HOT DISH: Music Makes Clutter Vanish

Discovering the Old and New in Country Music

(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.)

No, there’s nothing that rids kitchen clutter faster and easier than working while you’re enjoying some good music. (It’s also easier to wash cars with music!)

My sweet teenaged grandson, Tyler Thomas Smith (named for T. Tommy Cutrer, the great disc jockey who also hosted Flatt & Scruggs’ syndicated TV show in the ’60s), obliged his mom with kitchen help as the twosome listened to music on their computer.

“Look for some Elvis,” requested Tyler .

Imagine the shock of my daughter-in-law, Sharon Collie Smith, when she clicked on “Elvis” and the first thing she heard was the voice of her late father, Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame member Biff Collie, doing an interview she’d never previously heard. The interview is featured on Charly Records’ In the Beginning, which features some of the first-ever recordings by the King. (I’d never heard of this CD.)

Sharon was aware that her dad, who was a famous radio personality at the time, had befriended young Elvis, but she had no recollection of the interview. As she was hearing the voice of her father, who died 13 years ago, Sharon realized her “Biff” look-alike son, Tyler, was hearing his grandfather’s voice for the first time.

“So you mean Grandpa was there?” Tyler questioned.

Yes, Tyler. Biff, your granddad was there. He knew Elvis, and he knew Hank, and he helped a lot of stars when they were just starting their careers. As a matter of fact, there’s a photo of your grandpa with Hank Williams where Hank showed up at the San Antonio radio station with only the shirt he had on his back. Biff bought Hank the shirt he’s wearing in the photo.

Upcoming Nuptials
May I be the first to tell you!

By the time you read this, Cheryl White and Billy Paul Jones may have already said their “I do’s.” You’ll never meet two finer people than Cheryl and Billy Paul. Cheryl is, of course, a member of the Whites, and Billy Paul continues to be involved in the making of videos and does some TV cooking, as well. They’ve known each other for more than two decades. I can’t say when I’ve ever seen a better match. They plan to marry at the residence of Ricky and Sharon Skaggs, Cheryl’s brother-in-law and sister.

What a Storm!
One of Nashville’s quickie storms caught me downtown — black clouds rolling, rain pouring, lightning flashing and thunder roaring. So I did what any chicken does when it’s storming: I asked the security guards at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to please allow me to park inside the fence near the back door. I kept thinking the storm would let up. It went on and on.

Finally, several females began running out the backdoor of the building to their cars. Those without umbrellas were drenched. Two ladies bolted out and back inside and then back out a second time while escorting a gentleman I soon recognized to be bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman. Later, I learned Mac was special guest at the XM Satellite Radio studios to help kick off a regular series of live shows on the Bluegrass Junction channel.

A new bluegrass show? I reckon the Lord knew it was time for a storm. Bluegrass people work outdoors and are not afraid of a little storm like a chicken — me.

Puttin’ ‘Em in College
I got the biggest laugh when I read the press release mentioning that Maxine Brown’s autobiography, Looking Back to See, has been adopted as a textbook in an American history course at Tulane University in New Orleans. All I could think of was Little Jimmy Dickens at last fall’s ROPE banquet when he advised the audience not to believe anything Maxine wrote about him in her book.

“Lies!” shouted Dickens. Someone needs to advise Tater that now they’re going to teach college youngsters the history of country music and the South from former President Jimmy Carter’s An Hour Before Daylight, Louis Armstrong’s My Life in New Orleans and other books, including Maxine’s.

Interest in the Browns — the trio featuring Maxine, sister Bonnie and brother Jim Ed — was sparked when their 1959 country and pop charttopper, “The Three Bells,” was featured in two episodes of the TV series, The Sopranos. In 1999, more interest sparked when Alan Jackson took Jim Ed’s 1967 smash, “Pop a Top,” back to the top of the country chart.

Professor Randy J. Sparks teaches the course that covers the period since the Civil War. He’s already used Loretta Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter and Johnny Cash’s Cash as subject matter.

