HOT DISH: Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton Sharing Top Chart Space With Lady Antebellum

Brad Paisley, Little Jimmy Dickens Make Sure the Circle Remains Unbroken at Opry

(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.)

For the third time this year, Lady Antebellum‘s Need You Now isn’t at the top of Billboard‘s country albums chart. But before you start feeling sorry for them, keep in mind that they’ve already sold 2.5 million copies of the title, so they’re doing just fine.

On the latest chart, Trace AdkinsCowboy’s Back in Town debuted at No. 1 just one week after his good friend and occasional singing partner Blake Shelton hit the top slot his first week out with the new EP, All About Tonight. After holding down the penthouse address for so long, the members of Lady A probably don’t mind spending some time at No. 2. Jerrod Niemann‘s debut album, Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury, debuted at the top to knock Need You Now from the peak position a few weeks back.

By the way, Lady A currently have three albums in the country Top 10. In addition to Need You Now, their new iTunes Sessions premiered at No. 3 while their self-titled debut album — released more than two years ago — is listed at No. 10.

And speaking of Blake, somebody give him a job hosting a television show! The man is a natural. Did you see him this past week filling in for Kathie Lee Gifford on Today? He kept host Hoda Kotb and me in stitches. Other co-hosts for the week included Martina McBride, John Rich, Trisha Yearwood and Josh Turner. Everybody made us proud, but Blake is so funny.

Opry’s Hallowed Circle Now Back Where It Belongs
Those of us who love country music and the Grand Ole Opry were happy when those two West Virginia hillbillies — my friends Little Jimmy Dickens and Brad Paisley — unveiled the circle of wood that was cut from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium and placed in the stage of the Grand Ole Opry house when it opened in the ’70s. That circle of wood and the entire Opry House stage was covered with 46 inches of water during the floods that hit the Nashville area in May.

When the flood hit the Opryland Hotel area on Briley Parkway, Dickens didn’t know what had happened inside the Opry House. He showed up there, locker key in hand, only to be turned away because of the damage and danger.

“I cried all the way home,” said the 89-year-old member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The Opry will reopen Sept. 28 with a show featuring Dickens and Paisley, along with Mel Tillis, Trace Adkins, Josh Turner, Charlie Daniels, Jason Aldean, Diamond Rio, the Del McCoury Band, Montgomery Gentry, Blake Shelton and a passel more.

Brad had a busy week in Nashville. The day after the hallowed circle was returned to the stage, he and Carrie Underwood showed up at another press gathering in Nashville after the announcement that they’ll be co-hosting the CMA Awards for a third year.

You Otto See the Beautiful Baby
James Otto and his beautiful wife, Amy, have named their baby Ava Katherine. Born Tuesday night (Aug. 24) in Nashville, she weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces and, according to daddy James, she’s beautiful — just like her mama. On the road with big Toby Keith and big Trace Adkins, big James made it home in time for his daughter’s birth. He admits he’s already wrapped around that little girl’s finger.

Dolly Returning to the Big Screen
Multi-talented Dolly Parton heads back to the big screen where she’ll star with Queen Latifah in Joyful Noise, a film that’s described as “a musically-driven feature about a partnership between the two strong-willed females as they work to save a choir from budget cuts.” Expect Dolly to write songs for the movie. She plays the widow of the late choir director. Queen Latifah portrays the person who’s in charge of the choir. Sounds like these two smart women are about to have some fun.

More News
The CMA will bring its songwriter series to Chicago for the second consecutive year. It takes place Oct. 8 at Joe’s Bar and will feature Bob DiPiero, Kix Brooks, David Lee Murphy and The Band Perry.

His 1,700-mile charity walk from Nashville to Phoenix is history, but Jimmy Wayne continues to reach out to help others. He recently partnered with Bryan Foods to deliver 2,500 pounds of food to those affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. The food was delivered to the Community Center of St. Bernard in Arabi, La., for distribution to those who need it.

Luke Bryan is celebrating his second consecutive gold digital single for “Rain Is a Good Thing.”

Craig Morgan and John Michael Montgomery will join John Michael’s younger brother at the grand opening of Eddie Montgomery’s Steakhouse in Harrodsburg, Ky., on Sept. 14.

When the Whites performed during the recent revival at the church I attend, among those enjoying the music were singer-songwriters Lang Scott and Linda Davis, the parents of Hillary Scott of the hot, hot, hot Lady Antebellum. Their guests were my old friend, Bill Whyte, and his wife. Bill tells me he, Lang and Linda have formed a musical trio and performed at the Rutledge, a Nashville club, earlier this month.

Remembering Songwriter John Jarrard
When someone touches one’s heart the way John Jarrard touched mine, the heart fills to capacity and is never quite the same. It sorta took my breath away when I read in the newspaper that John would be inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on Sept. 11 in Atlanta. The Gainesville, Ga., native, who died in 2001, was an amazing human being and an amazing songwriter who became blind from diabetes.

I first met him at Caffe Milano when I went to downtown Nashville to watch Diamond Rio present their initial showcase performance for the music industry. It was dark inside the club as I felt my way around the midway of the room to a steel banister. Two steps upward, I bumped into John. Was I embarrassed, and I apologized profusely.

He stuck out his right hand and I took it as he said, “I’m John Jarrard.”

“I know,” I replied. “I’m Hazel Smith.”

By the time he said he’d wanted to meet me for a long time, he was holding both my hands.

“I lived in Georgia, and as long as I could see, I read your column in Country Music magazine,” he explained. “After I lost my sight, I had someone read your column to me.” He said he enjoyed finding out about all the stars and parties and concerts in Nashville, but then he added, “You’d write about the songwriters. I loved the part about the songwriters because that was my dream — to become a songwriter. I could tell you were having so much fun, and that made me want to be in Nashville. I wanted to know the people you knew. You’re the reason I moved to Nashville. You’re the reason I’m here.”

John wept. Silent tears ran down my cheeks. I kept repeating “thank you” to him, but those words seemed so mundane following a compliment like he’d given me.

He had the sort of career that most songwriters would envy. After moving to Nashville in 1977, he got his big break when Don Williams took John’s “Nobody but You” to No. 2 in 1983. The doors opened wide after that, and John’s song catalog eventually included hits such as George Strait‘s “Blue Clear Sky,” Diamond Rio’s “Mirror, Mirror,” John Anderson‘s “Money in the Bank” and Alabama‘s “There’s No Way” and “You’ve Got the Touch.”

John provided Nashville with some great songs, but he also gave back to the community, including raising more than $100,000 for the American Diabetes Association. And although he’s no longer with us, his contributions still live on. The ninth annual John Jarrard concert is set for Sept. 23 in Gainesville, Ga. The money raised will benefit the John Jarrard Fund, a nonprofit organization administered by the North Georgia Community Foundation that supports charities in the area around his hometown.

As for his induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, I can’t think of anyone who’s more deserving of the honor.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Creamed Corn.