HOT DISH: Tim McGraw for Governor?

Walk the Line Grabs Golden Globes, Alan Jackson Records a Gospel Album

(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

Before you gigglers and pokers of fun start those big guffaws and belly laughs while you spend your company’s money setting up everybody for after-work drinks at your favorite watering hole, I suggest that you think before you speak. Because you’re gonna go bottoms up and say, “Tim McGraw wants to be governor of the state of Tennessee! Ha ha, hee hee. And Faith the first lady! Ha ha, hee hee.”

Before running off at the mouth too much, listen to me. I remember when former Tennessee Gov. Ned Ray McWherter walked into the Ryman Auditorium at Bill Monroe’s funeral. A huge man, McWherter ambled over and shook my hand. I thanked him for coming and said, “Bill would be so proud that you came.”

“Why, Hazel, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” he replied. Gesturing to the casket, McWherter explained, “He’s the reason I was governor of this state. There was talk of me running, and I hadn’t made up my mind, wasn’t all that serious, until Bill Monroe came to see me at my home. He walked up, looked me straight in my face and said, ’Ned Ray, if you’ll run, I’ll see that the bluegrass fans in the state of Tennessee support you, and you will be our next governor.’ I did. He did. We won.”

In an interview for the current issue of Esquire magazine, McGraw says he’s thinking about running for governor — “maybe in 10 or 15 years.” In the same issue, former President Bill Clinton seems to think McGraw could be a successful candidate. “I think he’s got it,” Clinton said.

Tim says Gov. McGraw has a nice ring. But does the job pay enough?

Golden Globes Love Walk the Line
Walk the Line, the movie that detailed the early career and love story of Johnny and June Carter Cash, was named best musical or comedy film at the 63rd annual Golden Globe awards. Both Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix won awards for their portrayal of the couple. Witherspoon was flawless in her role as June, and her acceptance speech spotlighted Music City and country music. With all the pride she could muster, Reese said country music was what she was raised on. Aren’t you proud of that? I was almost shouting. Joaquin’s acceptance speech was OK but paled in comparison to hers.

Different artists introduced all the nominated movies. Dressed in his black hillbilly suit and hat, Tim McGraw did a killer intro of “Walk the Line,” calling June and Johnny country music’s royal couple. I’ll tell you what: The intro given to Tim was pretty dad gum good, too. They mentioned his past acting and his upcoming movie, Flicka, that opens later this year.

Lastly, I must mention lyricist Bernie Taupin, co-writer with Gustavo Santaolalla of “A Love That Will Never Grow Old,” the Golden Globe-winning song from Brokeback Mountain. Upon accepting the award, Taupin became smarter in my eyes when he said, “Any day Emmylou Harris sings a song of mine is a great day for me.”

Hollywood honoring Nashville is as good as it gets.

Alan Jackson Grants Mama’s Wish
Far be it for me to try hard preaching, but a little closet preaching never hurt anybody, and that’s what this aspires to be. When Randy Travis released “Three Wooden Crosses,” no know-it-all, self-styled critic even suggested the song would become a No. 1 country smash and a Grammy winner, but it did. When Fan Fair was still Fan Fair and Josh Turner debuted “Long Black Train,” I was one of the fans who told him the song would be a country smash. And it was.

Now here come American Idol winner Carrie Underwood with movie star good looks. Yet she chose not to show body parts, and her single, “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” topped the country chart.

I say all that to say this: As long as I’ve known Alan Jackson — and it has to be 15-years — he’s told me his mama’s dream and her prayers were for him to record a gospel album.

Guess what? He did.

Alan gave it to her for Christmas. Just him a piano and guitar in producer Keith Steagall’s studio, simple and sweet, singing songs his mama raised Alan on, songs she loved and Alan loved. Church songs like “Softly and Tenderly,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Old Rugged Cross” that he learned as a boy and, no doubt, the songs that planted the seeds in his heart that enabled him to compose “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” following 9/11. To make it even better, he included “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” with wife Denise and their girls.

Don’t ask me how the tape got from mama’s Christmas dinner to the hands of RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante, but it did. After hearing the tape, Galante said, “We want to release this.” Adding, “It sounded like Alan recorded it in a church, so intimate and emotional. It’s a great representation of an artist but not a change in his career. It’s a chance to show a different side. It’s a labor of love.”

I cannot wait to hear this music. Let’s never forget the fans of country music need to hear country singers share the depths of their soul. I call these songs closet preaching.

CMA Helps the Hall of Fame
For the second time, the Country Music Association has reached into its deep pockets and made a $500,000 year-end gift to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the All for the Hall campaign. This brings the CMA’s contributions to more than $1 million for the campaign.

Lovers of country music, let me again make you aware that the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is our history. Supporting it is like supporting our forefathers. If you can, please give.

Sound and Speed Sounds Like a Keeper
In a day filled with music and autographs, fans of NASCAR and country music raised more than $180,000 at Sound and Speed, a charity to benefit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Michael Waltrip gave $17,000 for Richard Petty’s signature hat. Hanging with Montgomery Gentry, Waltrip took the hat off Eddie Montgomery’s head and asked for bids. NASCAR’s Bobby Labonte gave $12,000 for Eddie’s headwear. In the end, everybody agreed a dish called NASCAR/country music mixes well.

Who, What, When and Where
Marty Stuart will appear on Imus in the Morning on Monday (Jan. 23) and Late Night With Conan O’Brien the following day.

Nashville KATS co-owner Tim McGraw kicked off the team’s season with a concert exclusively for season ticket holders. He brought along Montgomery Gentry and Hot Apple Pie for Friday’s (Jan. 20) show.

Kenny Chesney kicks off his 2006 tour with a two-nighter in Dayton, Ohio, with opening acts Dierks Bentley and Sugarland. Guitarist-harmony singer Kristen Hall has left Sugarland to concentrate on songwriting.

Toby Keith is knocking ’em dead out west with Danielle Peck and Joe Nichols.

RCA is set to release a John Rich solo CD — the one that wasn’t released when he was an artist on the label.

Due to Hurricane Rita and the physical and economic devastation caused by the storm, Tracy Byrd chose to cancel his annual homecoming weekend event in Beaumont, Texas. Over the past 10 years, the homecoming has raised more than $1 million for southeast Texas children’s charities such as the March of Dimes and the Children’s Miracle Network.

Gretchen Wilson recently headlined Stars to the Rescue concert in St. Louis in support of the Animal Rescue Foundation. It’s no secret Gretchen is a huge Cardinals fan, so she was presented with her own No. 27 jersey. Cardinal team members David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds enjoyed Gretchen’s acoustic performance.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pancakes.