HOT DISH: Laura Bell Bundy Goes To the Mat for CMT

More News About the Eli Young Band, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Others

(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

Laura Bell Bundy, star of CMT’s made-for-TV movie, To the Mat , returned to my kitchen recently, and I was so happy to see her.

The actress, singer, dancer, comic, Broadway star and country music songwriter is starring with Ricky Schroder in the film that’s the first to be released as part of the CMT Original Movies franchise, the network’s newly-formed division of original television movies. To the Mat premieres Wednesday (Aug. 17) at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT and airs again at 11 p.m. ET/PT. And I’m proud to say you can also see the movie on Saturday (Aug. 20) at 6 p.m. ET/PT when Laura Bell is my guest on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith .

To the Mat is a romantic comedy about a laid-back wrestler who’s trying to keep his family’s down-and-out wrestling school above financial waters with the help of a New York consultant. You’ve no doubt guessed the laid-back wrestler is Schroder, and the New Yorker who knows a whole lot is Laura Bell.

Born in Ohio, Laura Bell was raised in Lexington, Ky., where her mom still resides and manages a Victoria’s Secret store. She grew up loving country music but had other interests, as well. She made her stage debut at age 9 and got her start at a modeling agency when she was 18.

After moving to New York City, her many roles included the off-Broadway Ruthless! The Musical in 1993. She made her Broadway debut in the musical Hairspray in 2002 and later starred in the Broadway cast of Legally Blonde.

Laura Bell and a girlfriend formed a duo and sang country music in New York City clubs. Then she went on road before journeying to Music City. Her Achin’ and Shakin’ album was released in 2010.

Between filming the new movie and all that goes with that, Laura Bell and her record producer, Nathan Chapman, have been in the recording studio every chance they get.

“We’re almost half through,” she said of their work on her new album. She’s very satisfied with Nathan as her producer. He also produces Taylor Swift.

I really would love to see the multi-talented Laura Bell have a chart-topping album and lots of hit singles. She’s a major talent with a lot of show biz appeal.

Dream Comes True for Eli Young Band
The Eli Young Band’s single, “Crazy Girl,” has sold a whopping 600,000 and is certified gold! It’s the perfect introduction to their new album, Life at Best, set for release Tuesday (Aug. 16). Penned by Lee Brice and Liz Rose, the latter who has written a passel of songs with Taylor Swift, “Crazy Girl” has to be the answer to the band’s dream or prayers or wishes. Maybe it’s God giving back to four Texans who deserve a positive push. I cannot believe it’s luck. They’ve worked too long and too hard to call it luck. Filling 5,000-seat venues in the Southwest is more than luck, too.

The four guys who make up the Eli Young Band met 11 years ago while attending college in Texas. Miranda Lambert, who knew the band members in her home state, was the one who told her producers about them. They met Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke and hit it off immediately, so they began working together.

The 14-track album ranges from edgy country to country-rock to Texas country, and the band members are proud they wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs. Anytime a singer or musician writes good enough for a song to make the record, there’s mailbox money upcoming. Nothing better than mailbox money coming in when you least expect it.

I must thank Mike Eli, James Young, Chris Thompson and Jon Jones and for the nice dish towels and the very sexy rolling pin they gave me! I will be using those things in the country music kitchen.

Watch the Eli Young Band on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks on Sept. 3.

More News
Faith Hill will join husband Tim McGraw for her debut appearance in Australia during a festival in March 2012. Tim’s concert there was so popular last year, fans wanted him back, and they cannot wait to meet Faith.

Georgia boy Dallas Davidson has learned to write a whole heap more than his name. He co-wrote Justin Moore’s recent No. 1 single, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” and a week or two later, he landed at the top again with Lady Antebellum’s “Just a Kiss.”

Zac Brown, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow will headline the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s All for the Hall benefit concert on Sept. 13 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles.

During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., Taylor Swift pointed to the famous statue and said, “It’s my first time seeing the Lincoln Memorial up close. I missed the school trip in the eighth grade. I had a show.”

During the Oak Ridge Boys’ recent induction as Grand Ole Opry members, among the congratulatory greetings was one from former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara.

Remembering Marshall Grant
Condolences to the family of Marshall Grant, the bass player who helped develop the “boom-chick-a-boom” sound that Johnny Cash made famous. I am so thankful I heard Marshall Grant tell the story of the Tennessee Two, the band that also featured the late Luther Perkins, at Cash’s memorial service at the Ryman Auditorium in 2003. Grant knew the music and, just as importantly, he knew the stories.

The 83-year-old Grant and wife Etta lived in Hernando, Miss., and traveled to Jonesboro, Ark., this month to attend the Johnny Cash Music Festival to raise money to salvage the Cash home place in Dyess, Ark. After visiting with Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Rodney Crowell and Cash family members as they rehearsed for a concert, Grant grew tired and collapsed. He was taken to a local hospital where he died on Aug. 7.

Mourning the Passing of Billy Grammer and Fred Imus
Love and sympathy to the family of longtime Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer, who died Wednesday (Aug. 10). Grammer was a fine singer, but he’s perhaps best known as a guitar player. His biggest hit, “Gotta Travel On,” was released in 1959. Billy and wife Ruth, whom he married in 1944, had resided in Illinois for many years after he retired from performing.

Sympathy to Don Imus and family on the passing of his 69-year-old brother, Fred Imus. Fred hosted a country music show on Sirius XM satellite radio, but he’s also known in music circles for co-writing “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You,” a No. 1 hit for Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius in 1976.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1669012″]Coffee Cake.[/news]