HOT DISH: When We Must Cry

Country Music Community Still Mourning the Tragic Death of Music Row Banker

(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

At the very moment almost 48,000 people were getting ready to see Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and headliner Kenny Chesney during their July 8 show at Nashville’s LP field, the word was out that Music Row banker Brian Williams had drowned.

His name isn’t one that country music fans are familiar with, but it would take this entire article to explain his accomplishments or list the worthy causes he helped during his 45 years. As senior vice president of SunTrust Bank’s branch on Music Row, Williams helped out countless singers, songwriters and musicians before they became rich and famous. His work also put country stars in tour buses — their home on wheels — that brought them to your city so you could become a fan, go to their concerts and buy their CDs and merchandise.

More than just a good friend, Brian was the man I went to when I had a financial need or made a dumb mistake while calculating. But there must be hundreds or even thousands who feel as I do about Brian. We must cry.

The service at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville was filled with mourners. Sara Evans’ a cappella version of “Amazing Grace” was incredible, as was BeBe Winans rendition of one of Brian’s favorite songs, “Over the Rainbow.” Country music stars, NASCAR stars, Music Row business executives and bankers had to dry their eyes.

Sending love and sympathy to Brian’s beautiful wife Marion and their two young children.

Johnny Cash Is No. 1
Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways enters Billboard’s pop and country album charts at No. 1, and I don’t know if I should scream in praise or swear. It’s hard to believe, but this is the very first time an album by this great man debuted at No. 1. Isn’t that a shame? And can you believe only seven of Cash’s albums reached the top of the country chart since 1958? I suppose I should calm down and thank God that more than 88,000 copies of the final record of Johnny Cash’s illustrious career were sold the first week out — and just leave it at that.

Trent Tomlinson Helps Friend Celebrate Half a Hundred
A mob jammed into the Jack Daniels suite at the Gaylord Entertainment Center for a surprise party celebrating the 50th birthday of Douglas J. Howard, senior vice president of A&R for Lyric Street Records and Disney Publishing.

There I ran into Trent Tomlinson — doo-rag and all muscles. He looks like a swashbuckler instead of a Missouri hillbilly. Trent would fit perfectly in Pirates of the Caribbean alongside Johnny Depp. His new music video, “One Wing in the Fire,” is a song he co-wrote about his mama praying while his dad was drunk.

On Music Row, Doug birddogs those hits for Rascal Flatts, SHeDAISY, Josh Gracin and Tomlinson. A big bunch of people celebrated Doug’s fun birthday, including legendary songwriters Bob McDill and Dickey Lee.

Lord, lordy! Two more SHeDAISY females! SHeDAISY’s Kelsi Osborn and husband Steve proudly announce the arrival of twin daughters, Savannah Marie and Adyson Amilia. Mother is resting comfortably. She better rest. There’ll be no sleeping for her for two years!

PovertyNeck Hillbillies and Big Ben
The PovertyNeck Hillbillies are teaming up with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to shoot a video for their latest single, “Mr. Right Now,” on Rust Records. There was a time not long ago that an indie label like Rust was frowned upon — but not any more. Indie labels are having hits right and left. This group is the official band of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a favorite of Big Ben. The video will be shot where the Steelers play football, Heinz Field. By the way, Rust has opened a Twang Town office.

Star Light, Star Bright
Hot as a couple of pistols, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are on the cover of the July 17 issue of People magazine. Not only that, the beautiful Faith is on the cover of Ladies Home Journal.

Jack Ingram called from his Texas home, and we talked for about an hour regarding his career, opening shows for Sheryl Crow and Brooks & Dunn, his three kids (ages 3 and 2 years and 5 weeks) and his wife, who must be very tired. Jack is so nice and so talented and so cute. It’s my hope that he will connect with all those Brooks & Dunn fans because he sure has the ingredients to have “superstar” written before his name.

Middle Tennessee State University graduate Jenny Gill is the new song plugger for Zavitson Music Group. Jenny is the daughter of Vince Gill. A song plugger is the person who pitches songs to artists or the A&R departments of record labels in an effort to get the material recorded.

Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook just announced they were wed May 31. How did they keep that secret in this town with folks like me nosing around?

Speaking of marriage, tabloid journalists continue to yak about the most famous couple in the world — Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. I see where someone has been following them around town and wrote a cheesy piece about Keith being such a gentleman that he always opens the car door of their black Bentley for Nicole even when she drives.

LeAnn Rimes is recovering following leg surgery at a Los Angeles hospital. She canceled three concerts. I do hope this is as simple as they are trying to make it sound.

I see where Rascal Flatts performed in the East Room of the White House for an invitation-only, black-tie dinner honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Special Olympics.

Several great reviews have come in for Sammy Kershaw’s new album, Honky Tonk Boots.

On Aug. 29, Word Records will release Three Wooden Crosses, a compilation of spiritual songs by country stars, including Randy Travis’ title track, Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train,” Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and the Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

George Jones, Dierks Bentley, the Jordanaires and Steve Wariner are among the guests performing on the Grascals’ upcoming album on Rounder Records. Long List of Heartaches is set for an Aug. 29 release.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will launch an exhibit honoring Ray Price on Aug. 4.

Young and talented Miranda Lambert was shy and cute in Indianapolis when asked about Blake Shelton, but she finally admitted they are an item. Cute couple.

Brad Paisley and wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley are still plagued with brown recluse spiders at their home. Could we get together for a brown recluse spider dance to get rid of those varmints? With recent stops in Pittsburgh, Washington and Buffalo, more than 40,000 fans bought tickets to give Brad his biggest weekend ever on the road.

I ran into Mike Dungan, head of Capitol Records Nashville, who was looking dapper in black. I could not help but ask if that was the suit he bought in Australia when the airlines lost of all his and wife Jane’s clothes when they were traveling to the Urban-Kidman wedding. Dungan and Jane told me how they had only three hours to buy outfits and accessories and make it to the church on time. Answering my question, Dungan admitted it was the suit and shoes he purchased in Sydney.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Vegetable Dip.