HOT DISH: John Rich’s Bird’s Eye View of Nashville

Hillbilly Big Bucks Can Pay for Bigger and Richer Accomodations

(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.)

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, after extensive landscaping, uprooting trees and angering neighbors as machinery noisily turned 7.5 acres into the lot for his dream home, Kenny Rogers has not only abandoned his mega-plans but has put the property on the marketplace.

Neighbors are livid. “Why would he do such a thing?” they’d like to know.

Well, he purchased the land in October 2005 for $2.3 million. If he receives his asking price of $3.95 million, it’s not a bad investment, I’d say.

In explaining his decision, Kenny said if he were to die, the house he was planning would be too big for his wife Wanda and their twin sons. While upset neighbors sizzle, they also scream, “He ruined the property.” I say, “If the house was the right size for Kenny and his wife and twins — but too big for Wanda and the kids alone — then Kenny must take up much more space than I ever imagined. Maybe he needs extra head room.

West of Atlanta, John Rich’s proposed construction project made the front page of The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. It seems that neighbors don’t want a massive mansion hovering over their property.

Rich has been around town since Lonestar’s debut in 1995 when he and Richie McDonald still shared lead singer status in the band. The first time I heard the then-hat act from Texas, they were managed by attorney Bill Carter.

“What do you think of my group?” asked Carter.

“If the two lead singers don’t kill each other, they’ll probably do OK,” I offered as a smart aleck reply.

Lonestar had just hit the Music City and already you could see the edgier side of 22-year-old John Rich. Eventually he was history — at least as far as Lonestar was concerned. Rich signed a record deal as a solo artist, worked with talented singer-songwriter Sharon Vaughn and kept writing songs. Eventually, he partnered with Big Kenny to form Big & Rich and met Gretchen Wilson. These two people helped catapult Rich’s career, and he helped them have a greater understanding of his last name — Rich.

Back to the house in question, Rich plans for a sweeping driveway wrapping around a contemporary, three-story, 11,200-square-foot mansion located near Music Row. Reaching 73 feet high from the basement to its tallest point, the house on the hill would give Rich a bird’s eye view of Nashville. Lordy me. All this house and not a bride in sight.

Neighbors are pitching and moaning because their houses are situated on hillsides, too, but at a lower level than Rich’s proposed villa. Am I laughing? Yes, I’m laughing my butt off. Hillbillies are building houses so big and tall — and so far out — you’d think it was Hollywood. It is amusing to know that John Rich is silently screaming to Music Row, “Look at me now!”

Dierks Gets Cropped
Did you hear about the woman in Dierks Bentley’s meet-and-greet line who wanted a kiss? “I can’t do that,” he said.

Not to be outdone, the inebriated female later stood up during the show and started flicking double-birds and annoying everyone around her. Finally, Dierks bolted off the stage in the middle of a song and approached her. Fans began booing the woman so much, security officers had to remove her from the building.

Dierks’ long-anticipated DVD will be released in March. He had curls when he taped the show in Denver, but now he doesn’t.

“What? No curls!” you shriek.

Like Samson’s locks were shorn by Delilah and Billy Ray Cyrus shed his mullet, Dierks’ chopped off this hair to shoot a video for his new single, “Long Trip Alone.” It caused a lot of discussion after he showed off the new look during a recent concert in Canada.

Let me tell you something about the lad from Arizona: Dierks is dead serious about his music and his concerts. The fact that he is the cutest guy in mainstream country music today does not impress him at all. Dierks is only impressed by great performances, great songs and great music. I honestly doubt that he sees “cute” when he looks in a mirror. And that’s the truth.

Keith Urban Planning Tour?
From what I hear, after spending holidays in Australia with wife Nicole Kidman and his family, Keith Urban is ready to leave rehab and start playing music for his fans. The Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, reports that Urban is planning a worldwide tour while on holiday that’s set to begin April or May in Australia. Reportedly, his actress wife, Nicole Kidman, will be joining him during his travels. Mega news.

Kenny, Carrie and Rascal Flatts
Kenny and his band looked hot performing “Young” on the recent People’s Choice Awards. It made me plumb proud. Congrats to Kenny (on the male singer nod), Carrie Underwood (female singer and country song for “Before He Cheats”) and Rascal Flatts (favorite song from a movie and favorite remake for “Life Is a Highway.”)

By the way fans, I asked Chris Melancon at the RCA Label Group about how he figured out that Chesney filled more concert seats than any other act in North America in 2006.

“I kept checking and digging until I was sure nobody, not even the Rolling Stones, had filled 1,130,529 seats in North America — except for Kenny Chesney from Luttrell, Tenn.,” he told me.

Congrats to Chris, good man and a hard worker. And congrats to Kenny, another good man and a hard worker, as well.

Racing Hero Bobby Hamilton Passes
NASCAR and truck racing fans knew the name Bobby Hamilton, a local boy who did good on the racetracks. The 49-year-old Nashville native tried hard to beat cancer, but it got the best of him on Jan. 7. I was not surprised to learn that he had a Top 10 song list and his No. 1 favorite was “Believe” by Brooks & Dunn — written by Ronnie Dunn and Craig Wiseman. The song played over and over at the Hermitage Funeral Home near Nashville. I’m told that Bobby wanted it that way.

The first time I heard “Believe,” I thanked Ronnie and Craig for writing such a touching song. When the song was performed at my little country church, I thanked them again, so this is my third thanks, Ronnie and Craig.

More News
According to airplay detected by Nielsen BDS, Toby Keith was the most-played country artist on radio in 2006. It’s no wonder Toby pulled me over in November during CMA Awards week to say, “And I’m nominated for nothing by CMA.” Listen, Toby did fine as a movie star in Broken Bridges.

Beginning with Tuesday’s (Jan. 16) appearance with syndicated radio host Don Imus on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning, Montgomery Gentry will have a full itinerary through August.

Sara Evans will dance again on Sunday (Jan. 21) when the Dancing With the Stars tour makes a stop in Music City.

Country music’s token Italian darling, Jo Dee Messina, recently entertained troops at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy. Support for the troops runs in her family. Her dad was in the Navy, her sister in the Air Force and her uncle in the Coast Guard. Her mom worked for the government, and her brother is employed by the Veterans Administration. Jo Dee entertained in Italy, but she also visited kin.

On the heels of his Time Well Wasted CD going double platinum, Brad Paisley has announced plans for a 2007 tour with Jack Ingram, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift. Brad performed for 750,000 fans in 2006 and traveled more than 1 million miles. He should sing for 1 million fans in 2007 and name his February baby after me!

A Final Note for the Week
Since I write my weekly column, CMT Hot Dish for this Web site, host Southern Fried Flicks for CMT and am now a judge on the new program, Karaoke-Dokey, one of my friends, Tony Conway, is beginning to refer to me as “Ms. CMT.”

Tune in Sunday (Jan. 21) at 8 p.m. ET for Southern Fried Flicks with guest Joe Nichols. Look for Karaoke-Dokey‘s debut in March to see the Dolly Parton lookalikes judged by the ever wonderful Craig Morgan, the very beautiful Tiffany Fallon (aka Mrs. Joe Don Rooney) and yours truly.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Hawaiian Pudding Dessert.