HOT DISH: Craig Morgan in My Kitchen

More News About Capitol Nashville's Private Party and Dolly Parton's New Theme Park

(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

When Craig Morgan dropped by my kitchen last week, he brought me potted lavender.

“This was my mother’s favorite flower,” he explained.

I learned his mom passed away a year ago, so I was especially honored that he took the time to bring me her favorite flower.

Craig is a good guy. He’s not afraid to help others. Last year, he and his son stopped at a filling station near their home in Dickson, Tenn., and noticed a house that was on fire up the road. He bolted across the field and into the burning house, pulled two children out to safety and then manned a water hose until fire trucks arrived.

Here’s a man who bravely served 10 years in the armed forces before returning home and doing manual labor until he saw a slot where he could apply his talent. Through the ups and downs, he’s been finding those slots ever since. Beginning with Atlantic Records (which closed its country division in 2001 but later revived it) to Broken Bow, BNA and now Black River Records, Craig has lots of experience in the music industry.

“This is the first label that ever wanted me to work. They keep me busy, and I love it,” he laughed.

Those Georgia Peach Picker — songwriters Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip — wrote Craig’s latest single, “This Ole Boy.”

“I just love those guys,” Craig said.

Craig has high hopes for the single and its marvelous music video starring actress Angie Harmon.

“It would be nice to have another hit single like ’That’s What I Love About Sunday,’ that stayed No. 1 for four weeks, or an album that went gold like My Kind of Livin’,” he said. “More hits like “Redneck Yacht Club” would be just fine.”

In addition to his regular concert dates, Craig still frequently performs at military installations in the U.S. and abroad. He is the recipient of the USO Merit Award for his tireless support of U.S. soldiers and their families. He is active in raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

And then there’s his All Access Outdoors TV show that airs on the Outdoor channel. His guests on the hunting show include country stars, pro athletes and celebrities from the motocross world. Yes, Craig still takes his motorcycle on the road and rides it — even though he broke his leg racing in 2006.

Capitol Nashville’s Stars Come Out for Special Party
The Sutler, a longtime eyesore of a bar that was always popular with those in the music industry, was bulldozed to smithereens years ago, but that never stopped the team at Capitol Nashville from calling their private party after the watering hole. At the most recent Sutler celebration, each and every artist on the label gathered with the Capitol staff at Puckett’s Grocery, a restaurant and bar in downtown Nashville.

Mike Dungan, Capitol Nashville’s suit-wearing prez, donned a western shirt for the party that began with Lady Antebellum opening the show. Onstage, Alan Jackson later called up Keith Urban (who flew in from Los Angeles for the event) and Dierks Bentley to accompany him on Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business.” Darius Rucker drove in from his home in South Carolina. Little Big Town sang that Lady Gaga song that they do better than she does. Eric Church was killer, and so was Luke Bryan. New act Jon Pardi closed the show.

And in the audience were several top-level executives, including famed musician and producer Don Was, who serves as chief creative officer at EMI/Blue Note in L.A.

Rascal Flatts’ Good Deeds
Rascal Flatts will release their new album, Changed, on April 3. That’s big news, of course, but the greatest thing about band members Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney is still their continued commitment to help others.

They’ve raised more than $3 million for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, where the pediatric surgery unit is named in their honor. They have another partnership with the hospital for 2012 as researchers attempt to determine why some children are born prematurely.

By the way, Rascal Flatts will be presented the CRS Humanitarian Award on Feb. 22 during Country Radio Seminar.

Dolly Parton Helps Create New Nashville Theme Park
When Gaylord Entertainment closed the Opryland theme park in 1997, a lot of people wept like a favorite relative had passed away. Something Music City adored was gone.

Singers and dancers were left without a job. Porter Wagoner could no longer spruce up and walk around the park and welcome the visitors. And I could no longer push a stroller with one, two or three grandkids who really enjoyed the amusement rides. It was a sad time.

People began to go to Dollywood in East Tennessee — the park Dolly Parton substantially expanded and improved following Opryland’s demise. Dolly has a beautiful place near Sevierville, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains where she was born and raised. She put her relatives and friends to work at Dollywood. And guests poured in to that mountain Mecca.

Then came the 75th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry, and I went. The auditorium was packed. I was so filled with anger toward anyone who had anything to do with dismantling Opryland theme park. About that time, out pranced a man onstage in front of the big red curtain. He identified himself as Terry London, the Gaylord Entertainment executive who made the decision to get rid of the park.

A scary roar swept through that room. The booing went from a loud whisper to a sonic boom and lasted and lasted and lasted. People began to leave. We stood, wearing faces of anger. I just kept thinking about all of us who had repeatedly spent our hard-earned money to enjoy a special day at Opryland. I still think closing the park is one of the worst atrocities in my four decades in this town I love as my home. It still angers me that my 13-year-old grandson, Trevor, never got to enjoy Opryland like cousins Adam and Jeremy and siblings Tyler and Tara.

And then a few weeks ago, Dolly Parton made a big announcement that she’s partnered with Gaylord Entertainment on a joint venture to develop a 114-acre water and snow park on Briley Parkway near the the Grand Ole Opry House and the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined Parton and current Gaylord chairman and CEO Colin Reed on the stage of the Opry House to unveil plans for the $50 million park — water for summer play and snow for winter play. They expect 500,000 visitors annually. By the way, everyone seems to agree that Colin Reed is wise. He even admitted that tearing down the Opryland theme park was a mistake.

This new park won’t be Opryland. No walking guitar will greet me at the gate. Mike Snider and his wonderful band will no longer perform six days a week — with two or three shows daily. Young people will no longer dance, and the voices of Opry wannabees will not be heard. The wonderful young entertainers who emulated Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones and lovable Stringbean will no longer be onstage. As much as I hated to stand in line at the old theme park, I wish I could do it one more time to see those kids perform once again.

I bought season passes at Opryland every year for every member of my family — adults and children — because we loved that place. I do hope this new, yet unnamed park will be enjoyment all of us. Even if it’s not Opryland, it is something positive for the community.

The new park is scheduled to open in 2014.

More News
Luke Bryan has scored his fourth No. 1 single with “I Don’t Want This Night to End.”

Billy Currington’s first headlining tour begins March 24 in Biloxi, Miss. Newcomer Kip Moore will open the shows.

KNIX radio in Phoenix delivered new clothes to Lee Brice and his bandmembers after their tour bus caught on fire prior to their recent show at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Mesa, Ariz. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Brad Paisley will be the second country headliner to perform a major concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Joining Brad on June 9 will be Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann.

CMT Crossroads: Steven Tyler and Carrie Underwood From the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam airs live from Indianapolis this Saturday (Feb. 4) on CMT. That’s the night before Super Bowl XLVI.

Jurors in Claremore, Okla., ruled that Integris Canadian Valley Hospital in Yukon, Okla., must return the $500,000 donation Garth Brooks made with the understanding they were to name a women’s health center in memory of his mother, Colleen Brooks. The center was never constructed. Jurors also ruled that the hospital should pay Brooks an additional $500,000 in punitive damages. Colleen died of cancer in 1999.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1678080″]Dump Salad.[/news]