HOT DISH: Zac Brown Gets a Boost From Kid Rock

Serious Plans in the Future for Julianne Hough and Chuck Wicks?

(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

Back in the days when country music was mostly country people, artists would make suggestions about other artists to help them along the way with their dreams and careers. Ernest Tubb helped Loretta Lynn by having her sing live at his Record Shop. He and Patsy Cline helped Loretta get on the Opry. Bobby Bare — who went to Chet Atkins, RCA’s head of A & R, and told him about a great talent named Waylon Jennings singing at a sold-out club — called J.D.’s in Phoenix. Today there’s American Idol and Nashville Star and other talent shows.

In the current issue of Country Weekly, I was happy to read the headline, “Kid Rock Recommends … Zac Brown Band.” According to CW, what floats the Kid’s Sea-Doo these days is the former chef from Dahlonega, Ga. — 30-year-old Zac Brown. Says Kid, “Best thing I’ve heard in ages. Zac’s hit, ’Chicken Fried,’ is a rollicking tribute to old fashioned Southern comforts: cold beer, pecan pie, a pair of jeans that fit just right and, of course, deep fried bird.” Kid took his son on vacation and listened to Zac’s just released album, The Foundation, the whole weekend and was blown away by the singing, the songwriting, the band, the playing, everything.

When Zac was in my kitchen two weeks ago taping CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks, I wrote about him, his music and his life in this column. I did not mention that Zac told me Kid Rock flew to Atlanta to see him and his band perform. I did, however, write that Kid, Zac and Kellie Pickler would go to Iraq to perform for the troops the 17th through 21st of December. And I asked you to pray for these selfless entertainers as well as all the troops in harm’s way.

I talked with Zac via phone last week, and he told me how he makes his marinade for tenderloin that he used to prepare in his restaurant on Lake Oconee. You may see me make this on CMT very soon. Meantime I’m enjoying the music of Zac Brown and hope you are, too.

By the way, you, too, can see Zac Brown on CMT on Dec. 14 along with yours truly and the movie Beer for My Horses starring Toby Keith. Next day, Dec. 15, it’s Zac, myself and Dale. Check your local listings for times.

By the Way
Julianne Hough and Chuck Wicks spent their Thanksgiving holiday in a new Las Vegas big bucks resort hotel with her family. Sounds serious — the kids hanging with the parents. I hear the couple will spend Christmas with the Wicks clan.

Kenny and Boston at it again. One of the oldest cities in America, Boston: home of the Red Sox, the Celtics and the annual Kenny Chesney concert. Yep, superstar Kenny Chesney is going for his fifth win at Gillette Stadium in Boston. Here it is cold wintertime, and Kenny is selling tickets on Dec. 13 for his Aug. 15, 2009, slam-dunk showdown.

Selections by Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Patsy Cline are the latest songs to cross over to lullabies. Individual country hits by the threesome for babes in the nursery is a great idea. I don’t know why, but “Whiskey River” by Willie made me smile — baby with a pacifier digging “Whiskey River.”

Had a little scare this week, but a quick trip to Vanderbilt Hospital proved all is OK. Praise be! In the waiting room, I saw several young ones in various stages of cancer, and I thought of the wonderful execs and stars involved in Project Paper Doll who support the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The celeb-driven auction includes dolls dressed by Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Merle Haggard, Lady Antebellum, Jessica Simpson, Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Alan Jackson, Christina Aguilera, George Jones, George Strait, Carrie Underwood, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmy Buffett, Faith Hill, Jewel, Willie Nelson, Wynonna and many more. The dolls are sold on eBay.

Keith Urban has yet to title his new album set for a March 31 release. But the most talked-about live performer in country music will hit the road again in May with supporting acts Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, Glen Campbell, Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band. Critics claim Keith is one of the best reasons in the world to attend a live concert. Eye agree.

Emerson Drive, somewhere in New Mexico, watched as their five-year-old highway bus’ odometer rolled over past 999,999 to a million miles. Then they went out and got a new home on the road.

Jimmy Wayne says he’s getting the same audience response from his current single, “I Will,” that he got from his multi-weeks at No. 1 with “Do You Believe Me Now.”

“Best week of my life,” said Blake Shelton, following the release of his fifth studio album, Startin’ Fires. He was named one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive, and he got his picture taken with the gals on the Today Show where he performed his current single, “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” Best part of being in New York for the week was that girlfriend Miranda Lambert was with him. I hear Miranda was a little out of sorts. It was deer hunting season, and I understand that Texas girl prefers deer to dear this time of year.

Speaking of the talented lady, Miranda Lambert earned Hero of the Year title from Field & Stream in the magazine’s latest issue. Miranda was cited as a hunter who shares her love of hunting in her music. She also donates game meat to Hunters for the Hungry.

Don’t forget to watch Kellie Pickler on ABC-TV’s Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2008 with Ryan Seacrest hosting.

Had an after-Thanksgiving call from my longtime pal, Kinky Friedman. Kinky swears he will run again for governor of Texas on the Democratic ticket. He was impressed when I told him Hank Williams Jr. was planning a run for the U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket in Tennessee. Kinky, who supports the Utopia Animal Ranch in Kerrville, is planning a benefit with Jerry Jeff Walker and others.

Taylor Swift’s album, Fearless, debuted No. 1 in Australia last week. Here in the States, her “Love Story” video just spent its fifth consecutive week at No. 1 on CMT.

Tim McGraw says he had to gain 30 pounds for the No. 1 movie, Four Christmases. He must have lost the poundage. Tim was definitely svelte when hosting Saturday Night Live. That movie is the hottest out there.

Marty Stuart started playing mandolin with Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass when he was 12 years old. He also took his first picture at 12 when he snapped Connie Smith, who was performing in his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. Gazing at the photo, Marty told his mama, Hilda, “I’m going to marry Connie Smith.” Marty’s newest photo book, Country Music: The Masters, includes some of his most precious photos, like the one of Johnny Cash on the cover titled, “The Last Portrait, September 8, 2003.” It was taken four days before Cash’s passing. The first picture Marty ever took is also in the book — the one of Connie Smith in his hometown.

I got a call from the White House last Tuesday (Dec. 2). Did you? Yes, my Grascals son Terry rang me up on his cell from the Green Room or some room. He was excited over seeing the “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” painting and other paintings during their tour. And of course, he was honored to perform and to have a photo with President and Mrs. Bush. Don’t you know he will take the photo to Caswell County, N.C., over the Christmas holidays.

George and Nancy Jones were called to Vidor, Texas, due to the passing of his sister, Loyce Andrus. She died Nov. 30 at the age of 83 and is the last surviving sister of Jones.

One of my very favorites, Dierks Bentley, is in my kitchen taping CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks. He’s so cute, I am already swooning. I may never write again!

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cherry Torte.