HOT DISH: Zac Brown Has Big News to Report

Chuck Wicks Goes Home, Carrie Underwood Carries On and Taylor Swift Isn't Slowing Down

(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

I got a call from Zac Brown, who had just returned home to Dahlonega, Ga., from Mexico, where he and his hot band were appearing. He wanted to tell me the good news that his wife is expecting another baby. This will be the couple’s third child. They have two daughters — 23 months old and 9 months old. A son would be nice.

Did you know Zac was the 11th of 12 children? Now that’s a passel of younguns.

Chuck Wicks Gives Back to His Hometown
The newly sworn-in vice president of the United States is Joe Biden from the state of Delaware, but another famous person from the state is Chuck Wicks, who grew up in Smyrna, a town located 15 miles north of the capital city of Dover. Chuck recently found time to take a trip back to Smyrna to give back to the place he was raised.

Chuck performed a benefit concert at the local high school to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Smyrna. The club is housed in an old building in dire need of repair, and Chuck’s sold-out concert raised more than $25,000 for the charity. “Seed money,” said Debbie Wicks, Chuck’s aunt who also serves as superintendent of schools. Donations were accepted at the concert, although there was no charge for the fans to attend. As it turned out, the place was packed, and Chuck sold 6,000 copies of his debut CD. Smart way to make money, I say.

Interviewed by the local newspaper, Chuck said he’d be happy to come back every year to perform a concert.

“As long as the people want to come, I’ll keep coming back,” he promised. “Going back to the community that raised me … it’s cool to be a part of that.”

Chuck’s gorgeous girlfriend, Julianne Hough, went along for the ride, and I’m sure she thrilled the homefolks when she sang, too.

Carrie Carries On
Many songs ago, Randy Travis wrote and recorded the No. 1 hit, “I Told You So.” Continuing to show her respect for country music’s tradition, Carrie Underwood was singing that very song on the Grand Ole Opry last year when Randy edged his way from behind the curtain, sidled up to her and asked, “Would you like to be the next member of the Grand Ole Opry?” Through smiles and tears, the Oklahoma beauty sniffled, “Yes.”

After her 2008 headlining tour, Carrie headed home to spend the holidays with her parents and siblings. She was busy co-writing songs when she learned that her recording of “Last Name” received a Grammy nomination for best female country vocal performance. Still carrying on, she was asked to perform on the Grammy Awards show on Sunday (Feb. 8). They’re not saying which song Carrie will be singing, but I have a pretty good idea. The show will be broadcast live from Los Angeles on CBS.

Taylor Swift Is Everywhere
On her MySpace page, Taylor Swift wrote about guesting on the CBS hit TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. “When I’m really old and can only remember one story about my life to go back and relive and tell over and over and over again to the point where my grandchildren roll their eyes and leave the room, that’s the story,” she wrote.

Taylor’s latest album, Fearless, just spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. It’s the longest reign at No. 1 since Usher’s Confession ruled in 2004 and the longest run by a female since Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill led for 12 weeks back in 1995 and 1996.

Ms. Swift is featured in cameo appearances in two films to be released in the near future. The Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience will be in theaters on Feb. 27. She’ll be featured in Miley CyrusHannah Montana: The Movie, hitting theaters on April 10.

Taylor’s upcoming appearance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo sold out 71,000 tickets in a matter of minutes. Now that’s getting into the Kenny Chesney category.

Brenda Lee Receives Much-Deserved Honor
Brenda Lee has worked her entire life and deserves any and all accolades bestowed upon her. Brenda is the only person I know who has been elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and Brenda is also active in gospel music. She’s an author, wife, mother, grandmother and friend. And she has sold more than 100 million records.

A drove of celebrities gathered last week at Loews Vanderbilt hotel in Nashville to honor this year’s Grammy nominees. During the annual party, Susan Stewart and Pete Fisher of the Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy presented Brenda with the organization’s lifetime achievement award. Brenda smiled and cried.

Kenny Chesney Gears Up for Tour, Grammy Awards Show
Like you swing candy in front of a baby, Kenny Chesney is swinging his opening acts in front of his fans. Kenny’s Sun City Carnival tour will feature Sugarland, Montgomery Gentry, Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum. Hot as a firecracker lit on both ends, Kenny has sold out Boston’s Gillette Stadium and a double-header at a huge casino in Connecticut. For the June 27 show at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, tickets went on sale two weeks earlier than planned because of public demand.

Don’t forget: Kenny will sing on the Grammy Awards show on Sunday (Feb. 8).

Toby’s Style Coming to a Store Near You
The wearer of many hats, Toby Keith is a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, label proprietor, entertainer, celebrity spokesperson and, now, fashion plate. Using his personal style, Toby’s latest agenda is his TK Steelman clothing line. Launching with a Feb. 18 event at his I Love This Bar and Grill in Harrah’s Las Vegas, the project is in partnership with Royal Merchandising, the company that produces merchandise for Toby’s restaurants. The entry-level line, aimed at retailers like Kohl’s, Target, Wal-Mart and Macy’s, will expand to women following the initial launch.

Welcoming CMT Radio Live
Everything that happens in country music happens in Nashville — the newest songs, the latest news and the biggest stars. Leave it to CMT to launch CMT Radio Live With Cody Alan, a new radio show, with Dierks Bentley as the first in-studio guest. Fans who want to stay in the current loop will tune in weeknights from 7 p.m. until midnight ET to hear the latest hits, guest profiles and live interviews with current hitmakers. The show is already being broadcast on more than 50 radio stations nationwide.

Cody is a respected radio veteran who worked at several stations before making it to the majors at the ripe young age of 23 at KPLX (The Wolf) in Dallas. His awards are numerous, and his talent is widely respected. Before relocating to Nashville, he served as the afternoon host and program director at KEGA (The Eagle) in Salt Lake City. Welcome, Cody Alan, to the home of country music. It’s where the music is made, and it’s where you belong.

More News
Both Faith Hill and Tim McGraw will appear Friday (Feb. 6) in Los Angeles during a tribute to Neil Diamond, the 2009 MusiCares Person of the Year. Also performing at the tribute are Kid Rock, Raul Malo, Jennifer Hudson, the Jonas Brothers, Jimmy Kimmel and a passel of others with names I do not recognize and cannot pronounce.

Sexy Hair unveiled former American Idol contestant and rising country music star Kellie Pickler as the company’s new spokesperson for 2009. Kellie will appear in the company’s consumer and trade publication ads and promotional materials as well as participate in Sexy Hair’s publicity campaign throughout 2009.

Blake Shelton has taken “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” to the top of the country chart, and the great George Strait has invited Blake to open his shows during a summer tour.

Brad Paisley winds down his Paisley Party tour at the end of February, but he’ll be on the road again when his American Saturday Night tour debuts in Charlotte, N.C., on June 5 with opening acts Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Beef Curry.