HOT DISH: What Happened in Vegas

Some Observations About the ACM Awards and News From Behind the Scenes

(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

The 45th annual Academy of Country Music Awards are now history, but I wanted to offer some of my observations about the show and some of the things that went on behind the scenes in Las Vegas.

Chris Young is so hot he’s about to melt. His first day in Sin City, he put $1 in the slot machine and won $1,000! The next day, he put a quarter in a slot and won $500. That’s almost as good as performing — if they allow you!

I’d bet my farm and house that nobody could handle a country hosting gig better than Reba McEntire. Her big-eyed looks and quick wit are as good as anybody’s, yet a few people criticize the great Reba in a way that you know they think she comes up with that “funny stuff” on the spot. Please! People are paid big bucks to provide jokes that match current events like the Jesse James and Tiger Woods scandals. Those people who provide those jokes are called writers. And nobody can do a better job relaying the writers’ work than Reba. She did a great job.

While he was in Vegas, Toby Keith gave some time to an old friend when David Allan Coe married longtime girlfriend Kimberly Hastings at the Little White Chapel. Toby served as official witness for the event. This was DAC’s sixth trip to the altar and the bride’s second.

Brad Paisley told me it was really hard for him to accept his award for male vocalist of the year while looking directly in the face of Joe Galante, who was in the audience. Joe is departing Brad’s label, Sony Music Nashville, after many years of heading the company’s country operations. Both Brad and Carrie Underwood dried tears when they thanked Joe for all his hard work. Both stars know Galante is a big reason they are superstars.

Have you ever seen anybody who oozes superstardom like Miranda Lambert? She is a natural beauty, and when she walks onstage with her guitar and boots, singing one of her homemade songs, she just about jerks my breath away. I do hope she and Blake Shelton remain an item for eternity. Her current single, “The House That Built Me,” is the best song out there right now.

I thought the ACM Awards were really good, but I would have given Randy Houser the video of the year award for “Boots On.” With that little boy lip-synching in the backseat of the car, it don’t get no better than that.

Carrie Underwood’s second entertainer of the year trophy was a huge deal for her and for all women, especially since she’s the only female to twice win the top prize. And she did it in two consecutive years. She deserved the award, but I would love to have seen Keith Urban pick up the trophy. He has worked so very hard since his rehab. And he did the big show benefiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in October that generated over $500,000. He plans to do a repeat of the fundraiser this coming October.

I loved the awards show’s opening song, a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band.” There on one stage were Carrie and Miranda singing and Brad playing his blue paisley guitar and adding vocals. Then CCR’s John Fogerty arrived to take a turn on vocals and guitar before Charlie Daniels came out with his big hat and little fiddle. The audience went bonkers. And when they finished, Charlie borrowed a line from his Geico commercial and told the crowd and TV viewers, “Son, that’s the way you start a television show.”

I never saw so many women showcasing their breasts as there were at the ACM Awards. Three hours of wearing push-up bras is work. I was afraid that a pair or two would haul off and pop plumb out. Dresses cut to the navel, leaving very little to be imagined, takes a lot of nerve. Tape can only hold down so much!

While in Las Vegas, Capitol Nashville chief Mike Dungan was baptized by Charles Kelley and Luke Bryan. After the awards show, they picked up the fully-dressed Dungan and tossed him into the hotel’s swimming pool — and then they jumped in with him! Dungan didn’t even get ticked off. How could he? Both of the perpetrators are Capitol artists. Kelley is one-third of Lady Antebellum, and Bryan is the ACM’s top new artist. The trio known as Lady Antebellum won in three ACM categories to prove they’re the hottest act in country music. Plus, you probably remember that Kelley and Lady A’s Dave Haywood co-wrote Bryan’s No. 1 single, “Do I.”

Zac Brown Band and his band of wild and wonderful hillbillies were performing for our troops in the Persian Gulf and were not at the ACM Awards. Thanks to Zac and the guys for entertaining our military personnel.

But where was Kellie Pickler at the ACM Awards? Nobody told me where she was. I know she continues to tour as the opening act on Taylor Swift’s Fearless tour, and I also know she and Chris Young will be opening shows for Rascal Flatts beginning in late summer.

Josh Thompson Never Disappointed With “Van-a-White”
After three years and 175,000 miles of traveling in a 2006 Ford Econoline that Josh Thompson called “Van-a-White,” the time had come for him to move up to a real tour bus. And he got one, which was quite a milestone for the Wisconsin native. Preparing to hit the road on Brad Paisley’s H20 World Tour, Josh has been busy lately on a tour with Eric Church.

For once in his life, Josh was enjoying the luxury of a nice, comfy bus. Well, that lasted for about a week. The brakes died and got fixed, but the repairs made him late for a show — and he’d never been late before. When the bus broke down again, Josh recalled he never had any problems with Van-a-White. Fortunately, Josh’s management team stepped in and visited the dealership where they sell new Prevost buses. And now Josh and his band sleep in brand new bunks.

More News
Carrie Underwood’s Play On tour is set to continue with additional shows through the end of the year. Billy Currington and Sons of Sylvia will open the fall leg of the tour that begins in September. Does this mean Carrie is planning for a 2011 wedding? Or maybe Christmas Eve nuptials?

Lyric Street Records’ doors are shuttered, but my friend at the label, Doug Howard, still took time to send me Kevin Fowler’s single, “Pound Sign,” and Bucky Covington’s killer single, “A Father’s Love (The Only Way He Knew How).” I’d love to see a couple of hits here. Hear me, radio!

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Vegetable Dip.