HOT DISH: Some Thoughts About the American Music Awards

More Country Music News About Taylor Swift, Gloriana, Kenny Chesney and Others

(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

Taylor Swift was in London when she spoke to the world while giving thanks for her wins at the American Music Awards on Nov. 22. As always, she remembered to thank those who mattered. She acknowledged Janet Jackson and the Jackson family when she received the artist of the year award — her fifth of the evening and the biggest award of all.

Nobody in the world could have been more surprised than the members of Gloriana when they were named the T-Mobile breakthrough artist of the year. The young upstarts opened shows all this year for Taylor and are set to return in 2010, but they beat out Lady Gaga, Keri Hilson and Kid Cudi for the breakthrough artist honor. With 375,000 copies sold, Gloriana’s “Wild at Heart” is the best-selling single by a new country artist this year.

I reckon Lady Gaga is a superstar to some but not to those of us who love country music. It appeared to me that Gaga left more of her outfit at home than she wore to the gig. Even our own Carrie Underwood wore an outfit too short for church or the Opry, but she killed during her performance of “Cowboy Casanova.” Speaking of Carrie, I see where she donated the sheet music for “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” a song she co-wrote, to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She was inducted into the hall in September.

My fave of the American Music Awards show was the great Keith Urban. He not only picked and sang “Kiss a Girl” like a saint, he also gave the finest thank-you speech of the evening. So sweet, he thanked his wife, Nicole, and their daughter, Sunday, and told Nicole, “I love you.” That, pals, is about as good as it gets.

That Jason Aldean has a good-looking wife. I loved her outfit at the awards show.

Whitney Houston looked splendid. When she sang, I thought I was gonna bawl, but I didn’t until I saw Reba’s tears as she sat in the audience. It’s great to have both Whitney and Reba under the same roof at a music awards show. God put those two on earth to sing — and can they ever sing.

American Idol star Adam Lambert ended the live show with a provocative performance that went too far to suit anyone I’ve talked with.

Dirt Band Recording Added to Grammy Hall of Fame
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1970 recording of “Mr. Bojangles” is one of this year’s additions to the Grammy Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Jeff Hanna, John McEuen and all the other members of the band and to the incredible Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote the song.

Another Kelley Brother Gets a Record Deal
When Lady Antebellum began getting media attention, we read where Charles Kelley was brother to pop singer Josh Kelley. Josh, married to actress Katherine Heigl, is following in his brother’s footsteps these days. “Country is where I’m going to live out the rest of my career,” said Josh. “This is the style and level of songwriting I’ve always wanted. I’m coming home.” Josh is signed with the Universal Music Group Nashville. He and Katherine will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in December.

More News
Dolly Parton has opened her first retail store in downtown Nashville. Located next door to the Wildhorse Saloon on Second Avenue, Dolly Parton’s Trinkets & Treasures will be the place to shop for music, apparel, jewelry and more.

Kenny Chesney is not the only Kenny who can sell out concerts. Kenny Rogers can, too. When his Feb. 5 show with the Nashville Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center sold out, a second show was added for Feb. 4 — and it’s selling like hotcakes.

The Blind Side, the new movie starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw, scored with box office receipts of $34.5 million during its first weekend of release. It came in second to some other film titled The Twilight Saga: New Moon. I wonder if Taylor Swift plans to see the Twilight movie.

Everybody, let’s send love and prayers to Andy Griggs and his family who lost their Mount Juliet, Tenn., home to fire. No injuries, thank God, but the house is a total loss.

Thanks in part to Julianne Hough’s guest appearance, country radio station WCTY in Norwich, Conn., raised $15,000 for Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers during a recent event billed as “MADD About Dancing.”

Mark Wills, Keni Thomas and Alana Grace will entertain troops in the Middle East in December as a part of the Hope and Freedom tour.

Allen Shelton Was a Banjo-Picking Hometown Boy
When I read in the newspaper about the passing of Allen Shelton, it brought back memories from when I was a child. He was born in Reidsville, N.C., home of the American Tobacco Company, and the first time I saw Allen play banjo, the 14-year-old was onstage at Cherry Grove Elementary School with Jim Eanes. Allen was so amazing, all the overall-wearing farmers couldn’t wait to get to the local store the next morning for a Pepsi and a pack of peanuts while they ranted and raved about him.

Red-faced and redheaded, Allen grinned all the time he picked, and he’d rock from left to right the entire time he played. We’d hear Allen on WDVA radio in Danville, Va., with Eanes. Years later, I saw Allen play with Jim & Jesse in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry, where they tore up the place with Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and “Memphis.” According to The Tennessean’s Peter Cooper, Allen recorded 89 titles with Jim & Jesse.

Bluegrass musicians and fans love to talk about who is the best picker. I recall hearing the great Bill Monroe say of Shelton, “No better right hand ever picked a banjo.” I’ll tell you what, Allen Shelton could hold your attention.

The 73-year-old Shelton died in a Nashville hospital on Nov. 21 after battling leukemia.

A Package From Kenny
Either 14 or 15 years ago, I started pitching Kenny Chesney’s name to anyone who’d listen. I knew Kenny had it, and I knew he’d make it if enough people learned to spell his last name. Three or four weeks ago, I got a package in the mail from Kenny. It contained his 2009 tour book. It’s a beauty, a real coffee table wonder. Plus, it’s personally autographed — pledging love. We do that, me and Kenny. And we mean it. Thanks, Kenny, for the book, the autograph and the years of friendship. Some people don’t know about friendship, but we do!

Lance Smith Is Leaving CMT
There’s so many great folks at CMT that I dearly love. I wish I could list alphabetically the names and why I love them all, but one of them is Top 20 Countdown host Lance Smith. Since 2001, Lance Smith has been on staff at CMT. All this time, he’s daydreamed about becoming an actor. Finally, Lance has decided to take the plunge and will be leaving CMT in December. Our love and prayers go with the wonderfully talented Lance. We will miss you, my dear friend. May God continue to bless you and lead you on this journey.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Cranberry Salad.