HOT DISH: Keith Urban Talks About His Roots and His Fundraiser

Kyle Busch Changes His Ways, Dolly Sings in the Park

(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

A Song in Keith’s Heart
If you love country music and the people who write the lyrics and the melodies that make up the songs, those who travel the highways east to west, south to north with a song on their lips and love in their heart, I suggest you continue to read this. Keith Urban was 7 years old when he told his father, “I am going to live in Nashville and make records. I love this town,” added Keith. “My wife loves this town. Our daughter was born here.” Playing guitar by the time he was 6 years old, Keith allowed, “I don’t know what it was but I found this connection in music.”

During the Nashville stop of his Escape Together World Tour, the Aussie native told the sold-out crowd at the Sommet Center on Saturday night (Aug. 29) the news about Oct. 13. He’d quietly talked with Vince Gill, president of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, about an idea he had to generate money for the museum. Vince was already involved with his idea of All for the Hall. “Count me in,” said Vince when Keith approached him. Keith talked to his friend Faith Hill and his opening acts Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Taylor Swift and his friend Brad Paisley. “I’m in,” they said. So Keith set the date. It’s a “We’re All For the Hall” benefit concert, at the Sommet on Oct. 13.

At a press conference Keith explained that he’ll open the show with his band and play an hour. He and Vince will put together a band to play with all the other guests. Vince and Keith will join the band as their guests take their turn for the Hall. Brad and Keith will no doubt pick together and I’m betting Vince will join right in.

Keith spoke up about the importance of knowing the music’s beginning. That’s what the Hall of Fame is all about. It’s about those who came before us. Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe and Hank Williams and the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and all the others who plowed the ground for the first 25 years. We are so blessed to have all their memorabilia in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. As a child sitting in the floor of his family home in Australia, Keith would listen to the music and read the liner notes on the back of the albums. Talking with Keith is like talking with a historian. He probably knows as much about Don Williams as Don’s family. So Keith wants to protect all the history.

Keith and Vince were very entertaining at the Hall. Vince said he and Keith had a lot in common, “We both like to play guitar and both of our wives make more money than we do.” Now that brought a great big laugh.

Remembering Sen. Ted Kennedy
Watching Teddy Kennedy’s memorial service, hearing powerful men from both sides of the aisle speak of his greatness as a senator and as a man, I could not help but recall standing in the wings of the Grand Ole Opry watching Sen. Robert C. Byrd from the state of West Virginia leaning over the WSM microphone and playing square dance tunes on his fiddle. A smiling Roy Acuff stood behind the senator, enjoying the performance. It made no difference at that moment that Sen. Byrd was a life-long Democrat; and Acuff a life-long Republican. Music is the great uniter.

When they airlifted Kennedy’s body from his beloved Boston to Washington, D.C., more than a thousand friends, government employees and congressmen gathered on the steps of the Capitol to say goodbye before the departure to his final burying place in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., near his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. As the hearse and the dozen or so limos and four buses slowed to a stop, passengers including Teddy’s wife, Vicki, his children Teddy, Jr., Patrick and Cara shook hands with as many as they could. One hand that each held long and lovingly was that of a white-haired gentleman in a wheelchair: Sen. Robert C. Byrd from West Virginia who served in the Senate longer than Kennedy. Byrd came to the Senate a hothead, but like his friend, Teddy Kennedy, they learned that working together gets the job done, not shouting and screaming. A very emotional Byrd made a speech a few days ago pledging to name the health bill that Kennedy championed after the late senator.

More Songwriters Honored
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame has named Kye Fleming, Mark D. Sanders and the late Tammy Wynette as its newest members. Formal inductions will take place Oct.18 at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Kye wrote “Smoky Mountain Rain” for Ronnie Milsap and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” for Barbara Mandrell. Mark penned “I Hope You Dance” for Lee Ann Womack, “It Matters to Me” for Faith Hill and most recently “That’s a Man” by Jack Ingram. Tammy co-wrote several of her biggest hits including “Stand by Your Man,” “Two Story House” and “Till I Can Make It on My Own.”

Kyle Busch Reforms
I for one was totally ticked at NASCAR driver Kyle Busch for smashing the guitar trophy he received for winning the Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. Acting like a rock star in a country music town where Gibson Guitars are manufactured was downright offensive. But Kyle has made up for his childish actions. His foundation donated $30,000 to the Nashville Alliance for Public Education that will go toward 150 guitars to be shared between Overton and Glencliff schools. Like I always say, give those youngsters guitars, not guns.

Country on TV
Monday night, Aug. 31, ABC-TV aired the CMA Festival: Country’s Night To Rock. With 7.8 million viewers, ABC outdrew all its rivals. Just keep it country.

Justin Moore
Like so many of us, Justin Moore grew up where nothing mattered except baseball on Friday night, church and family. Says Justin, “I always loved that and I’d love to move back one day to small-town Arkansas.”

Dolly Sings the Praise of the Park
Politicians sang the praises of America’s most visited park, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this week at the re-dedication ceremony to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Guests gathered at Newfound Gap on the Tennessee-North Carolina border and heard governors and other politicians from both sides of the border speak, but best of all was when the park’s ambassador, Dolly Parton, sang her self-penned song about her home: “These are my mountains, my valleys. These are my rivers flowing like a song. These are my people, my memories. These are my mountains. This is my home.” Politicians can flap their mouths all they want to, but only Dolly can touch your heart with a song from her heart.

Joe Nichols on Southern Fried Flicks
Be sure and tune in to CMT Sunday night, Sept. 13 for Southern Fried Flicks to see my very special guest, Joe Nichols, plus the very funny movie, Caddyshack. Next month Joe will be heading to New York for Pure Country rehearsals on Broadway. His latest album hits the shelves on Oct. 27. Big October for Joe.

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