HOT DISH: Why Is Dierks Bentley Swimming in Ice?

More News About Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift, Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn

(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 CMT.com.)

Can you imagine a dozen years or so from now when Evie Bentley is a teenager and comes across a newspaper photo of her dad covered in chill bumps while wading out of Percy Priest Lake near Nashville on New Year’s Day 2010 after taking a plunge in the below-freezing waters?

Each year, Dierks Bentley and his gang, the Gladiators, take a frigid plunge on the first day of the year. I am told Dierks and his buds took a slow march into the icy waters this year. I walked out the door for the morning paper on Jan. 1, and my teeth chattered for an hour! It is cold in Tennessee — too cold to frolic in a lake. Brrrrrr!

Reba Enjoys Biggest Hit of Her Career
In a conversation with Big Machine/Valory Music chief Scott Borchetta, the subject of Reba‘s smash, “Consider Me Gone,” came up. Hanging three weeks at No. 1 makes the song the biggest chart hit of her illustrious career. With No. 1 songs spanning four decades, Reba’s run of chart-topping singles extends to 26 years.

Listen to this: Borchetta was working with Reba at other labels when she topped the chart during three of those four decades. The feisty redhead heads out with the gorgeous King George Strait on Jan. 22 at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore.

Big Machine Makes More News
From the highly-anticipated Valentine’s Day film soundtrack comes the song, “Stay Here Forever,” written and sung by Jewel. The Big Machine soundtrack CD also includes Taylor Swift‘s “Today Was a Fairytale” and other tracks by Willie Nelson, Maroon 5, Steel Magnolia and Joss Stone. Starring in the movie are Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Ashton Kutcher and — in her first feature film role — Swift! Seems I heard that the other Taylor — actor Taylor Lautner — is also in this movie.

I reckon you heard the news that a “lack of chemistry” has sent Taylor and Taylor to Splitsville. The tale of two Taylors is history. Someone who claims to be close to Swift told Us magazine that Hollywood Taylor liked Nashville Taylor more than she liked him. They say Lautner went everywhere to see her, but she didn’t travel much to see him. That is somewhat different. Isn’t it usually the female doing the chasing these days? Lord, don’t ask me. Thousands of songs have been written and sung since I did any chasing or running away.

Toby Keith Cranking Up the Talent
The merger of Toby Keith‘s Show Dog label with Universal Records South will — for sure and for certain — add musical muscles with the addition of Randy Houser, Joe Nichols and Phil Vassar settling in with Toby. What a lineup!

Grammy Gets an A
The upcoming Grammy Awards show set for Jan. 31 has been given an A by me. Why? First off, when they gave Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum performing spots, they got a great big A-minus. However, when they added the Zac Brown Band as performers, I had to give them an A. They might have gotten a higher score, but Lord knows they’ve never gotten an A-plus from me. Keep that country music playing loud and clear.

Speaking of the Zac Brown Band, you need to know that their single, “Toes,” was named the No. 1 country dance club hit of 2009.

Awards and Tears for Brooks & Dunn
With 20 winning years together, Brooks & Dunn will be accepting awards while wading through tears in 2010. Following their T.J. Martell award, they’ll be receiving the Country Radio Broadcasters’ Career Achievement Award during the Country Music DJ and Radio Hall of Fame banquet on Feb. 23 in Nashville. Those two award-winning cowboys will be faced by friends and fans and memories. Tell me please, who’s gonna fill their shoes?

Bill Monroe Still Making History
The late Bill Monroe‘s famous 1923 Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin is now in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Bill first saw the instrument in the window of a barber shop in Miami and bought it for $150. Without a doubt, this is the most famous mandolin in the world.

It was almost a half century ago when Bill was angered because the “folks at Gibson,” who were given an assignment to repair his instrument, decided to do additional work that he didn’t approve or appreciate. Like any all-American country boy farmer, Bill’s way of getting even with “them people” was to take his pocketknife and carve off the pearl inlay name of “Gibson” from the headstock. With the brand name missing, Bill played that mandolin on four continents with pride. They wronged him, and he got even. That’s what Bill said, and it was what he believed. But he’d mellowed by the time Gibson representatives came calling again years later, and Bill agreed to allow them to repair his beloved instrument.

The original 7-inch veneer that Bill gouged off the mandolin’s headstock ended up at a Christie’s auction on Dec. 3. Seems the man who repaired the instrument kept the damaged piece of wood with the pearl inlay. Bill told him he could have the piece of wood, so it was his to sell.

Christie’s figured it would sell maybe for $5,000 to $7,000. Goes to show you how little they know about bluegrass music and the instrument its inventor played. It went for $37,500. And the grand old master of bluegrass is still making history — and so is his mandolin.

By the way, one time when Bill was leaving Bean Blossom, Ind., he placed the mandolin’s case on top of his station wagon. In a hurry and with his mind elsewhere, he unlocked the car door and crawled into the vehicle. As he eased off, he heard a noise and felt a bump. Yes, the case had fallen off the roof and Bill ran it over with the mandolin inside. I told him that must be a holy instrument. There wasn’t a scratch on it. It didn’t even break a string.

And They Go Home
Two weeks into the new year, I’m still thinking about some of the people I’m going to miss following their deaths in 2009.

Mandolin player extraordinaire Butch Baldassari and I had radiation together a few years back at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Even with chemo, Butch didn’t make it.

Two of our finest singer-songwriters — Dan Seals and Vern Gosdin — left us and will surely be missed 100 years from now. Every time we go to the Cracker Barrel on Music Valley Drive, I still look for Vern. And when I think of Hee Haw, I think of Jon Hager.

I must mention former Grand Ole Opry manager Hal Durham. Among the stars he inducted as Opry members during his 20-year tenure include John Conlee, Ricky Skaggs, the Whites, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis, Riders in the Sky, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Mike Snider, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Charley Pride and Alison Krauss. Cream of the crop, they were and still are. Hal chose the best — and he was the best. We’ll miss him.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Old Time Rice Pudding.