HOT DISH: Willie’s Wonderful World

More News on Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman and Others

(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

A former radio wizard in the Lancaster, Pa., area, the ever wonderful and jolly Dandalion (aka Gwyneth Seese) keeps Willie’s World hopping. Willie’s World is the official fan club of the great Willie Nelson, and I love the quarterly newsletter created by my friend Dandy and her partner in Willie biz, Andrea Reppert.

The summer 2008 issue of the newsletter is so chock-full of good Willie info, I thought I’d share some of it with you. First off, Willie’s Place at Carl’s Corner, Texas, just a few miles north of Willie’s birthplace of Abbott, is reopening Tuesday (July 1) with David Allan Coe and Ray Wylie Hubbard performing there for three nights. The alternative fuel truck stop and entertainment hub will be packed when Willie headlines a star-studded day-long concert on Thursday (July 3) with friends like Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Coe, Hubbard and others. BioWillie biodiesel fuel will be getting plenty of attention in the days to come. Billed as the biggest green truck stop in the United States, Willie’s Place will include 13 islands and 26 pumps.

Then there’s Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic 2008 set for the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater near San Antonio. Confirmed to appear with Willie are Price, Haggard, Coe and Hubbard, along with Asleep at the Wheel, Pat Green, Billy Joe Shaver and Los Lonely Boys.

The newsletter also keeps fans posted on Willie’s CDs and tour schedule. Just a little more than six months into 2008, he will have released three significant albums, including Moment of Forever (produced by Kenny Chesney and Buddy Cannon) and One Hell of a Ride (a 100-song boxed set commemorating his 75th birthday). And on July 8, Willie and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will release Two Men With the Blues, a live album on the Blue Note jazz label. Featuring Willie’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael and members of Wynton’s band, it shows Willie’s jazz side.

Rave reviews keep coming in for Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, author Joe Nick Patoski’s comprehensive biography. Dandy and Andy are so smart to print the reviews. In gathering info for the project, Patoski must have interviewed each and every living creature who ever knew Willie. I can’t imagine anyone in his fan club not already owning the book, but it’s my opinion that every country music fan — and every country music star — should read it.

As in years past, Willie’s itinerary is filled to the gills. The man takes no time off. His two young sons travel with him these days. Willie must enjoy those boys as much as he enjoys sharing the stage with friends. To show you how wide-ranging Willie’s appeal is, he’s set to co-headline with the legendary B.B. King on July 26 in Orange Beach, Ala, and on July 27 in Atlanta. On Aug. 1, Willie is set to appear with Dave Matthews in Louisville, Ky., followed by an Aug. 2 show in Memphis, Tenn.

I don’t know of another fan club publication on earth that runs as many letters from fans — and as many pictures of fans with Willie. There’s always one or two of Willie with some loyal fan who has passed away. Is that too sentimental for you? Not for me. I love those smiling faces standing beside Willie. Like you and me, they love him, too. Shoot, one fan painted a likeness of Willie that covers the entire side of his barn.

Surely you’ve heard that in his role as Farm Aid’s president, Willie has already pitched in to help out farmers along the flooding Mississippi River in Iowa and Wisconsin. If the federal government pitches in for this disaster like they did after Hurricane Katrina, help may arrive by Halloween. Those folks in Washington should take some lessons from Willie.

Did you know Taylor Swift’s self-titled CD was released 86 weeks ago — and did you know it’s spending its incredible 20th week at No. 1. While on tour with Brad Paisley last year, Taylor and pal Kellie Pickler co-wrote “Best Days of Your Life.” The two blonde hitmakers have now recorded the song for Kellie’s next album. It should be interesting to hear Taylor harmonize with Kellie.

Katie Cook and Nashville Star
Perky and pretty Katie Cook loves to do live television so when the CMT host was called to help out Billy Ray Cyrus with the announcing on Nashville Star, she ran right over to the Acuff Theatre in Nashville. Katie looks great and does great in her role assisting Billy Ray. I just hope they — whoever they are — will allow the artists to sing country music.

And Don’t Forget the Croutons
Gerry House, morning host for WSIX-FM in Nashville, was interviewing Keith Urban when wife Nicole Kidman called in saying she was stuck in traffic. As a joke, House asked Mrs. Urban to drive by Green Hills Grille and get him a salad. Guess what? She did! Nicole brought Gerry the salad. I am such a huge fan of Nicole Kidman.

Since I’m on the subject of Nicole, in case you haven’t heard, during his recent stadium show in Chicago with Kenny Chesney, Keith asked the audience to help him sing “Happy Birthday” to his wife. Nic responded by throwing kisses to the crowd. I am so totally pulling for this beautiful couple and their baby.

Congressman Offers Resolution Recognizing Toby Keith
Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on June 10 recognizing Toby Keith’s commitment to the armed forces. He noted Toby’s six USO trips to visit troops on the front lines. Toby, who has performed for more than 135,000 members of the military, says he appreciates the congressman’s recognition but he thinks all the glory belongs to those men and women who are in harm’s way every day to protect our country.

Fourth of July Plans
This year on July 4, you cannot find more fun and entertainment anywhere than on CMT. Tune in and see the Grascals and Luke Bryan when they join my entire family and me for a cookout with music, singing, kiddies and tons of down-home fun. You don’t want to miss our antics. On July 5, tune in to the Saturday Early Show on CBS and catch the Grascals live. Later, be sure to watch CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith.

Meanwhile, keep little Thomas Boyer “Bo” Bryan, son of Luke and his lovely wife Caroline, in your prayers. When Bo was just five weeks old, he had to have surgery because a valve in his stomach had closed up, preventing food from
getting through. Now the little 4-month-old needs hernia surgery.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Eclair Cake.