HOT DISH: The Possum Is an Entrepreneur

The Latest About George Jones' New Restaurant and Kenny Chesney's Latest Triumphs

(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.)

Waylon Jennings used to sing a song titled “It’s All Right” that contained the line, “If we could, we’d all sing like George Jones.” I’d wager my farm and house that Jones is the favorite singer of more singers in every genre than anyone else on earth. Even Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is a huge fan.

I remember asking Alan Jackson, “Who is your favorite singer?”

A.J. answered, “That’d have to be George Jones.”

“Mine, too,” I chimed in. “Favorite song?”

“‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’” grinned Alan.

“Mine, too,” I agreed.

The great George Jones had his first hit, “Why Baby Why,” in 1955, and the song stands up just as well today as it did way back then. George still tours, too, mostly working Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and returning home. Some time ago, my brother and sister-in-law, Henry and Amy Boone, and a couple of friends, Hilton and Nell Smith, went to see George’s concert in Greensboro, N.C. Hilton, an overall-wearing dude with grown kids and grandkids, doesn’t cry, but he wept when he heard the Possum sing. Seeing the great George Jones up close will make a country boy’s eyes run over.

Several years ago, the entrepreneurial spirit got a hold of George, and he came out with George Jones dog food. Time passed, and George Jones country sausage found its way to the marketplace and to my table. Later, George Jones “White Lightning” spring water hit the market. The gift shop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville sells George Jones barbecue sauce and George Jones honey.

Most recently, George has become a real estate entrepreneur and a restaurateur in Enterprise, Ala., after becoming the spokesperson for a real estate management, development and marketing company. The more George and his wife, Nancy, visit the Enterprise area, the more they like it.

Named the Legends, the community will be situated on 200 acres near the Enterprise Country Club. George and Nancy will be among the 220 owners of the estate-sized lots and gated manors. In addition, George and Nancy are working to open Possum Hollow, a meat-and-three styled eatery in downtown Enterprise. Nancy will decorate the restaurant with memorabilia collected from her husband’s career over the past 50-plus years. The restaurant is scheduled to open this fall.

Kenny Chesney Marched Through the Northeast
Kenny Chesney, sweaty as a work mule, marched into a sold-out show at the Big Apple’s hallowed Madison Square Garden and then marched out with more than 1 million George Washingtons starring back at him. He then led his 50 trucks to the Boston area — where the New England Patriots play football in freaking snow — to generate more than $4 million from his concert with included Dierks Bentley, Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Carrie Underwood. Isn’t that more money than any hillbilly ever marched away with from a single concert?

Think about it: Kenny keeps his ticket prices affordable. He encourages people to have tailgate parties at his concerts. His fans are truckers, waitresses, factory and mill production workers and all other types of blue collar workers. They’re the people who party Saturday night and go to church on Sunday. They’re the salt of the earth, help-your-neighbor kind of good folks.

When Kenny sang “She’s From Boston” in Massachusetts, he said he choked up when he heard all those voices coming from the third tier of the stadium — the nosebleed section — because he used to sit in the cheap seats, too.

Critics in New York can be picky as a rich man’s daughter, but even the New York Post reported that Kenny can be as magnetic as the Boss or Bono. Hey, as far as I’m concerned, Bono and Bruce Springsteen can’t carry Kenny’s guitar case. Listen, Kenny’s from Luttrell, Tenn., where folks aren’t ashamed to play guitar — even at church.

Porter Wagoneer’s Scare
Suffering from serious pain in his back on July 14, Porter Wagoner was rushed to a Nashville-area hospital, where doctors found an abdominal aneurism they successfully repaired with surgery. The 78-year-old member of the Country Music Hall of Fame was kept in intensive care for several days. Friends and fans — including his former singing partner, Dolly Parton — called to check up on the tall man from West Plains, Mo.

Guy Clark Plans Shows at Hall of Fame
Songwriter’s songwriter Guy Clark has been named the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2006 artist in residence and will perform there three Wednesday evenings — Sept. 6, 13 and 27. A member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, he was honored last year with the Americana Music Association’s lifetime achievement award for songwriting. As the Hall of Fame’s artist in residence, Guy follows the respectful lineup in years past of Cowboy Jack Clement, Earl Scruggs and Tom T. Hall. Everybody who is anybody in this hillbilly town has a favorite Guy Clark song. Mine is “Let Him Roll,” recorded by Johnny Cash and others. Guy is one songwriter other writers will pay to see perform. He kills me when he sings.

Bits & Pieces
Grandson Trevor and I ran into Michael Kosser at the Piccadilly restaurant in Madison, Tenn. Michael told me he had just published a book titled How Nashville Became Music City, USA: 50 Years of Music Row. I have yet to read it, but I’ve read Michael’s work before, and he knows his stuff. The new book is in stores now.

If you love gospel bluegrass, you will want to run, not walk, to get the wonderful The Road With No End by the Lonesome River Band, the great Flying High by the Lewis Family and the incredible The Promised Land by the Del McCoury Band.

I quit watching American Idol when they voted off Kellie Pickler, the country singer from Albemarle, N.C. But now there’s great news! Kellie signed a deal with 19 Recordings/BNA Records. Nashville-based BNA is the sister label to Arista, whose roster includes Idol champ Carrie Underwood. Kellie’s first single is expected in September, and an album is set to be released on Nov. 14. I can’t wait to hear that country girl sing!

Four-time CMA female vocalist of the year Martina McBride returns with The Joy of Christmas, a holiday production she’s once again taking on the road. For the fourth consecutive year, the diminutive diva will dazzle fans with her incredible concert. The 16-city tour kicks off Nov. 24 in Chicago and continues through Dec. 22. McBride will return home just in time for Santa.

Fans (like me and mine) will watch CMT’s Hee Haw on Saturday and Sunday (July 29-30). The episodes feature the late Tammy Wynette and Conway Twitty, along with Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and both Georges — Jones and Strait.

Jeff Bates shared his personal story about methamphetamine addiction and recovery for law enforcement personnel attending Tennessee D.A.R.E. Officers convention in Gatlinburg, Tenn. About 200 officers attended the event aimed at educating and honoring officers involved in the drug abuse education program. Bates also performed at the organization’s banquet.

When his tour with Sheryl Crow wrapped up, Jack Ingram — being the Texas gent — gave Sheryl an iPod loaded with his favorite songs, including several of his own. That Jack. I’ll bet he hopes maybe Sheryl might dig his penmanship.

Lyric Street Records executives Randy Goodman, Doug Howard, Greg McCarn and Kevin Herring traveled to Los Angeles to attend Rascal Flatts’ sold-out concert at Staples Center and to surprise the trio with neon plaques for sales totaling 12 million albums. Several Disney bigwigs turned out, as well.

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s Instrumentals is the first-ever CD by the six-man group and their leader that features all music, sans vocals. The Nashville String Machine and another guest or two show up on the album that hits shelves on Aug. 1.

CMT’s new marketing program with the Publishing Group of America (PGA) has resulted in a new publication, CMT Life Set to Music, a monthly eight-page editorial insert that’s being featured in Sunday newspapers in 25 of America’s top markets. Initial circulation is more than 250,000, and the editorial content will focus on entertainment and CMT programming. The editor is the most-capable Beverly Keel.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Shrimp Scampi.