HOT DISH: Trace Adkins Is Country Music’s Celebrity Winner

Country Music Industry Should Have Helped More on The Celebrity Apprentice

(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 hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

The Celebrity Apprentice 2008 became history when Donald Trump declared Piers Morgan, an arrogant English wimp with a powerful Rolodex in his holster, the winner over all-American, flag-waving, family-loving, Southern-proud country music star Trace Adkins.

Why? Because Piers collected more money than Trace did. Apparently, the Donald views the Boston Tea party as a prank. And the Donald apparently does not realize the Good Book says the love of money is the root of all evil.

Listen friends, if Nashville (myself included) had pitched in and helped Trace, he would have won the $250,000 for his favorite charity, FANN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network). Where were Capitol Records and all the record labels? Where was country radio? The CMA? The ACM? Where were the multi-millionaires in our business? None of them pitched in.

Country music and all its people, hear this: Trace helped country music by being smart, sophisticated and dignified. He made us look better than we made him look.

Thanks, Trace. To me, you are the winner. You’re a real self-made man.

Who Are These Folks?
A whole slew of names were on a list of talent set to appear at the upcoming CMA Music Festival in Nashville. After reading the names once, I realized I don’t know some of these people.

“Who are these folks on this list?” I asked someone.

“Oh, they belong on the list,” I was told.

What bothers me is the fans coming to Fan Fair — oops, there I go again — are paying big-time money to see singers that even I don’t know. And I live here and work in the country music biz.

Granted, the nightly concerts at LP Field will feature Rodney Atkins, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Jewel, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Dwight Yoakam and other famous acts. And while there are some well-known names performing during the day on the Riverfront Park stage, there are some others who aren’t exactly household names.

Those out there doing the “Shiftwork” (that Kenny Chesney sings about) get paid by the hour. There’s no major bonuses, no mailbox money, no six-figure income. Fans pay hard-earned money hoping to see major stars. Thank God for those still hanging on and turning out for the festival.

Nashville Friendships Run Deep
Standing in line at the Pie Wagon restaurant with my turnip greens, green beans and cornbread on my tray, the great Charlie Monk, who has hosted the Country Radio Seminar’s New Faces show for years, moseyed over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

And then, a handsome young man behind me said, “Hi, Miss Hazel. Maybe you don’t remember me. I’m Pam Tillis’ husband.” Before I could pick up my tray, Pam’s cute hubby, Matt Spicher, grabbed the tray and took it to a table, picked up the tab and paid for my lunch.

God has truly blessed me with many friends like Chris Latham and Charlie Craig, who walked right up, sat down and had lunch with me. It was songwriter Charlie Craig who told me that Gusto Records will soon release an album by Little Jimmy Dickens. Be thrilled that the wonderful 88-year-old Hall of Famer will have a new album in the marketplace. Does pop and rock and rap and hip-hop honor their legends like we do?

Sara Evans Gets Engaged
He’s got four kids, and she’s got three. Sounds like a reality TV show to me!

Front page news, friends: Sara Evans is engaged to WJOX-FM/Birmingham, Ala., talk show host Jay Barker. Right off the bat I like the idea, since this man is gainfully employed!

Don’t know when or where the wedding will take place, but I do know the 37-year-old Sara met and began dating Jay last fall. She filed for divorce from Craig Schelske in 2006 while she was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. The widely-publicized divorce, including finger-pointing on both sides and accusations of porn and alcohol, was finalized in September 2007.

As for Barker, well, he’s a jock. The former quarterback helped lead the University of Alabama to the national championship in 1992. Sounds like husband material to me.

Sending best wishes and prayers to Sara and her beloved on their upcoming nuptials. She surely deserves happiness with a man who respects and loves her.

Tim McGraw Song Recalls Rodney Crowell Moment
During my before Easter manicure, Laura had her radio playing good country music. My ears perked up when I heard a song I did not recognize, nor did I recognize the singer. When I realized the song was “Kristofferson” and the singer was Tim McGraw, my mind wandered back several years ago to a Harlan Howard birthday party.

I remember hearing this great country voice singing a good and country song, so I bolted across to the stage to see who it was. Imagine my surprise when I saw Rodney Crowell — who at the time was known more as a pop singer — in front of the microphone singing his heart out on “Above and Beyond.” That song became one of five hits from Rodney’s classic album, Diamonds & Dirt, but he eventually drifted back into the world of music he loved to sing — non-country. However, let it be known that Rodney Crowell is a great songwriter and a great country singer — and don’t you forget it.

The song Tim was singing is so great and so country, it made me think of the Rodney story. Both men are great singers, especially when they sing country. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

News and More News
Droopy-faced Fred Thompson says he’s going back to his old gig of playing a politician on TV. The failed GOP presidential hopeful signed with the William Morris Agency for representation. Nashvillians recall years ago when Fred sported Lorrie Morgan on his arm at political functions.

Taylor Swift is the latest artist in the Body by Milk campaign.

Has Jessica Simpson paid $3.47 million for a house in the Forest Hills area of Nashville? Somebody did, but nobody has confirmed the buyer’s identity.

Reba McEntire, Collin Raye and record executive Clive Davis will join Kevin Costner and a whole slew of familiar faces at Muhammad Ali’s Fight Night XIV on Friday (April 4) in Phoenix to benefit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.

When the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics opened the 2008 Major League Baseball season in Japan’s 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome, the music that ushered in the event was “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Brooks & Dunn.

I can’t think of a better hillbilly sponsorship than Luke Bryan landing Longhorn Steakhouse and Jack Daniel’s.

Trent Tomlinson married Jessica Lowman during a ceremony in her hometown of Lake Norman, N.C.

Darryl Worley and his wife Kimberly named their first-born Savannah Gail. She was born March 24.

Phil Vassar appeared as a GM Chevy spokesperson when he rang the bell at the NYSE on Thursday (March 27) to celebrate the launch of his fourth album, Prayer of a Common Man.

A red letter day for your calendar is June 13 when Kenny Chesney appears on Today’s concert series. A July 11 date has been set for Rascal Flatts, and Miley Cyrus will appear on July 25.

American Idol finalist country Kristy Lee Cook says she’d love to do a duet with her favorite singer, Jason Aldean.

Can you believe the wife of Elvis, the once beautiful Priscilla, was botoxed by that bogus doctor in Hollywood until her face barely moves when she speaks. Facelifts are costly, and, on average, a mistake.

Remembering a Friend
I just received word that my dear friend Peggy Logan died Thursday (March 27) in hospice care at Madison, N.J. after a lengthy illness. Mrs. Benjamin “Tex” Logan was a passionate fan of bluegrass and country music. For many years, she and her husband co-hosted a legendary barbecue at their home where Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys and other notable guests would play music all night long. Tex Logan worked in the developmental part of Bell Laboratories, but he was a Texan who had such a passion for playing the fiddle. He and Uncle Josh Graves co-wrote the bluegrass classic, “Christmas Times A-Comin.'”

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Blackberry Cobbler.