HOT DISH: Most Country Stars Still Sign Autographs

Some Friendly Advice to Young Artists in Building Their Careers

(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

Have you ever wondered why careers of country stars last a long, long time? The biggest reason, of course, is great songs. Another reason is that country stars know how to treat fans. Look at Kenny Chesney, one of the hottest out there, who is always ready with a smile at a meet-and-greet. George Jones and Willie Nelson are always ready to give an autograph or have a photo snapped. One year during Fan Fair, Garth Brooks signed autographs for 23 hours without a taking a pee break. Amazing! Alan Jackson, tall, country and shy, will always allow a photo and share an autograph. It’s just part of being country.

I’ve reported before when young artists refused to give fans autographs. Once again, I have to remind you youngsters that fans are the reason you are allowed to go onstage and sing. You owe your career to the fans. Sorry, but I’ve got to call names, and it makes me angry.

Maybe there were extenuating circumstances and legitimate reasons that some of these situations occurred, but artists — especially young artists — deserve to be told how the public views their off-stage behavior. They need to know what the word is on the street.

A case in point is the recent Indiana State Fair. It runs for 10 days in Indianapolis, and country stars perform there each and every day. It’s wonderful to get a report back that says, “Darryl Worley is the nicest guy you will ever meet.”

Then I hear Miranda Lambert refused to give autographs for security reasons. How crazy is that? Security? I have become a fan of this girl, and she has lots of fans, but will they stay around if she refuses to give autographs? I doubt it.

Brad Paisley gave every fan a smile, an autograph and a pose at his meet-and-greet in Indy, and the fans loved him. And Brad put on a great show. My informer said Brad, in shorts and a T-shirt, raced through the fair crowd to get the adrenalin flowing.

Billy Currington did not sign autographs at Indy. His management apparently said Currington did not feel like giving autographs. When asked about it, Billy didn’t seem to know what management was talking about and said he felt fine. I don’t know Billy, but I think he’s cute enough to make it.

Big & Rich, on the other hand, signed autographs as long as a fan was in sight. These guys are dead serious about their career, and they know it’s easier to smile and sign than to frown and be forgotten.

Steve Holy, whom I have found in the past to be a nice guy, apparently turned a tad ugly in Indianapolis. He reportedly cursed a security guy, was rude to a policeman and a sound guy and was also rude to the listeners. Shame, shame. This is a guy who has had a tough row to hoe. How dare he act up.

There was a great report on Keith Anderson, who sang great and was nice to everybody. He always is. Keith is smart enough to make it to Superstarville.

The newcomers — and their record label executives, managers and booking agents — may get mad that I’ve written the truth. But I believe in telling young artists the truth — and the truth is that some of you are acting like spoiled kids. You also run a great risk if you let yourself become so isolated in your own little world that you’re not fully aware of what’s happening outside your tour bus and the backstage catering area. Listen, you’ve got God-given talent, but that does not give you the right to mistreat people who pay their hard-earned money for your concerts, your CDs and your merchandising. And that’s something country artists of all ages and levels of stardom need to remember.

Willie Bent Out of Shape
Did you see where Willie Nelson is speaking out on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act? Willie calls horses an American symbol of freedom and wants to know why foreign-owned slaughterhouses located in the U.S. are slaughtering nearly 100,000 horses annually for human consumption.

The creator of Farm Aid says what’s worse than the inhumane treatment of the animals in the slaughterhouses are the injuries in crowded trailers and abuse by handlers. Willie says it’s time the cowboys stood up for the horses. Let me add it’s also time everybody stood up for the horses. Write or call your representatives and tell your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.

Waylon Sings Hank
YMC Records contacted me about writing liner notes for a special CD by the great Waylon Jennings that will be released Tuesday (Aug. 29). His incredible vocals on the songs of Hank Williams are just about the best I’ve ever heard. As a matter of fact, we should make it an unwritten law: It’s compulsory that every young singer must listen to Waylon Sings Hank. I am humbly proud I wrote the liner notes.

Keith Urban Makes History
Keith Urban’s “Once in a Lifetime” is now the highest-debuting country single since the inception of the Billboard country singles chart in 1944. The history-making track from Keith’s forthcoming — and as yet untitled — album zoomed in at No. 17. Two other singles — “Every Which Way but Loose” by Eddie Rabbit and “Good Ride Cowboy” by Garth Brooks — previously debuted at No. 18. I’ll bet you thought I was gonna tell some lovey-dovey fairytale story starring Keith and his bride, Nicole Kidman. Noooo.

Dierks and the Grascals
As I write this, I just returned from the ASCAP building where Dierks Bentley joined his pals, the Grascals, to help celebrate the release of Long List of Heartaches, their sophomore Rounder Records album that arrives in stores Tuesday (Aug. 29). “This is my favorite band,” Dierks said of the group that includes my son, Terry Smith. Dierks appears on the Grascals’ new album, and they performed with Dierks on his upcoming Capitol Nashville project, Long Trip Alone, set for an Oct. 17 release.

Toby Keith Keeps Supporting the Troops
Supporting our military’s deployed fighting men and women is a priority for Toby Keith. Therefore, it came as no surprise when I learned Toby’s latest endeavor — his feature film, Broken Bridges, which debuts Sept. 7 in Nashville — was shown to troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Qatar a month ago. Toby made his fourth USO tour of the region earlier in the summer.

Tim and Faith’s Bread & Water Show Benefits Katrina Relief Efforts
While in Los Angeles for three sold-out shows at the Staples Center, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill hosted one of their Bread & Water shows at the Whisky, the famous club on the Sunset Strip. The SRO crowd heard Tim and Faith sing their favorite songs for the next few hours. Reba McEntire joined Faith onstage for “When Will I Be Loved” and “Does He Love You.” Tim was sandwiched onstage between the two divas. Proceeds from the show will support Hurricane Katrina-related relief efforts. By the way, during their L.A. finale, the couple surprised their 1 millionth ticket holder with a new Dodge.

More News
Darryl Worley and his wife of five years, Beverly, have filed for divorce. “We’re still friends,” said Worley. Let me tell you right now, if I were his wife, I would not be his friend — not with him undressed with that undressed model in his current video.

Gary Allan and a few band members are enjoying flying six-feet high — wakeboarding — when they aren’t opening shows for Rascal Flatts.

Joe Nichols made time in his busy touring schedule to do some co-writing with several of the top-of-the-line writers from EMI publishing. Joe is currently Hookin’ Up and Hangin’ Out on the big Toby Keith tour.

A Personal Note
Her name was Linnie Boone. She was my mama. There’s nothing harder than saying a final goodbye to mama. If you still have yours, visit her often. My brothers, sons, grandkids, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews gathered together for the final “Amazing Grace” during funeral services on Aug. 19. Mama was 92. Thanks to our dear, dear friends for thinking of my family and me during this time of grief. She was laid to rest beside my dad in Camp Springs cemetery in Caswell County, N.C.

See this week’s Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Watermelon Rind Pickles.