HOT DISH: Shania Comes Home to North America

News About Garth's Secret and an Unexpected Visitor to the Hall of Fame

(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

Say what you want to, but the woman who named herself Shania Twain is smarter than the average Canadian or American woman. She took an aim at stardom and, boy, did she ever hit the big time — far bigger and better than I think even she imagined.

When Shania hit Nashville, she and her boyfriend Paul set out to find success in the music industry. Luckily, she met Buddy and Billie Cannon who prevented Shania from facing starvation. (FYI: Buddy won two ACM awards this year for song of the year and single of the year for co-writing George Strait’s hit, “Give It Away,” with Bill Anderson and Jamey Johnson. Buddy is also famous for producing monster records for Kenny Chesney. Billie is, of course, Buddy’s wife and the mother of his three daughters.)

Like most celebrities, the biggest superstars are “protected” — not only from the fans but also from each other — at events like the ACM Awards. Such was the case for Shania at the recent ACM show in Las Vegas, but Buddy and Billie spied her someplace. Like always, Shania screamed and welcomed her dear, old, true friends, Buddy and Billie.

When I first saw Shania on the television screen at the ACM’s, I recognized a happy, contented look that she’s worn on her face since she met and married world renowned record producer and songwriter Robert “Mutt” Lange. Buddy and Billie saw that same look while visiting with their friend face to face. Both Buddy and Billie said as much to me.

Like any good mom, Shania was glowing when she told friends about her 5-year-old son, Eja. “He is such a little man,” bragged his mom. “So into Mutt — and Mutt is so into him.” With Eja attending school when the awards show took place, he remained in the new family digs built high on the mountains and in the middle of a 24,000-acre sheep farm in New Zealand. Like his parents, Eja is a vegetarian. When a friend at school started talking about eating chicken, Eja said, “You eat chicken? Yuck!” Sounds like international language to me.

Yes, Shania is recording a new album. She has started the project at their home studio in New Zealand. She and Lange also built a recording studio at their home in Switzerland. And that is the way of the rich and famous. A few of us can be so lucky and blessed.

Chatting With Garth
Yes, Garth does miss performing, but like any great parent he tells me raising his kids beats performing 1000 percent. How great is that? Lucky Garth — and his lucky daughters.

A few other Garth tidbits:

His wife, Trisha Yearwood, really does make that dressing — her grandma’s Georgia recipe — that’s in my cookbook. Garth also says Trisha plans to release her own cookbook next year and that she makes great sausage and gravy and the best carrot cake he’s ever tasted.

Now, friends, Garth has some really big news in the works. He assures me that when he’s free to say something about it, he will tell me first. Stay tuned right here for the scoop. I have no idea what he’s talking about and don’t pretend to second guess this great man. But you know something is in the making if Garth says it is.

Lily Tomlin and Ray Price
“What is that real funny lady’s name who starred in 9 to 5 with Dolly?” asked my grandson, Jeremy, who works at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

“Lily Tomlin,” I replied.

“Yeah, that’s who it was,” he grinned. “I waited on her today at the Hall of Fame gift shop. She bought a Ray Price CD.”

“Good taste,” I allowed.

You never know who you’ll see at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Lorrie Morgan Says Former Boyfriend Is Presidential
I see in the newspaper where Lorrie Morgan told Ralph Emery during an interview that her former boyfriend — former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson — is presidential material. Says Lorrie, “I always thought it. I used to beg him to run for president. I used to say, ’If you were in the White House, I would be so safe feeling. I could go to sleep at night and know that everything was being taken care of up there.'”

My question is, “Will Fred run, or will he run the other way?”

Keith Urban Stays Away From the Grape
The Associated Press reports that when Keith Urban was traveling in Australia on a Qantas flight, he was welcomed with a bottle of wine. Keith’s tour manager, Rob Potts, assured fans that Keith did not drink it. All I can say is that he better not have opened the bottle.

In view of the fact that he told the Sunday Times in the UK that he would like to have a child next year, I cannot see Keith taking a chance of derailing his recovery from alcohol abuse by taking a drink. The Australian leg of Keith’s world tour has wrapped, and he’s set to begin his U.S. shows in Phoenix on June 8.

Porter Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Those of you who missed the celebration of Porter Wagoner’s 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry missed one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed. Hosted by Marty Stuart, the celebration also featured banjo and guitar wizard Buck Trent, a former member of Wagoner’s Wagonmasters band, who traveled from Branson, Mo., for the event. Special guest Dolly Parton, who spent seven years as the “girl singer” on Porter’s TV show and tours, sang two of her big hits — “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors.” Dolly said she wrote “Coat of Many Colors” on a laundry ticket while riding on Porter’s bus.

Porter performed a couple of songs from his upcoming album, Wagonmaster. Patty Loveless sang “If Teardrops Were Pennies” and later joined Porter, Dolly and Marty for a version of “Just Someone I Used to Know.” The segment closed with Dolly standing and singing “I Will Always Love You” to a tearful Wagoner. She wrote the song for him when she left his TV show to concentrate on her own career. Do I have to say that there was not a dry eye in the house?

A few days later, I ran into Porter’s daughter, Debbie, at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. She said they’d received hundreds of e-mails from fans who told them that Dolly drying the tears from Porter’s face was one of the most moving things they’d ever seen. I agreed.

Wagonmaster will be released on June 7. None of the other reviewers and reporters has a copy of Porter’s new CD, but I do! Debbie gave me one — her only copy! Killer stuff, Porter.

One Liners
Rodney Atkins is on the cover of the June issue of Guideposts magazine.

Rumors that Sara Evans and her ex are getting back together did not come from her camp.

Clay Walker is set to wed model Jessica Craig in New Orleans on Sept. 28.

Thanks Bunches
I have received bunches of mail from all over this country. Thanks to all of you for writing. I can not believe so many wrote in care of CMT. You people know me as well as I know myself!

FYI: The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville advises me that I am now cancer-free — and sweeter words were never spoken to me. Since they advised me to do so, I will go through their radiation procedure as a precautionary measure. Please! Understand that there is a huge difference between chemo and radiation. With radiation, one just gets tired — or so they say. Fans, I believe I’ll need some more praying for a few weeks.

Thanks for all your cards and letters, prayers, good thoughts and kind words. Keep ’em coming.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Strawberry Pudding.