HOT DISH: The Whites and the Family Connection in Country Music

Recapping the Winners and Performers at the 2006 ACM Awards Show

(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 CMT.com.)

The Whites are called the first family of the Grand Ole Opry. The trio consists of daddy Buck, daughters Sharon and Cheryl. Rosie and Lisa round out four daughters. A while ago, Buck recorded a mandolin album titled There’s More Pretty Girls Than One with the four girls on the cover. Four beauties.

Sharon is married to bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs, and their two children are named Molly and Lucas. Cheryl has a daughter, Rachel Warren. Rosie’s husband is Brian Franklin, guitarist for Kenny Rogers and brother of award-winning steel guitarist Paul Franklin. Brian and Rosie are the parents of 2-year-old Noah. Lisa is married to David Wilson, son of the legendary Opry guitarist James “Spider” Wilson, and they have two children, Tucker and Emily.

On June 5, Rachel and Andy Leftwich, fiddle player in Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder will be married. Friends were invited to a tea at the Skaggs home on May 21 — the day Billy Walker, his wife Bettie and band members Charlie Lilly and Danny Patton were killed in a one-car crash while they were returning to the Nashville area after performing in Foley, Ala. The 77-year-old Walker was driving his 1996 Ford van when he apparently fell asleep and ran off the road. The vehicle reportedly turned over six times.

Arriving at the Skaggs’ home, there was a somber and sad feeling. The girls were concerned about their dad, a close friend of Walker. Rosie’s husband Brian went to break the sad news to Buck. Sharon and Cheryl, both close to the Walkers, were teary. Rosie was totally distraught. Lilly, son of famed bluegrass musician Everett Lilly, helped her and Brian move into their new home a short while ago and was one of their close friends.

Opry members have always been like a family. Musicians are also like a family. They depend on each other during good times and bad. Brad Paisley, still hurting from the passing of Buck Owens, remembered Billy Walker as being supportive of newcomers. He recalled Walker’s spiritual life.

Despite the sadness over the tragedy, the party at the Skaggs’ house turned out to be perfect. After Rachel opened her stash of gifts, Molly played the piano, and she and Rachel blended their voices in song. The four White sisters joined in, adding angelic harmonies followed by vocals by Deanna Wall (sister of John Anderson). Lastly Cheryl requested my daughter-in-law, Marilyn Smith, play piano and sing. When she chose an Emmylou Harris song, the White girls and Sharon Smith, also my daughter-in-law, sang along as well. The Whites have been Sharon’s favorite act since middle school. This was the first party for the girls since their mother went home to heaven. All of us remembered that sainted woman who taught her daughters to sing and to love the Lord. Blessings, Rachel and Andy, and much happiness.

Newsy News
I got all uppity upon receiving a press conference announcement from my friends, Brooks & Dunn, in Las Vegas. The nerve of them meeting the press at someplace I’ve never been. So I sent their manager, Clarence Spalding, an e-mail, and he answered right back with the scoop. Kix and Ronnie have a two-year contract with the Las Vegas Hilton, where Elvis performed. Brooks & Dunn will appear Dec. 4-6 during National Finals Rodeo week. They are also set to perform there the following March and July and again for the 2007 rodeo.

John Rich of Big & Rich has got his fingers in more hillbilly pies than Sara Lee can shake a stick at. If he’s not writing hit songs for his duo with Big Kenny, he’s writing hits for somebody like Faith Hill. When he’s not producing music for Big & Rich, he’s producing records for Gretchen Wilson. Rich is getting richer, and I do hope his newest project — producing the great John Anderson — tops the charts and brings mega-success. John Anderson has been overlooked by record labels and radio for far too long.

ACM Awards Recap
TV cameras pan the audience while Brad Paisley is opening the ACM Awards show with “The World.” I want to hear Brad sing and play, but the phone keeps ringing and ringing. After they saw another superstar sitting in the audience with a female companion, six married women called to ask, “Is that Kenny Chesney’s girlfriend?” I don’t know — nor do I care.

