HOT DISH: Hanging With the Stars in Indianapolis

Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride 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

Departing Music Town for Indianapolis and the big Country Music Expo there, I knew the second Paisley son had arrived, but I did not know his name. There’s no telling how many phone calls I made from Indy to Nashville during the next 48 hours looking for the name — which turned out to be Jasper Warren Paisley. Weighing in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces, that boy almost outweighed his pretty mama. Congratulations Brad, Kimberly and big brother Huck on the family’s new addition.

Most of you are aware that my various jobs include calling radio station WFMS in Indy with morning reports about what’s going on in the world of country music. And I always look forward to attending the station’s expo and meeting listeners.

Big Machine/Valory Music’s John Zarling drove with me to Indy. On the way, he and I talked to Jack Ingram, who was in Texas and driving from Austin to College Station for a concert. When he’s in driving distance, Jack likes to head home following a concert so he can see his three kids the next morning.

On the morning of April 18, we hit the Indiana Fairgrounds coffeed-up and ready to roll. The place was mobbed. Looking like a star, Jessica Harp was singing onstage. She was followed by Jamie O’Neal, who can just about outsing anybody. It was great seeing Jamie. Since she’s been in my kitchen, Jamie sent hellos to all my Southern Fried Flicks folks.

When it was my turn on stage, I went out and talked 45 minutes without catching my breath — Q & A, telling stories and enjoying the country music fans. When I left the stage, I realized the next person to perform was ever-so-gorgeous Blake Shelton. Blake and I had about 15 minutes of true country music fun. We talked about CMT’s Lance Smith, Blake’s lady (Miranda Lambert) and hit songs and a few misses. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Blake Shelton has got the goods to become the next superstar. He sings great, looks great and is truly funny.

The next night, the wonderful WFMS morning folks — Jim Denny, Kevin Freeman, Deborah Honeycutt and Gator — joined Zarling, my grandson Jeremy and me when I met up with a couple who bid $1,000 to eat supper with me. (Are you believing that?!) Their bid was through a WFMS auction to raise money for a children’s charity. We had a wonderful sit-down meal with the couple and some of their friends.

We slept too late for breakfast during the Sunday we were there. Upon rushing to the fairgrounds, people were lined up backstage for prime rib. Starving, we piled it on and chowed down.

“Jeremy, isn’t that the Lost Trailers?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” Jeremy mumbled between huge bites of beef on bread.

“I know that’s that cute Manny,” I said. So here they came — all five of them — with hugs and kisses. I saw their performance on Jumbotron screens, and they were hot.

I sat down and chatted with Mark Chesnutt, one of the all-time great traditional country singers. He was in a hurry to fly to Houston and head home to Beaumont, Texas. “My wife said we had 10 inches of rain down there,” he said. “Twenty miles from the Gulf, when the rains come in like that, you can look for trouble.”

I saw Heidi Newfield in the hallway, but I was going to the WFMS booth to visit with the fans, and she was headed for the stage, so we just said howdy. Ditto the Eli Young Band, who were in and out. I really like those guys, so I’m sorry to say I totally missed their performance. Backstage and all-access passes are nice at concerts, but I was so busy, I didn’t get to see this hot up-and-coming hot band from Texas. You know I like those young, cute musicmakers!

The two girls of Little Big Town are so nice and so cute, and so are the two guys. Both girls fell into my arms to say hello as they explained that their label head, Mike Dungan, said good things about me the night before in Nashville. There are several great vocal groups happening at the present time, and Little Big Town is definitely one of the best. Not only do they sing great, they are great looking onstage and off. I heard several fans who met them saying, “They are so nice.” And they are.

I saw both Lee Ann Womack and Darius Rucker but did not get a chance to even say hello. Each did a 30-minute set. Lee Ann looked great, singing all her hits, and Darius is one of the more charismatic performers in any genre of music.

It seemed like the person who received the biggest applause and walked away as the best of the expo was Jason Michael Carroll. His new short haircut really helps showcase his handsome face. It’s obvious, too, that he’s been going to the gym. Onstage, he gave all he had, and the fans loved him. His current single, “Where I’m From,” looks like it’s going to be a huge record for him.

Trace Adkins Plans Memorial Day Performance
One of my favorites is Trace Adkins. He will perform “Til the Last Shot’s Fired” as the closing performance at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. He will be accompanied by his band and the National Symphony Orchestra, along with the U.S. Army Chorus, the Soldiers Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band and the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters. The event will broadcast live from the West Lawn of the Capitol on PBS.

Rascal Flatts Schedule Stadium Shows
Following the lead of George Strait and Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts will be headlining two stadium shows this summer. On July 18, they will appear in Chicago at Wrigley Field with opening act Darius Rucker and special guest Vince Gill. On Aug. 9, Rucker and Dierks Bentley will open for the trio at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, the hometown of Rascal Flatts cousins Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus.

Martina McBride in the News
Us Weekly has unveiled its “Hot Hollywood Style” issue this week, and Martina McBride is the token country music star to be honored amongst a bevy of musicians, actresses and entertainers. Martina’s two noteworthy fashion choices for the photos are a sassy Diane Von Furstenberg mini-dress and a Badgley Mischka gown.

And in other Martina news, Blackbird Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif., will be introducing her signature series of wine. Each label will be stamped with Martina’s autograph. Since McBride and husband John named their recording complex Blackbird Studio, it’s quite fitting for the singer to choose to partner with Blackbird Vineyards. The wine will retail for $60 a bottle through her Web site.

Jimmy Dean’s Home Burns
The secluded Varina, Va., home of Jimmy and Donna Meade Dean suffered extensive fire damage last week. The Deans and their caretaker escaped to safety, but three firefighters suffered injuries. The fire started in the basement but quickly spread to the attic. Dean did manage to salvage his Grammy Award presented in 1961 for “Big Bad John” presented in 1961. The 80-year-old entertainer founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company in 1969 and sold it to Sara Lee Corporation in 1984, making himself much moola.

Another Williams Boy
Musician, singer, songwriter and actor Paul Williams has been elected president and chairman of ASCAP, the performing rights organization. A member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, he received an Academy Award for co-writing “Evergreen” with Barbra Streisand for the movie, A Star Is Born. To country fans, he may be best known for his role of Little Enos Burdette in the Burt Reynolds movie, Smokey and the Bandit. He’s well known for the classic pop hits he wrote for the Carpenters, Three Dog Night and others, but Williams always seemed comfortable on Music Row when he was collaborating with country singers and writers.

No Telling Who You’ll See at the Opry
Backstage at last week’s Tuesday night Opry was Peter Noone, lead vocalist for Herman’s Hermits, the British band that enjoyed success in the ’60s with hits like “Henry the VIII, I Am.” I wonder if he wants to record an album with Alison Krauss like Robert Plant did.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Dried Peach Pie.