HOT DISH: Five Good Choices for ACM’s Entertainer of the Year

Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban Are Making News

(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 Academy of Country Music has begun online balloting for you, the fans, to vote for one of the five nominees for entertainer of the year. It’s your choice — alphabetically — to go for Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Carrie Underwood or Keith Urban.

Any one of these artists is as great as the other. Kenny is the top concert draw, while Brad and Keith write most of the songs they sing and can play the strings plumb off a guitar. Carrie has become a solid songwriter, plus she’s sold the most records of any EOY nominee. Of course, the great George Strait has been a household word for almost three decades.

I’m glad you readers are the ones who must choose because I’d have to vote for all five. April 5 will tell the tale, so let your vote count. The ACM and CBS have set up a Web site for voting .

BMI Honors Keith Urban, Who Honors His Wife
BMI honored Keith Urban last week for the truly impressive airplay his music has received. “Somebody Like You” has generated over 3 million airplays to put him in the category with Hank Williams for “Your Cheating Heat,” Dolly Parton for “9 to 5” and the Beatles for “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Keith has received more than 16 million total airplays, including seven songs that have generated 1 million airplays each and three that have generated 2 million spins. At the party, Keith thanked his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. He called her his everything and gave her credit for his latest No. 1 single, “Sweet Thing.”

Brad Paisley Wraps Up Latest Tour
Brad Paisley’s Paisley Party tour rocked out to 775,000 fans at 64 concerts throughout the U.S. That places him at No. 6 on the list of the top ticket-sellers from all genres so far this year, according to Pollstar. The grand finale held on March 14 at Nashville’s Sommet Center was sold out to a crowd of 13,000 rabid fans. Brad’s getting almost as bad as Willie Nelson when it comes to playing long concerts. He performed for an hour and 45 minutes, singing 23 songs.

His opening acts were two heavy hitters — Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker. Jimmy Wayne will be joining Brad on the road in June when he launches his American Saturday Night tour.

Last week, Brad brought the house down when he sang his brand new single, “Then,” on American Idol. I was so proud.

Brad has been singing “Waitin’ on a Woman,” but now he’s singing “Waitin’ on a Baby” as he and his wife, Kim, prepare for the arrival of their second child.

Kenny Chesney Plays in a Major Key
Kenny Chesney played for a full house — with the crowd spilling into the street — at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Fla., as part of his recent Keg in the Closet tour of small nightclubs. In the belly-to-belly crowd were Peyton Manning and Jim Sorgi of the Indianapolis Colts, former NFL player Trey Teague, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick.

At the Key West show, Kenny was joined by Mac McAnally to perform their hit duet, “Down the Road,” for the first time before an audience. Mac, who wrote the song, recently signed a record deal with Toby Keith’s Show Dog Records. Toby called it an honor to be a part of anything McAnally wanted to do. A member of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Mac is a longtime member of Jimmy Buffet’s Coral Reefer Band.

Carrie Underwood Returns to American Idol
American Idol champ Carrie Underwood recorded her own take on Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home” to serve as the farewell song played for each contestant voted off during this season of American Idol. The song has been released as a single on iTunes with a portion of the proceeds going to the Humane Society of the United States.

Carrie returned to American Idol during the Grand Ole Opry theme week when contestants selected and performed country songs. Carrie performed her current single, “I Told You So,” with Randy Travis, who wrote the song. Dressed like the lady she is, Carrie made all of us in country music so proud. It was obvious that Randy was blown away by Carrie’s performance. He was on hand to mentor the contestants.

George Strait’s Team Roping Classic Pays Big Bucks
The George Strait Team Roping Classic in Texas saw the King welcoming fans and thanking sponsors early in the day. This year, more than 486 teams traveled to the Rose Palace in San Antonio where cowboys were roping to win. Two masters drove home Chevy Silverado trucks. One won $130,665 and the other — a 22-year old — took home $162,210. It’s funny, but the latter thought he’d have to walk home, but he’s got a new Chevy truck to drive now — and all that money.

The Academy of Country Music is honoring Strait big time. It’ll be a historic night on April 6 in Las Vegas when Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and others take the stage to honor Strait, the ACM’s artist of the decade. Proceeds from the event will go to Lifting Lives, the ACM’s charitable arm that supports organizations that are improving lives through the power of music.

Lee Ann Womack in the Movies
Watch out for an indie film titled Noble Things. Lee Ann Womack is one of the stars of the movie, and Mark Chesnutt has recorded two songs that will appear in the movie and its soundtrack.

And LeAnn Rimes on the Magazine Cover
Meantime, the other LeAnn — LeAnn Rimes — says she’s facing a “difficult time” following an Us Weekly cover story indicating she’s been having an affair with actor Eddie Cibrian, her co-star in a new Lifetime movie, Nora Roberts’ Northern Lights. Cibrian, married for eight years to model Brandi Glanville, has two children. He claims the rumors of the affair are totally fabricated. Rimes, who has been married for seven years to dancer Dean Sheremet, has been playing it cool by not denying the story or confirming that it’s true.

Stay Tuned to CMT
Stay tuned for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks. You don’t want to miss cute and talented Jack Ingram in the episode premiering Saturday (March 28) at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT. On top of that, the movie, Son in Law starring Pauly Shore, is dad-gummed funny.

Goodbye to a Friend
Born in Alabama, Ed Dye worked in television in his younger days with the likes of Ed Sullivan and others in both New York and Los Angeles. But he always leaned toward bluegrass. When fiddle player Ingrid Herman Fowler, daughter of famed bandleader Woody Herman, migrated from the West Coast to Music City, she put out the word for Ed Dye to move to Nashville, too.

Ed traveled light — just his Dobro guitar, the clothes on his back and a song in his heart. The Station Inn was Ed’s hangout and where he formed the band, the Shin Bone Alley All-Stars, with Fowler, John Hedgecock and a couple of teens — my sons, Billy and Terry Smith. Ed’s big number was Bob Wills’ “Stay All Night” and where the band got their name: “You oughta see my blue-eyed Sally/She lives down on Shin Bone Alley.” Ed was a comedian who never went big time, but he played a lot of music in Nashville and on the road with bands like the Jug Band and the Bluegrass Band.

Ed died last week in Montgomery. The 72-year-old Alabama native would no doubt think it was cool to pass away in the town where Hank Williams is buried.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Corn Casserole.