HOT DISH: Rock-a-Bye Baby for Paisleys

Tribute to Emmylou Harris Brings Out a Long List of Admirers

(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

Yes, yes, yes! I know you read my scoop, but this is an announcement of regal proportions that deserves press and more press. After all, it ain’t every day the reigning prince of country music and his princess are in the family way for the first time!

Brad Paisley called from California last Tuesday (Sept. 19) to give me the scoop that he and his actress wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, are going to have a baby in February. This is her fifth year on the ABC sitcom, According to Jim, starring Jim Belushi. She was also the bride in Steve Martin’s hit movie, Father of the Bride.

I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am for this couple. Brad has worked long and hard to reach this plateau so he and Kim could start a family. He has written songs, toured continually and become a freaking superstar. Brad Paisley deserves all he’s gotten and more.

You’ll read more about this here in February when baby arrives. Congratulations, kids. I love you dearly. And Brad, I’ll see you later this week when we tape CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks with Hazel Smith.

Emmylou’s Big Night
Tuesday (Sept. 19) was my first trip to the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville, and I was humbly proud to be in the presence of the much loved Emmylou Harris when she was honored with the Dale Franklin Award from Leadership Music. We found table No. 35 in the back corner where CMA’s head honcho Ed Benson spied me and could not say enough about my royal blue outfit. Lord knows, I’ve worn it so much on TV and on special occasions, it’s almost threadbare.

What a night it was. There I sat — picking each leaf of my salad one by one to make sure no spinach was there while eye-balling Elvis Costello, who was working the room. The conglomeration of friends that turned out to honor Emmylou Harris was like her animals. They did not have, nor did they need, a pedigree. They played and sang great music and wrote great songs. And like the strays she has chosen at the humane shelter, Emmy took the singers, songwriters and musicians home, too, and they were accepted.

It’s no wonder Bill Monroe’s “Working on a Building” opened the show. As the inventor of bluegrass, Monroe was not a mainstream country artist, but he was a creator Emmy admired.

Costello, who hosted the event, touched on Harris’ many interests, including her efforts on behalf of abused and homeless animals, her major role in saving Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium from demolition and her continued efforts to eliminate minefields in other nations ravaged by war. He also spoke of her musical journey from her days with protégé Gram Parsons and how she championed songwriters such as Delbert McClinton, Jesse Winchester and Guy Clark, as well as a long line of musicians, including Glen D. Hardin, Hank DeVito and James Burton and, eventually, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs and Tony Brown.

Providing the musical support at the tribute, pickers like the great Sam Bush and Buddy Miller were dressed in jeans with their shirttails out, and the wonderful Steve Fishell was flat-out picking his Dobro and steel guitar. Remember, you don’t need a pedigree to pick with Emmy.

Costello said Emmylou’s offer to schedule his guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was a career highlight. Crowell correctly observed that all musical roads lead to Emmylou, describing his former boss as the author of integrity. Tony Brown pointed out that nearly every record label A&R department in Music Town has some connection to Emmylou.

Along with Costello and Crowell, others singing at the event included rock star Dave Matthews, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Patty Griffin and the duo of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.

When the honoree took the stage, looking as lovely as can be with her silver hair and a black floor-length dress, the audience gave her a well-deserved standing ovation. With all the loving words spoken on her behalf, Emmy simply replied, “I love this town. Believe me, I have gotten a thousand-fold back from this community, from all the people who have shared the stage and studio with me. These are my friends, my rock and my church.” She recognized her mother, her two daughters, her brother, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Emmylou called singer-songwriters Pam Rose and Mary Ann Kennedy to the stage to help her sing Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” Emmy invited all of the musicians back onstage for a finale on Steve Earle’s “Pilgrim.” The song was dedicated to the late Roy Huskey Jr., an acoustic bassist who is one of the finest musicians in Nashville’s history.

As we started to get into the car, I thought for a moment that I saw Roy Huskey Jr. My heart almost stopped as I walked toward the young man. Yes, it was Huskey’s son and his mom talking with Emmy’s daughter, Meghann Ahern. My mind flew back to Roy’s early years of playing bass at the Opry with Del Wood when my son, Terry, played bass with Wilma Lee Cooper. I still remember those two tall, skinny teenagers standing in the wings of the Opry House — talking about the bass.

Stars Support Craig Wiseman’s Second Harvest Show
Songwriter Craig Wiseman is one of the Music Row’s great characters, and he always does his best to do good things for others. While I was at Emmy’s tribute at the new Symphony Center, Craig was at the Ryman Auditorium to host his annual concert for the Second Harvest Food Bank. And he brought out LeAnn Rimes, Randy Owen, Keith Urban, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. I wish I could have been there too. I do love Craig Wiseman.

And while the Emmylou tribute and the Craig Wiseman concert were taking place, Capitol Nashville exec Fletcher Foster hosted a Make-a-Wish fundraiser at the Jack Daniel’s club in the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Dierks Bentley, a huge supporter of Make-a-Wish, was there for the event.

Strait Up the Charts
George Strait has once again made news this past week when he became the all-time leader of No. 1 country singles when “Give It Away” provided his 41st trip to the top of the Billboard chart. When you include his success on charts compiled by other music trade publications, it’s his 53rd single to hit No. 1. You can’t help loving a jean-wearing man who’s still having No. 1 singles when he’s about to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Is this a first?

Don’t Mess With Willie
Yep, I reckon he broke the law by traveling with 1.5 pounds of marijuana and 0.2 pounds of narcotic mushrooms on his tour bus, but Willie Nelson never bothers anybody and has surely never made a big secret about his smoking. It seems to me the Louisiana trooper who stopped Willie’s bus last week could have done a much better deed by going to help clean up New Orleans and take food for the hungry kids. That’s how I feel. Let Willie be.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman told me Willie was heading back to Texas to attend former Texas Gov. Ann Richards’ funeral when the trooper stopped and searched the bus.

Bits and Pieces
Jerry Lee Lewis will be in New York City on Tuesday (Sept. 26th) for an appearance to celebrate the release of his new CD, Last Man Standing.

A stretch of highway near his home in Savannah, Tenn., has been named Darryl Worley Way by the state of Tennessee and city of Savannah.

Have Scotty Emerick and Rebecca Lynn Howard exited Toby Keith’s Show Dog label?

Bluegrass veteran Doyle Lawson has been honored with the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship.

See this week’s Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Candied Yams.