(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 other day, someone asked me, “Who was the old man that used to occupy dressing room No. 1 at the Grand Ole Opry?” It gave me a chill that someone who’s close to country music could not remember Roy Acuff’s name. Was it that long ago when people would offer, “The Opry will be gone when Acuff is gone”?
The Opry is still alive and well, but what about the music and the memory of Roy Acuff? An entertainer as great as Mr. Acuff could bring a crowd to its feet. It’s obscene that he is forgotten.
What about Bill Monroe? People used to say, “Bluegrass music will die when Bill Monroe dies.” Well, it didn’t. Bluegrass is still alive and well. As a matter of fact, bluegrass is thriving. Monroe’s memory has been kept alive by those who play the music and those who sing his songs. That’s the remedy.
Remember Ernest Tubb and how much he was loved? The name Ernest Tubb and his music are becoming passé. As great as he was — and even with the Ernest Tubb Record Shops still in business — memories of him are fading. When is the last time you heard someone say, “This is an Ernest Tubb song”? Ernest used to play a Jimmie Rodgers song each Saturday night after midnight on his live radio show from the record shop.
Called the father of country music, Jimmie Rodgers is no longer remembered like he should be. With the passing of Monique Peer (the wife of Ralph Peer) and Roy Horton, who worked for the Peer publishing company, it seems the Rodgers legend is dimming like the songs that made the company famous.
You hardly ever hear anybody mention Red Foley anymore. Foley was a mainstay in country music during the ’40s and early ’50s. His daughter, Shirley, married Pat Boone, but memories of the country music pioneer have faded with time. Does anybody remember the song, “Old Shep”?
Hank Snow was huge, and virtually nobody mentions him anymore. Today, a few people may recall Hank had the No. 1 hit of “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Johnny Cash’s version of the song is used today in a TV commercial. Snow’s recording of “I’m Moving On” spent 21 weeks at No. 1 in 1950. Today, it’s a big deal if a single stays at No. 1 for three or four weeks.
Even the much-loved Marty Robbins is hardly mentioned these days. Here is one of the most loved singer-songwriters in the history of country music. Historian and journalist Robert K. Oermann scripted a piece on Marty for a PBS special. When stations aired the show featuring Robbins, they collected twice as many donations as they did for any other artist they featured. Why do Marty’s songs lay dormant? Something’s mighty wrong.
Johnny Cash managed to keep the Carter Family legend alive during his lifetime. His son, John Carter Cash, is continuing with the task of recording Carter songs. Ralph Stanley has a wonderful new Carter Family tribute album. This will help to keep the music and the memories alive.
The voice of Patsy Cline and her songs will more than likely always be remembered, but what about the great Lefty Frizzell? Is there a young artist today who knows the lyrics of “Saginaw, Michigan” or “I Love You a Thousand Ways”? For that matter, who knows the songs of Webb Pierce?
What about Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, Conway Twitty and Johnny Paycheck — our other latter-day saints? Do we have the heart, the wherewithal, to keep their memories alive for the sake of our children’s children? They should know the word “genius” could and should be used to describe these makers of music who have gone on before.
It is of utmost importance that our history and those who made it be kept alive. We have these wonderful resources, including television and all these new forms of radio. Thank God, Hank Williams’ songs have remained current for almost 60 years and are as good as they were when he first wrote and recorded them. We need to preserve all the other music like we have Hank’s. Hopefully, Shooter Jennings will record at least one Waylon song on each of his CDs.
We have ways to preserve the musical history, and we have the place — the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This music deserves to be promoted to all media outlets.
As a bright ray of hope, Martina McBride’s hit CD, Timeless, features songs of yesteryear and has sold 1.1 million copies. She even included an Ernest Tubb song, proving the past still sells.
Some Kinky News
Polls and pundits called Kinky Friedman a clown and said he’d never get the 45,540 signatures necessary to get on November’s ballot as an independent candidate for governor of the state of Texas. According to writer Peter Carlson’s recent article in the Washington Post, Kinky got 137,154 bona fide signatures.
One of the Kinkster’s best lines, as Carlson reported, “As you know, I’m 61 years old, which is too young for Medicare and too old for women to care. But I care about Texas and I want to fix what’s wrong with it.”
The days Carlson spent with Friedman included a visit to the Flying Saucer bar in Fort Worth, Texas, with the candidate smoking an illegal Cuban cigar. Kinky began his speech to the overflowing crowd by quoting advice he received from his pal, Willie Nelson: “No pedophile jokes until after the election.”
Kinky is smart. Don’t be surprised if he wins.
Scene and Heard
Newcomer Danielle Peck, according to the Big Machine label, has met and gone out with the 30 Million Dollar Man a couple of times. I’m talking about Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. Tracy Byrd, one of Beckett’s friends, played Cupid and introduced the couple.
Seen chowing down on his favorite food at Shintomi, a Japanese restaurant in Nashville, were Keith Urban and his bride Nicole Kidman — looking lovely.
Judging from all reports from Detroit for the first night of their tour, politics fell away and the Dixie Chicks reigned supreme when it came to their music. Peter Cooper of The Tennessean newspaper, wrote, “Whether or not they are called country, they are by far the best and most entertaining band in country music.” I say, “They’ve always been the best and most entertaining band.”
According to Pollstar, attendance records for country music tours during the first half of 2006 place Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at No. 1, followed by Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and George Strait. The one I’m really proud of is Brad Paisley, who has slowly and quietly reached the No. 5 country touring spot. I’d given Brad until August to reach superstar status and, bless his soul, he has merited enough for me to say bingo for Brad in achieving his last big step.
These days, Miranda Lambert is smiling and saying openly she is in love. Of course, you read it here a while ago that the talented Texan was in love with the talented star from Oklahoma — Blake Shelton — and vice versa. You also read here that I expect radio (and all that goes with it) to line up and shoot Shelton straight to superstardom.
Did you see the performance by Brooks & Dunn on the TV special, CMA Music Festival: Country’s Biggest Party? With Keith Urban giving us some supreme guitar work as he accompanied Ronnie Dunn’s hallowed and angelic vocals, it was so wonderfully sincere that my pounding heart just knew my next stop was heaven. That boy, Ronnie Dunn, can lay some altar call singing on you. Wow.
Super songwriter Bill Anderson just celebrated his 45th year of whispering songs on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
I spoke with publicist William Smithson to check up on the great Loretta Lynn, who recently fell and broke her shoulder. He tells me Loretta is undergoing physical therapy and is improving every day.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Golden Chicken Supreme.