The song of the year was Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe,” written by Ronnie Dunn and Craig Wiseman. Lord knows, just like at the recent CMT Music Awards, it was the best performance of the night. Brooks & Dunn accepted the duo of the year statue to give them a total of 21 awards from the ACM.

Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton were awarded two trophies — for video and vocal event of the year — for “When I Get Where I’m Going,” but the thrill of his night was when his Time Well Wasted got the album of the year nod. I’ve never seen Brad so happy.

The happiest man of the night, however, had to be Jason Aldean for winning the top new male vocalist award.

Toby Keith seemed subdued when he performed.

Cute Dierks Bentley did a good job singing, but where were his curls?

Big & Rich were so smart to do an acoustic performance of “8th of November.” You could hear the lyrics. When the U.S. military veterans came onstage, there was not a dry eye in the audience or at my house. Thanks, John and Big Kenny. You guys made us proud.

Sugarland received the top new duo or vocal group honor. Wearing a shawl, Jennifer Nettles was slinging her arms like a theme park performer when she sang.

Miranda Lambert showed off her singing and picking. Earlier in the day, I received an e-mail saying Miranda and Blake Shelton were seen kanoodling in the lunch bar at Emeril’s restaurant in Vegas. As Blake presented Carrie Underwood with the top new female vocalist trophy at the awards show, I wondered how he felt since his squeeze Miranda was in the running for that award.

Carrie Underwood sounded like an angel. No wonder she’s sold 3 million records.

Trace Adkins’ performance of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” was so funny. Trace’s wife Rhonda must’ve hated those big butts rubbing against her man.

Kenny Chesney wearing shorts singing “Summertime” made me wish he’d invite me to Myrtle Beach — or some place! Kenny was one happy Tennessee mountain boy to be named entertainer of the year for the second consecutive time by the ACM.

Gretchen Wilson put on a great show with “Politically Uncorrect.” Gretchen can sing.

Montgomery Gentry did a good job on “That’s Something to Be Proud Of.”

When NASCAR’s Tony Stewart introduced Vince Gill and presented him with The ACM/Home Depot Humanitarian Award, he said Vince raised more than $30 million — mostly to help kids. Goodhearted Vince said his wife Amy Grant was more giving than he is. Vince also asked Caitlin, a Make-a-Wish Child, maybe 7 years old, to the stage. After meeting her while she was getting autographs, he gave the child his Humanitarian Award trophy. Let’s hear it for Vince!

Rascal Flatts sang “Me and My Gang” followed by their single “What Hurts the Most” with Kelly Clarkston. The Flatts accepted their fourth top vocal group award.

Keith Urban sang and played piano before accepting top male vocalist trophy for a second year. Like Nicole Kidman, Keith has finally acknowledged their engagement.

After Sara Evans sang “Coalmine,” she was presented her first award ever — top female vocalist. Congrats!

The one true country performance on the show was by Martina McBride when she sang the Ernest Tubb classic, “Thanks a Lot,” from her hit album Timeless. Tubb helped Jack Greene and Cal Smith get their record deals. With one single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Tubb put Loretta Lynn on the Midnight Jamboree radio show from his record shop in Nashville and arranged for her to perform on the Opry. He encouraged Hank Williams, kept Hank Snow from getting fired from the Opry, bought Stonewall Jackson’s first stage clothes and hired Carl Smith to open shows. Nobody helps like that today.

Buck Owens’ pal, actor Vince Vaughn, introduced a tribute segment highlighting Owens’ accomplishments as an entertainer and businessman. Chris Hillman added vocal harmonies to Dwight Yoakam’s lead on “Act Naturally” and “Together Again.” Buckaroo Tom Brumley was featured on steel guitar as Brad Paisley played a red, white and blue Fender Telecaster guitar Owens gave Vaughn. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons sang “Crying Time,” and the eldest son of Buck and Bonnie Owens, Buddy Alan Owens, did “Streets of Bakersfield” with Yoakam.

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