Remembering a Master Craftsman
The Nashville music community is mourning the loss of the man responsible for salvaging Bill Monroe’s cherished F-5 mandolin after it was nearly destroyed by an intruder in 1985.

Funeral services were held Thursday (Aug. 3) for master mandolin builder Charlie Derrington, 51, who was killed two nights earlier when his motorcycle was hit by a Ford Explorer driven by a suspected drunk driver. Police say Julio Villasana was driving the wrong way in the southbound lane of Briley Parkway in Nashville when he hit Derrington’s motorcycle.

A well-known musician and a mandolin maker for the Gibson musical instruments company, Derrington is the craftsman who repaired Bill Monroe’s beloved mandolin, built in 1923, after it was smashed with a fireplace poker. With patience and a magnifying glass, Derrington picked through the tiny fragments of wood and glued the instrument back together. Philanthropist Robert W. “Bob” McLean purchased the mandolin in 2005 and donated it to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Hee Haw Weekend
Right off the bat, I sent thanks to the powers that be at CMT for the wonderful Hee Haw weekend marathon. Seeing performances by the late Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Grandpa Jones, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Acuff, Kenny Price, Minnie Pearl, Junior Samples, Archie Campbell and the great Buck Owens brought smiles, tears and lots of laughter. Knowing we can still enjoy George Jones, John Anderson, Connie Smith, Garth Brooks (if we’re lucky), Alan Jackson, Mike Snider, the Statler Brothers (but they retired), Alabama (retired, too) and, of course, Roy Clark means a lot.

I’d like to see a new weekly music-comedy series. If country music is hot enough for People magazine to focus on in October and hot enough for country stars to be all over the pages of Vanity Fair and Ladies Home Journal in the fall, I’d speculate that Hee Haw, the show that succeeded for 25 years, still has an audience.

Bits & Pieces
I like the Wreckers. Something about the sound of the rookie duo reminds me of the Dixie Chicks. They look and sing like stars, and they’re all over TV. Not since Brooks & Dunn charged in with their chart-topping “Brand New Man” in 1991 has a duo’s debut single reached the Top 5 like the Wreckers “Leave the Pieces.”

Speaking of Brooks & Dunn, I hear Ronnie Dunn has been in the studio with newbie Ashley Monroe.

Scalpers sold tickets for $200 a pop outside the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Music City for the recent Tim McGraw-Faith Hill concert. More than 17,000 people attended the sold-out performance.

Flicka, the movie starring Tim McGraw, is set for an October premiere. Tim plays a Wyoming cowboy with a wife and two kids.

Charming and talented Dierks Bentley promises to release his new CD on Halloween. “Every Mile a Memory,” from the yet-unnamed album, is his fastest-rising single ever. Mark my word, Dierks is in the superstardom line.

One of my faves, Brenda Lee, will be honored by the SOURCE Foundation with the Jo Walker Meador Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 21. Brenda is enshrined in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s sold more than 100 million records.

Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004, has joined the CMT Radio Network as a correspondent.

Singer-songwriter Carolyn Dawn Johnson has signed with the Equity label. Her first single, “Love and Negotiation.” goes for radio adds on Aug. 28.

After 15 years and a long string of hits, Diamond Rio and Arista Records are parting ways. I hope the best for this multi-talented group. They are more than likely the only band in country music with hillbilly chops good enough to play their own instruments in the recording studio. Guitarist Jimmy Olander is good as anybody who’s arrived in Nashville via I-65, I-24 or I-40.

Big Toby Keith is getting ready to roll into Cleveland on Aug. 11 with his Hookin’ Up and Hangin’ Out tour. His special guests are Joe Nichols, Rushlow Harris and newcomer Lindsey Haun. Toby’s latest album, White Trash With Money, is the first platinum CD from Toby’s record label, Show Dog Nashville. I believe that means all the $$$ goes to the Bank of Toby!

See this week’s Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Macaroni and Tomatoes.