HOT DISH: Some Are Singers, Others Are Entertainers

Recalling When Country Music's Entertainers Really Entertained

(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

When it comes to singing, nobody on the planet ever filled my ears with song like George Jones. He drank whiskey and smoked cigarettes, but he sang like a saint. Some people, like George, are singers. Others are entertainers. When it comes to entertaining, it behooves all you youngsters to take heed of the following:

I’ve watched country music all my life. I recall sitting in mama’s lap at Cherry Grove School back in North Carolina watching the Monroe Brothers with those big hats and laced boots and riding britches. Even then, I was a fan and knew greatness when I saw it. As the years rolled around, the Louvin Brothers, Johnnie & Jack, Kitty Wells, the Bailes Brothers and others filled that old school auditorium. No air conditioning, but nobody minded. We were actually seeing stars we’d heard on radio.

The most consistently exciting act I’ve ever seen in my life was Roy Acuff and his band, Smoky Mountain Boys. Acuff would be twirling his fiddle bow as Bashful Brother Oswald bellowed a hee-haw as he made his Dobro scream. Onie Wheeler would honk that harmonica and belt out the whistling sound of a freight train while Howdy Forrester hit his fiddle with the bow to make it sound like a train hitting the rails. Jimmy Riddle would bounce on the piano stool as he clinked that keyboard.

About this time, the crowd would roar when Acuff balanced his fiddle on his nose. Oswald created havoc as he flapped his over-sized shoes on the stage. Charlie Collins would take a perfecto break on his Martin guitar, and Acuff placed the bow on the end of the fiddle and balanced that on his nose as he walked across the stage. A different crowd went bonkers every Saturday night before Acuff finished with “Wabash Cannonball.” Why did he almost always receive a well-deserved standing ovation? It was entertainment. It was excitement.

It comes as no surprise to me that the great Martina McBride, who always loved to sing, is truly enjoying entertaining this year. This fact could place her name on the CMA’s upcoming ballot for entertainer of the year alongside names like Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson or Brooks & Dunn. It will be interesting to see if there’s a female in the running this time around. There hasn’t been one in years.

I’d love to see more comedy in country music — comedy like Minnie Pearl, Rod Brasfield, the Duke of Paducah and Jerry Clower. I remember Speck Rhodes talking to his sweetie Sadie on Porter Wagoner’s television show. Down-home, funny stuff.

Wagoner still turns his comedy on, as does Little Jimmy Dickens. Of course, there’s also Mike Snider, the funniest person alive today, in my opinion. Mike, like Minnie Pearl, Jerry Clower and others before him, is funny — not vulgar. It’s gotten to where so many comics think they have to use profanity to be funny. If you want clean fun and great music, Mike Snider is the man.

Youngsters, I’m not saying you need a comedian in your stage show today, but you do need to entertain those who are paying your way by buying tickets.

Vince, Mel and Ralph Heading to Hall of Fame
There are individuals equally as qualified to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but there are none more deserving than this year’s honorees: radio and television personality Ralph Emery, award-winning entertainer Vince Gill and legendary singer-songwriter Mel Tillis.

Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest musical honor a country music artist or industry veteran can attain. Emery, Gill and Tillis will be officially inducted in October during the traditional, invitation-only medallion ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. The medallion ceremony is now taking place the month before the CMA Awards. Hopefully, this will bring attention to the honorees rather than throwing them in front of television cameras during the CMA Awards telecast so they can give a quick wave to their fans. No one could tell me if this year’s honorees would be announced at the CMA Awards, but I can’t imagine that they won’t.

Frankly, I’d prefer that the Hall of Fame nominees be announced first on the CMA Awards show. I still recall how much that news surprised Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and others. To me, it was always the biggest thrill of the awards show.

More News
Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks will play a prison nurse in the upcoming movie, Stealing Cars. The film will begin shooting in September. She’s being advised by her hubby, actor Adrian Pasdar, who stars in the NBC series, Heroes. “He’s the pro,” says Natalie.

In related news, I see where the Dixie Chicks will join the Eagles during two concerts at the new Nokia Theatre near the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Tickets go on sale Monday (Aug. 13) for the shows taking place Oct. 18 and 20.

Kenny Chesney’s recent concert at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., attracted 56,926 fans and grossed almost $4.5 million.

I heard that Kenny, George Jones and Joe Diffie showed up last week at the Cabana in Nashville for a private gathering to help Tracy Lawrence celebrate his latest No. 1 single, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.” I reckon that’s what friends are for.

Big & Rich’s John Rich has placed his Corvette on eBay to raise money for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. The minimum bid is $50,000. Since my recent trip to Vanderbilt Medical Center, I want to thank Big & Rich and everyone else who helps out.

Surely you’ve already heard about Tanya Tucker’s former fiancé, Jerry Laseter, driving a U-Haul in a caravan transporting her belongings to her new home in Malibu, Calif. Along the way, he took a little detour. With $500,000 worth of clothes and jewelry missing, Laseter, who is the father of Tanya’s youngest daughter Layla, was arrested along with a female on felony charges. He and his lady friend were released on $3,000 bond in Las Vegas, and Tanya got her goodies back. Tanya has designs on her daughters modeling and/or acting in L.A. They appeared in Tanya’s reality TV series, Tuckerville, and rumor has it they’re already generating interest from Hollywood executives.

And speaking of acting in L.A., Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, Miley, is the hottest tween on television as the star of Hannah Montana. She’s now on the verge of a 54-city singing tour, and she’s still hanging near the top of the pop album charts.

Brooks & Dunn are way too smart to bust up the most successful duo in country music history, but they do plan their own solo albums. Guys, does this mean you will open your own shows with individual solo sets? Just wondering.

It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life, the new book written by Alan Jackson’s wife Denise, has debuted at the top of the nonfiction New York Times’ best-sellers list. Congrats to a wonderful lady.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: $5 Breakfast.