HOT DISH: Worst Times Bring Out the Best in Nashville

An Update on the Flood and News About Taylor Swift, Keith Urban

(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.)

“The beauty of community is that in the worst of times you see the best of people,” said plumb perfect Vince Gill on May 6 while hosting a telethon on a local television station to raise money for flood relief efforts in Nashville He raised $1.7 million! See, I told you the man was plumb perfect.

Vince and his wife, the beautiful Amy Grant, doled out $100,000 for the cause. Reba McEntire gave $100,000, Nissan Nashville provided $300,000 and Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams gave $300,000. Kenny Chesney, whose house was badly flooded, gave $500,000. Taylor Swift also donated $500,000.

Hey, it was Kenny who told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that we needed help here in Nashville. The town was under water. The Opryland Hotel, the Grand Ole Opry House, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall and a large area of downtown Nashville were flooded. Thousands of homes were waterlogged and motorists were stranded on the highways.

Anderson came and talked with Kenny, Brad Paisley and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Anderson was correct to compare Nashville to New Orleans. The difference in the two cities is that Nashvillians rescued more than 600 people by boat, and thousands of people were helping those they did not know.

Tim and Faith are set to host an all-star benefit for Tennessee flood relief on June 22 at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville. Proceeds from “Nashville Rising: A Benefit Concert for Flood Recovery” will go to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Jason Aldean, Brooks & Dunn, Luke Bryan, Amy Grant, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Michael W. Smith are all scheduled to perform. The show sold out soon after tickets went on sale Friday (May 14).

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert Tying the Knot
Like a nice country boy, Blake Shelton asked Miranda Lambert’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. And her daddy gave Blake his approval, so the couple took a walk near their adjoining farms in Oklahoma. Along the way, he asked the cutest girl in country music to be his bride. He even bought her a platinum ring that was “much more perfect than I could have done myself,” admitted the bride-to-be.

Congratulations to Blake and Miranda. Please let Lance Smith know! He swears he’s the reason you two are a couple.

Meet Danny Gokey
Have you met Danny Gokey? I have — and I am impressed to the core. Not only is Danny one of the nicest guys you’d ever hope to meet, behind his glasses is a kindhearted, strong-willed man with true faith in God and a deep love for music.

Born in Milwaukee, Danny is the fifth of six children from a family often short on cash but long on love and encouragement. His humble roots and hard-working days as a truck driver and music director at two churches at night prepared him for the career he has chosen in country music.

Danny’s wife, Sophia, encouraged him to try out for season eight of American Idol. A month before the tryouts, he lost the person who’d meant the most to him in his life when his Sophia died following minor heart surgery. The couple had been high school sweethearts. Danny was devastated, but he found solace and healing in music. “Music was the key place I would go,” explained Danny. “I would let the tears flow to let the sorrow out.”

About a month after Sophia passed away, Danny tried out for American Idol. During his appearances on the show, he impressed the judges with his versatility as he performed hits by the Temptations, Carrie Underwood, Michael Jackson and Rascal Flatts. It was Randy Travis, who served as an Idol mentor, who approached Danny and asked if he’d ever thought about concentrating on country music. “You really need to because people would love you and the amount of soul you could bring to country. You’d bring uniqueness to it,” Randy offered.

Danny became a favorite of millions on Idol, where he was a third place finalist. While on the show, Danny became aware that he could sing country songs and touch people’s lives with his music. He made chart history in March when My Best Days became the highest-selling debut album by a male country artist in 18 years. How does 65,000 copies sound to an ex-trucker? Real, real good. He’s opening shows for Sugarland and loving his life these days.

I’ve never had a nicer person in my kitchen before, and I never had anyone who enjoyed eating more!

Kid Rock Hosting CMT Music Awards
Kid Rock will host the CMT Music Awards on June 9 in Nashville. I can’t wait to see the most fun awards show of all. Leading the pack with three nominations each, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are the top contenders. Following closely behind with two nominations each are Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Steel Magnolia, Sugarland, Keith Urban and the Zac Brown Band.

Taylor Swift News
Taylor Swift is set to receive the Hal David Starlight Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards dinner at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 17. She’s the top-selling digital artist in music history.

Speaking of Taylor, is Cory Monteith — that cute actor from the Glee TV series — the person she’ll pen her next love song about? I saw a photo of the twosome looking mighty cozy.

Keith Urban Covers the Rolling Stones
When Keith Urban performed the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” last week on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, he was backed by an all-star cast of Music City’s finest, including Little Big Town‘s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman. Also along for the performance were singer-songwriter Sarah Buxton, record producer and pianist Tony Brown and Stones sideman Chuck Leavell on keyboards. Keith provided a Music Town shout-out by revamping the closing lyrics and singing, “All week in Nashville, we’ve been watching the Cumberland rise.”

New at the Hall
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has added artifacts from contemporary stars to the ongoing exhibit, “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music.” The most recent updates include items provided by Jamey Johnson, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. 

Chris Young Does It Again
Chris Young made it two No. 1′s in a row when “The Man I Want to Be” topped the Billboard country songs chart last week. Chris will continue touring with Alan Jackson for several additional concerts before joining Rascal Flatts on tour beginning in June.

Darryl Worley Is Back Home
Darryl Worley has returned back home to Tennessee following his eighth trip overseas to entertain our troops. The Savannah, Tenn., native performed before 9,500 troops as part of the Stars for Stripes tour of the Persian Gulf. Darryl has not forgotten.

Willie’s World
I just received my spring issue of Willie Nelson‘s wonderful fan club newsletter. When I opened it to page one, there was a photo of yours truly. Those two great gals from Lancaster, Pa., don’t miss a beat. Thanks Dandy and Andy. God bless you and continued good health.

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