HOT DISH: Kenny Chesney Throws His Own Birthday Party

Turning 39 Is a Great Time to Celebrate

(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

I’ll tell you what, folks. I do love Kenny Chesney, the only person on earth (besides yours truly) who’s tacky enough to throw their own birthday party. Not only does he show up to celebrate his 39th birthday, so does his entire band, and they all perform on a postage stamp-sized stage at the tiny Tin Roof near Nashville’s Music Row.

Kenny never truly forgot those small clubs and tip jars, so he began the keg parties a few years ago at bars located near college campuses. Last Monday (March 26), he wanted to give the homefolks a real jiving, down-home helping of himself, and he did. It’s called showing your fanny without pulling down your pants, ya’ll!

But what better time to celebrate than the year before you turn 40. I remember the day it happened to me. Jessi Colter, Marijohn Wilkin and Sharon Howard took me out, and I’ll admit that this usual teetotaler did imbibe a bit. But, hey, it was my last year of my 30s. We ended up at the Pancake Man, an all-night restaurant located on West End Avenue in a building that now houses the Days Inn. Back then, though, it was the Holiday Inn and the home away from home for cheating hillbilly husbands, songwriters with money and Shel Silverstein when he was in Nashville.

With the midnight hour approaching, I was feeling lowly on my 39th birthday and was evermore whining. The one I loved was God knows where on the road, and it went from bad to worse. Some man none of us knew ordered a huge pancake and had “happy birthday” spelled out in whipped cream and presented it to me, allowing that he’d never been so royally entertained as he’d been as he listened to my bitching while Jessi, Sharon and Marijohn laughed. You had to be there.

I’m sure Kenny’s party was more fun than mine. He had pals like Kix Brooks, Gretchen Wilson, John Rich, Jewel, Sara Evans and Montgomery Gentry onstage — as well as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill watching from a flatbed truck outside the back door of the club. Well, shoot, that far exceeds any birthday I ever had. But I’ll bet you Kenny never had “happy birthday” spelled out in whipped cream on a pancake.

Happy birthday, and God bless you Kenny, baby. Thanks for the music and the never-ending friendship.

More Heartbreak for Wynonna
Wynonna is an incredibly talented woman with enormous faith, which makes it difficult for us mortals to understand the sad situation that obviously forced her to file for divorce from Dan R. Roach, her husband of three-plus years. The papers were filed in Franklin, Tenn., where Wynonna resides.

Roach, a former bodyguard for the Judds and later Wynonna, was “always there,” the singer has said in past interviews. Following her divorce from Arch Kelley, the father of her two children, Wynonna became engaged to Roach in 2001. The couple married in 2003.

The details have been all over the media. For several weeks, Roach has been at the Shades of Hope Treatment Center in Buffalo Gap, Texas, the same place Wynonna visited for a food addiction. Roach was arrested in Texas on March 22 as a fugitive from justice in Tennessee and charged with three counts of aggravated sexual advances against a minor, reportedly under 13 years of age. Taken to the Taylor County jail in Abilene, bail was set at $750,000.

In a statement posted on Wy’s Web site, she said, “I am obviously devastated. Our family will pull together, begin the healing process and hopefully — by the grace of God — become stronger. We will move forward with our faith, family and our friends to find resolution to this difficult situation.”

I am sending personal love and prayers to Wynonna and do wish her the very best during this unpleasant time in her life.

Bragging ’Bout Brad
In August 2005, I gave Brad Paisley a year to become a superstar. Like most of these stars, he obeyed me. He became a superstar.

So much is going on in the life of the boy from the West Virginia mountains. Some 750,000 fans paid to see him in concert in 2006. His Time Well Wasted CD went double platinum and was named album of the year by both the CMA and the ACM and launched three No. 1 singles. Now, ain’t that hot? What’s truly hot, though, is that Brad and his wife Kim recently welcomed their first child, William Huckleberry Paisley (aka Will).

Now, let’s talk about Brad’s current single, “Ticks.” Written about a crawling creature, this song is the first flying tick in history — and it’s already flying up the country music chart like a Learjet. Writing about “Ticks,” Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Willman said, “We’re gonna make the call for a song of the year Grammy right here.” Even folks not totally into country music know the song is hillbilly clever. “Ticks” is the first single from Brad’s upcoming CD, 5th Gear, set for June 19 release.

Country music programmers split their sides laughing when Brad debuted the song at the recent Country Radio Seminar. It’s another one of those clever Roger Milleresque-type tunes that only Paisley can come up with in this day and time.

Listen, I know about searching for ticks and for chiggers, too. However, my search followed blackberry picking on a hot August day, and I was checking my own body with the help of a measly mirror. Believe me, there’s nothing amusing or romantic about searching for your own itchy ticks. Backwoods love is worth mentioning, however. City folks: Don’t knock it if you ain’t tried it.

As for my friend Brad, I couldn’t be prouder if he were my own flesh and blood. Country music is so lucky to have multi-talented stars like him.

More News
Rodney Atkins’ If You’re Going Through Hell CD is certified platinum, so he’s making a lot more money than he used to. After his tour bus mired down in the mud, Rodney splurged for a circle driveway in front of his house.

Dwight Yoakam is set to honor his hero Buck Owens with a tribute song in June.

Whispering Bill Anderson is in the studio recording a bluegrass album. Folks, I’m here to tell you, you cannot whisper bluegrass!

The Statler Brothers were honored as Virginians of the Year by the Virginia Press Association. Maybe they’ll be the next inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They deserve to be.

Willie Nelson has his own brand of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream called Country Peach Cobbler. You can’t overdub that.

Watch Sunday night (April 8) for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith with special guest Jack Ingram. The movie is Urban Cowboy. Girls, you don’t want to miss seeing those guys wearing tight britches riding that mechanical bull.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cheddar Burgers.