HOT DISH: Country Music on the Campaign Trail

News About John Rich, Faith Hill, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and More

(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

Obamarama rallies are being well attended all over Music Town with local musicians performing. However, the campaign apparently hasn’t attracted much attention from major country artists.

On the other side of the aisle, Hank Williams Jr. boarded the Sarah Palin plane, waved when they’d deplane, rode in the motorcades — and also played guitar and sang on behalf of the vice presidential candidate. And Gretchen Wilson has also been on the campaign trail — singing and supporting McCain.

According to, John Rich, who supports McCain, got into a couple of fights last week in Los Angeles. First, he was at the Saddle Ranch on the Sunset Strip, talking with a girl who excused herself and went to the restroom. Suddenly, some random dude punched him in the ear, and Rich says he made a citizen’s arrest. When the police arrived, the assailant, Chris Poggi, was arrested.

The next night, Rich was in the lobby of the Mondrian Hotel, where he was staying. An argument started at 4:20 a.m. between Rich and two rather large tattooed gentlemen. Rich swung a beer bottle, hitting Joe Montano in the face. According to reports, Montano’s nose was visibly broken and there was blood all over his face and in the hotel lobby. Montano kept mumbling, “The little guy hit me.”

Neither Rich nor Montano would press charges. Montano, former bassist for the rock band Danzig, said Rich was stinking drunk. He claims he and John had been boozing together when John started randomly yelling insults about Los Angeles. “How do you live here?” Rich reportedly yelled.

I’m sure the boozing and fighting of John Rich didn’t impact McCain’s campaign, but it seems to help Rich. Everything he touches turns to success and money.

Country Artists Are Courting Voters — CMA Voters
With the final ballot for the CMA awards upon us, there’s plenty of hype from solo artists and bands being delivered throughout Nashville via e-mail, UPS, Fed Ex, DHL and the U.S. Postal Service. All of them are pleading for votes.

It makes me wonder what next year will bring. Lord knows, we really don’t need any more blond singers. When I flip down the pages of e-mails, though, I feel like I’m getting a blond overdose. It’s getting hard to tell one from the other. All the girls are great looking, and some are great singers. No matter how great they look in a video, though, if they don’t sing great enough to sell out a concert hall, then there’s a problem.

Faith Hill Is Fit for a Bikini
Faith Hill says wearing a bikini on the cover of the December issue of Shape magazine is her 41st birthday present to herself. Faith looks sizzling hot with her slamming figure that she credits to Pilates, running and daily exercise. Claims Faith, “I can bend in ways I haven’t been able to since I was a teenager. My husband loves it!”

Brad Paisley Celebrates and Anticipates
Brad Paisley is so busy, he has to get together with other songwriters on a single day to celebrate two No. 1 singles. Last week, ASCAP and BMI threw a party celebrating “I’m Still a Guy” (penned by Paisley, Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller) and “Waitin’ on a Woman” (written by Don Sampson and Wynn Varble). They were honored at the Musicians Hall of Fame while friends and family packed the place. Brad’s beautiful and pregnant wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, was looking on.

Brad’s new album, Play, is set for a Nov. 4 release. He’ll be promoting it in New York and L.A. with plenty of appearances on TV and radio.

When all these grand events happen for him, my mind wanders back to his first showcase in Nashville when skinny Brad showed up wearing jeans so big the crotch drooped to his knees. I put a stop to that on that day.

Stars on the Horizon at BamaJam, Houston Rodeo
Had an interesting talk with Ted Hacker, the producer of the BamaJam Music & Arts Festival taking place June 4-6, 2009, on 450 acres of sprawling countryside in Enterprise, Ala. More than 30 acts will round out the lineup, including Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift, Montgomery Gentry, Charlie Daniels, 38 Special, Jason Aldean, Heidi Newfield, and Jamey Johnson.

More RV campsites and tent areas have been created for the second annual festival that Hacker refers to as “a country music Bonnaroo.” During these times of bad economics, those Bama folks have an easy payment plan where festivalgoers can pay $5 down and $5 a week to buy tickets.

I should mention, too, that the fabulous Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo always features our country artists, and 2009 is no different. Confirmed so far: Rascal Flatts (March 3), Brad Paisley (March 12) and Taylor Swift (March 20).

Thanks, Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts’ fourth annual concert to benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville sold out and raised more than $700,000. With all proceeds from their performance going to the hospital, revenues from the latest ticket sales increase the trio’s total donations to more than $3 million. This year’s opening act was Taylor Swift.

Thanks, Rascal Flatts, for being generous, kindhearted and for caring for little children in the throes of illness. When I was undergoing radiation therapy at Vanderbilt Medical Center, I’d see these precious ones. Some had lost their hair, others were in wheelchairs, some were limping or on crutches or bandaged. And their sad-faced parents still managed to give a smile of encouragement to everybody in the room. In my heart, I know God will bless the three members of Rascal Flatts for helping the hospital make things brighter for the young patients and their families.

Still More News
Billy Currington is watching his dadgum good single, “Don’t,” race up the charts, and he’s enjoying the rave reviews and critical acclaim for his third album, Little Bit of Everything, that zoomed up to No. 2 on the country charts during its first week out. Lots of good stuff is happening to Billy these days.

Red Roof Inn’s latest promotional campaign features Phil Vassar and Little Big Town.

Keith Anderson’s single, “Somebody Needs a Hug,” is being promoted online at Fans can send a virtual hug to anyone who needs one. My friend, Deborah, wants a Keith Anderson hug. Wonder if that would work?

Western Underground, the late Chris LeDoux’s band, has released a new single to radio, “Good Ole Days to Come.”

Julianne Hough was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles last week after having severe stomach pains during the taping of Dancing With the Stars. The singer-dancer had complained of stomach pains all day, but after her jitterbug performance, they became unbearable. Her mom rode in the ambulance with Julianne, who was treated and released.

Taylor Swift, who is everywhere these days and nights, will appear with Celine Dion, Foo Fighters, B.B. King and John Mayer at The Grammy Nominations Concert Live on CBS from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 3. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Grammy Museum.

Luke Bryan is walking tall in brand new boots these days after landing an endorsement deal with Lucchese boots.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pumpkin Pie.