HOT DISH: I Hate Change

Nashville Music Industry in Transition After Major News at Two Record Companies

(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

After 39 years with the company, Sony Music Nashville chairman Joe Galante last week announced to his staff that he’s leaving. EMI Music Publishing Nashville exec Gary Overton has been named chief executive officer as his successor.

I’ve known Joe since he came from New York. He looked like a kid when he first arrived in Nashville and would drop by Glaser Studio, the place that housed Waylon Jennings’ office as well as his place of recording. It was at this location that the Big Apple-raised Galante, barely 21, realized that country music was the real deal. It’s where he began his affair with the genre.

Thank God, Galante recognized the beauty, power and importance of country music. He became one of us. An adopted son. The one who launched the recording careers of Carrie Underwood, Alabama, Keith Whitley, Chris Young, the Judds, Martina McBride, K.T. Oslin, Kellie Pickler, Jake Owen, Lonestar and Sara Evans. He bolstered the careers of Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry and Miranda Lambert. And he worked with icons such as Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers. Above all that, he’s my friend.

Joe says Nashville is his home and will continue to be. He’s left a mark on the music business. But just as importantly, Joe Galante has left a mark on the people who love and work in country music — people like me.

Lyric Street Shuttered
Before I got my tears dried over Joe Galante’s decision to hang it up, I found out that Disney is closing Lyric Street Records. What a blow that is. My friend Doug Howard is senior vice president of A&R and general manager, and Randy Goodman is the label’s president. I hear that Rascal Flatts, Bucky Covington, Kevin Fowler and newcomer Tyler Dickerson are being moved to another division of the Disney Music Group, but it’s my understanding that Sarah Buxton, the wonderful Love and Theft trio and the Parks were left without a label home. So sad. So very sad.

CMT’s Evan Farmer Knows Country Music
Lance Smith, one of the most beloved, respected and handsome on-air people in all of Nashville, has gone to Hollywood. For 10 years, Lance hosted CMT’s Top 20 Countdown, and the entire time, he wanted to act. Earlier this year, he decided he was going for it — throwing his hat into the Hollywood ring to see what happens. All of Music City misses him, and I’m certain CMT fans across the country miss him, too.

I remember so well telling Lance that I was afraid they’d try to fill his shoes with someone who did not know one Hank from the other or, worse, someone who didn’t know diddly-squat about country music and couldn’t care less.

We will miss Lance, but guess what? Evan Farmer, the new host of Top 20 Countdown, is the cutest thing I’ve seen in many a moon. And he’s so nice, too, so I want to tell you about my newest friend.

Born in Ethiopia to a U.S. Army flight medic and nurse, Evan spent much of his early childhood traveling around the world. After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in communications, he moved to New York City and made headlines in 1998 in MTV’s first made-for-television movie and television series, 2GE+HER. a parody of boy bands. He later hosted While You Were Out, a popular home makeover series on the TLC network. But it’s this next part that I find so fascinating.

With his own two hands, Evan built an airplane in Seattle and flew it to Virginia to show his mom he could do it. In view of the fact that his mom later died of cancer, he’s humbly proud that he built the plane and flew it. His mom was the one who helped him get his pilot’s license.

Evan and his wife reside near Nashville with their beautiful 14-month-old son, Garrison, who’s learning to run. When Evan talks about his wife and his son, he has a smile all over his face. And when he talks about country music — those who write it and those who sing it — there’s a huge smile on his face, too.

We’re so lucky to have Evan in Music Town. He loves what he’s doing at CMT, and he doesn’t need anybody to tell him about the Hanks, including the family tree that grew from the late, great Hank Williams to Hank Williams Jr., to Hank Williams III and Holly Williams. He knows that the late Hank Snow and Hank Locklin, like Hank Williams, were Opry members. And he knows Hank Cochran is a legendary songwriter who has all of Music Row praying for him as he recuperates from some serious surgery.

And he knows about the new acts, too. When I asked him which of the newer dudes were lined up to become superdudes, he answered, “Josh Thompson.”

“I loved ’Beer on the Table’ and his current single, ’Way Out Here,’ ” allowed Evan.

“My favorite is ’Blame It on Waylon,’ ” I said.

“Second song on the new album,” Evan added.

The last statement proved to me Evan knows what the heck he’s talking about.

Welcome, Evan. Make yourself at home. You’re one of us, and we are proud to have you. I thank you for guesting on Southern Fried Flicks. It was huge fun having you in my kitchen.

Billy Joe, Willie and Bob
I’m positive I’m not the only one who’s been praying for Billy Joe Shaver after a 2007 barroom brawl near Waco, Texas, spilled out into the parking lot and a fellow named Billy Bryant Coker ended up shot in the face. The core group of people who cared for Billy Joe — his son Eddie, wife Brenda, Waylon Jennings, Captain Midnight, Shel Silverstein and Harlan Howard — are gone.

When Billy Joe recently went on trial for aggravated assault, Willie Nelson and actor Robert Duvall showed up at the courthouse in Waco. Billy Joe told the court he felt intimidated when Coker opened the blade of his pocket knife and began stirring everybody’s drinks. I don’t really know what else happened that night in Waco — and I wish it hadn’t happened at all — but 70-year-old Billy Joe was acquitted of the assault charge. Praise the Lord for that.

A Pulitzer for Hank
Those smart folks at the Pulitzer Prize Board have posthumously awarded a special citation to Hank Williams as part of the 2010 awards in journalism, drama and music. The board recognized Hank “for his role in transforming country music into a major music and cultural force in American life.” Did he ever!

Dixie Chicks Video?
I do hope there will be some sort of video made of the Dixie Chicks’ performances during their upcoming tour with the Eagles. There’s never been finer music than Natalie Maines singing lead while sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison harmonize — angelic vocals with just enough accompaniment to not drown out their voices.

Larry’s King-Sized Marital Woes
Talk show host Larry King’s split with his current wife, Shawn, plays like a country record. Larry says he did not have an affair with Shawn’s sister, and Shawn is denying a touch-and-go affair with their son’s baseball coach. Shawn is Larry’s seventh wife, but he married one of them twice, so this makes his eighth marriage.

The late Harlan Howard could have written the daylights out of this plot line. Maybe Bobby Braddock can put some thought into writing a song about it. I recall that Shawn released a country album a few years back, so maybe she can record it.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Barbecued Chicken.