country radio station in New York. As far as I knew, the only person who ever plays country music there is Don Imus on Imus in the Morning. I was aware policemen and firemen love country music, but I assumed nobody else up there could hear and hum a country song. Forgive me, fans.

Nobody gave me plane tickets to go to the CMA Awards in New York. So, when invited, I flew to Los Angeles to cook on The Ellen DeGeneres Show for the sixth time. The guests this time around were actress Reese Witherspoon (who plays June Carter Cash in the Walk the Line movie) and actor Terrence Howard (from the movies Crash, Hustle & Flow and Get Rich or Die Tryin’). Like every time before, Ellen and I had a blast, even while trying to make sweet potatoes when the mixer refused to work. It’s a long story, but I think she and I managed to make everything funny.

Returning to Music Town, I rushed home from the airport in time for the CMA Awards, only to be staring at a TV warning of tornadoes in the Nashville area. As a result, Nashville never saw Kenny Chesney’s opening number. The first thing we saw from New York was Lee Ann Womack picking up her single of the year award for “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” When Womack released her CD, There’s More Where That Came From, I predicted in this column it should be album of the year — and it was. She also won a musical event of the year award for her duet with George Strait.

Keith Urban’s double-whammy caught everybody by surprise, most of all him. It’s huge to win entertainer of the year, and it’s huge to win male vocalist of the year, but it’s over the moon to win both in the same year. It hasn’t happened many times. Nicole Kidman was not by Urban’s side, but the other lady in his life was — his mum. Did anybody hear a rumor that Skinny Kidman is sporting a ring?

Another biggie, maybe the biggest, went to Dierks Bentley for Horizon Award. Dierks, the hardest working man in country music these days, had been nominated for the honor before, so he wasn’t expecting anything. It was special seeing his look of surprise.

I’ve never heard the 2005 female vocalist of the year, Gretchen Wilson, sing better than she did on the show. It could be that “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today,” the great song from her All Jacked Up CD, will be on the 2006 list of nominees.

For the third consecutive year, Rascal Flatts took home the vocal group award. The exquisite vocal pairing of Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss on “Whiskey Lullaby” helped gain song of the year honors for co-writers Bill Anderson and Jon Randall.

It was great seeing Garth Brooks singing his hit, “Good Ride Cowboy,” a tribute to his late pal, Chris LeDoux, onstage in Times Square with LeDoux’s band backing him up. I must also mention big Alan Jackson’s loving performance of “Wonderful Tonight” that must have been for his lovely wife, Denise. But I still can’t help but being a tad teary over Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley going home without awards.

The video award went to an absent Toby Keith for “As Good As I Once Was.” I want us to send love and prayers for healing to Toby and his son, Stelen. I’d mentioned a couple weeks ago that young Stelen was injured in an accident on a four-wheeler. We are behind you, Toby and Stelen, 1,000 percent.

Shedd Should Be in the Hall of Fame
Speaking of Toby reminded me of heading toward the Nashville airport line last week. “That looks like Harold Shedd’s back,” I said to Adam, my grandson, who escorted me to L.A. and the The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Since Adam made it through Tokyo, where he worked as a model for three months, I reasoned he could guide me to L.A. and back. And he did.

Anyway, Shedd was heading back to Destin, Fla., where he lives, and had no plans to attend the CMA Awards in New York. It made me sad. To think that the members of Alabama were being inducted into the hallowed Country Music Hall of Fame — and Shedd, the man who produced their biggest hits, was heading south to Florida. Shedd signed multi-platinum selling artists Shania Twain, Toby Keith and Billy Ray Cyrus to Mercury. He also produced music on a 45-year-old K.T. Oslin and got her an RCA record contract. If there’s any justice in this world, Shedd will one day be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I Do
Flying off to L.A., I read in the Nashville newspaper that MusikMafia member James Otto wed the beautiful Amy Alderson. With the bride’s sister, Allison Alderson DeMarcus, as matron of honor, the wedding was attended by Gretchen Wilson, Shannon Lawson, Jon Nicholson and Rascal Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus, among others.

Dolly in North Carolina
I also see where Dolly Parton took off to Roanoke Rapids, N.C., in the northeast part of the state, where her brother broke ground for the Randy Parton Theater. Thousands attended the event where Dolly told the crowd she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Randy plans to turn the 750-acre Carolina Crossroads Music and Entertainment District into a place that rivals Branson, Mo., and Gatlinburg, Tenn., as a hub of country, bluegrass and gospel music.

Stuff … and More Stuff
Jules Wortman at Warner Bros. Nashville had the good sense and good taste to hire the very capable Kevin Lane for the label’s publicity department. Having spent time at Mercury Records, the publicity department is a place where Kevin always works well.

The CMT special, Gretchen Wilson Undressed, ended with a hot jam session and some dude kicking up his heels dancing — but not in time with the band. Gretchen hit the floor, keeping perfect time with her feet but failed to do the clog step. Lo and behold, somebody did! “Who is that?” bellowed I. Then I saw Candy Burton, formerly Candy Smathers, daughter of two renowned square dancers — the late Ben Smathers and his still very-alive wife, Margaret, of the Stony Mountain Cloggers. Candy and her siblings cut their teeth dancing with their parents, and she proved she can still cut a rug when she is not taking care of Gretchen’s hair and makeup.

Before the CMA Awards, one of my compadres e-mailed me from New York saying he thought he sighted boxing promoter Don King on the sidewalk and was certain if someone in charge of the CMA Awards spotted King, he would probably be added to the award show as a presenter. Think about it.

A new exhibit, The Grand Tour: George Jones Country, is set to open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Dec. 2. If you want to see me, Lord willing, I will be there. So will the great Mr. Jones.

The only time my sons have ever been really proud of something I did was when I sat beside Carl Perkins during a dinner at Harlan Howard’s house. I met Carl’s lovely wife, Val, and was totally impressed by her beauty, charm … but most of all, her Southern pride of her husband. You could tell Val thought her husband was greater than the Beatles or Johnny Cash or any of his friends. A great lady, she passed away Nov. 15 in her Jackson, Tenn., home. Hopefully, she’s somewhere sitting, smiling and watching Carl play heaven’s guitar.

They said, “Jason Aldean records for the indie label, Broken Bow. His smash single, “Hicktown,” can’t muscle up a gold album.” They were wrong. Jason’s debut album sold 500,000 copies and is, in fact, certified gold.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Four Layer Dessert.