HOT DISH: A Good Year for the Music

Looking Back at the Past 12 Months of News About Your Favorite Artists

(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

I have to say, 2011 has been a good year for the music.

Here’s wishing everybody a Happy New Year. May you have good health and a lot of fun as 2012 rolls around. I want to say that I am humbly proud and thankful to host CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks and to write the weekly Hot Dish column for

Looking back at the past 12 months, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of 2011.

I was proud to have Lee Brice and James Otto as my first guests of the year on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks.

The passing of Grand Ole Opry’s Charlie Louvin on Jan. 26 saddened Music Row.

The Grammy Awards in February saw Lady Antebellum pick up the all-genre record of the year trophy for the hot -as-a-pistol single “Need You Now,” as well as a slew of other statues. Lady A kept the stage energized.

Rascal Flatts moved in with Clarence Spalding for management, and Alan Jackson, the first artist signed to Arista Records, where he sold something like 60 million albums, moved over to Capitol Records where prez Mike Dungan resides. Dungan used to work at Arista. I know Alan must like that — an old pal in the chief seat.

Carlton Haney of Reidsville, N.C., died March 16. Haney moved hillbilly entertainers from school houses that held a few hundred into coliseums that held thousands. A member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Carlton spent his later years working mostly with bluegrass artists.

The great Ferlin Husky died March 17. A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ferlin had many big hits. Perhaps his biggest hit was “Wings of a Dove.” He was a master showman.

Ralph Mooney played steel guitar for both Buck Owens and Merle Haggard before he spent 20 years with Waylon Jennings. Waylon thought Mr. Moon was the best — and he really was. Mooney co-wrote the country classic “Crazy Arms.” Mooney passed on March 20.

Singer-songwriter Harley Allen died on March 30. He was only 55 years old. One of our most prolific songwriters, he was named BMI’s songwriter of the year in 2005 and was a two-time Grammy winner as a contributor to the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. His “Me and John and Paul” recorded by the Grascals was the 2005 IBMA song of the year.

Grand Ole Opry member Mel McDaniel died on March 31. Mel had a bunch of hits, including his No. 1 “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.”

Talented Wynonna and iCarly actress-singer Jennette McCurdy dropped by my kitchen for Southern Fried Flicks.

Taylor Swift managed to support all needs in Music Town. Saint that she is, that sweet girl allowed fans to attend the dress rehearsal for her Speak Now world tour. The show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena raised more than $750,000 for tornado relief efforts.

The wonderful duo Thompson Square and handsome Jerrod Niemann hung out with me in the kitchen.

It used to be Fan Fair, but now it’s called the CMA Music Festival. Whatever it is, it drew 65,000 screaming country music fans during four days of concerts and meet-and-greets in downtown Nashville in June.

Lucky girl that I am. Civil Wars, Frankie Ballard, the great Alison Krauss and the great Kid Rock also came to my kitchen for Southern Fried Flicks.

Shania Twain announced a two-year set-down in Vegas at Caesars beginning in December 2012.

Trace Adkins’ house burned down … so did Cowboy Jack Clement’s.

Waiting backstage at the Indiana State Fair for the storm to pass, Sugarland’s August concert ended tragically when the stage collapsed, taking seven lives and injuring many others. The band returned in the fall for a benefit concert.

Hazel Dickens was 75 when she died April 22. She was a true mountain woman who influenced Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, the Judds, Sara Evans and others.

Music executive Steve Popovich signed Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Paycheck to Mercury Records in Nashville. He died on June 8.

Laura Bell Bundy and the Eli Young Band dropped by my kitchen. The EYB scored their first No. 1 in November.

On July 8, the fiddle of Kenny Baker was silenced. He was the finest fiddler to ever stand by the right hand of Bill Monroe. Two Kentucky legends, they were truly a team. They knew farming and they knew bluegrass. May God rest their souls.

Guitar master and Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer died on Aug. 10. He designed the Grammer flattop acoustic guitar. Many musicians are proud owners of a Grammer guitar.

Songwriter Don Wayne wrote the smash “Country Bumpkin” for Cal Smith, and he co-wrote “Saginaw, Michigan” for Lefty Frizzell. It amazed me that Don rhymed Michigan with fisherman. He did and it worked like a charm. Don Wayne, one of our nicer people, died Sept. 12.

Wilma Lee Cooper was not well during her later years. She lived to be 90 and died on Sept. 13. A champion and a hard worker, she joined the Opry in 1957 with her husband, fiddler Stoney Cooper, who died in 1977. She continued to work with a band until health issues would no longer allow it. She and Stoney had one daughter, Carol Lee, who is the leader of the Opry’s backup group, the Carol Lee Singers.

The husband of the Queen of Country Music Kitty Wells died on Sept. 27 at their home in Madison, Tenn. Johnnie Wright was 97 when he passed. He and Jack Anglin were the marvelous duo, Johnnie & Jack. Johnnie and his superstar wife traveled together with their son Bobby and a band — the Kitty Wells/Johnnie Wright Family Band. Canada wasn’t too far to travel, nor was Hawaii. Wherever they booked ’em, they went.

The beautiful and talented Kellie Pickler, who has a wonderful comedic personality, came to the kitchen. How I loved having her around. She is married these days and loves her man.

Taz DiGregorio played keyboards and sang harmony with Charlie Daniels for 40 years. He co-wrote many of Charlie’s hits including “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Taz was headed east on I-40 near Nashville to meet Charlie and the band when he was involved in a traffic accident that claimed his life. He died on Oct. 12.

Liz Anderson, mother of Lynn Anderson and a well-known songwriter died on Oct. 31. Liz was a singer, married to songwriter Casey Anderson and helped found the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

New artist Casey James came by the house. Boy, was he a cutie. He’s gonna be huge.

The marvelous Jessi Colter (aka Mrs. Waylon Jennings) and Jamey Johnson dropped by my house, and we had a real good time. Jessi and I have been friend for eons. Me and Jamey — well, we’ve been pals almost a year. Jessi and Jamey helped get my mind set on Christmas and the real meaning of the holiday. When good folks like Jessi and Jamey drop by, you just know the Good Lord is looking after you — and I mean me!

I must mention that Bobby Braddock, Reba McEntire and Jean Shepard were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. This is the highest honor a country music person can achieve. Congratulations to Bobby, Reba and Jean.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1676420″]Stuffed Peppers.[/news]