HOT DISH: Newcomer Jana Kramer Off to Strong Start in Country

More News About Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts 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 CMT.com.)

Michigan native Jana Kramer made her Grand Ole Opry debut on April 13, and she can’t talk about it without grinning all over her face.

As a TV star, Jana played the role of the actress Alex Dupre on One Tree Hill, but her first love — country music — began when she was just a kid while reaching up to the kitchen table in her grandmother’s house to help make cookies as they listened to Patsy Cline records. Until today, making cookies with Grandma and listening to Patsy is one of her all-time favorite memories.

Do people in Michigan love country music? Surely you recall Bobby Bare‘s hit, “Detroit City,” written by the great Mel Tillis. It includes the lyrics, “By day. I make the cars/By night, I make the bars/If only they could read between the lines.”

Yes, people from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere left their tin-roofed houses with a half dozen or more people sharing two or three rooms and headed up north for work. Detroit manufactured cars, Ohio made tires, Pennsylvania made steel and Indiana and Illinois had refineries. Farm boys, not afraid of work, were homesick, but they stuck it out to make a living in the big cities while remembering the country music they grew up hearing. If we checked Jana’s roots closely, I’ll bet there’s some Southern blood running in her veins.

Signed to Warner Music Group Nashville’s Elektra Nashville imprint, Jana is produced by hotshot Scott Hendricks, who produces Blake Shelton and others and also serves as vice president of A&R for the label. Her first single, “Why Ya Wanna,” is climbing the chart and has already sold 250,000 digital downloads. Her music video was released in February. She’s also opening shows this summer for Brad Paisley — and that’s a good place to be for any new artist.

Her album will be released June 5, two days after her first appearance on CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks .

Keith Urban in the News
Keith Urban recently celebrated his latest No. 1 single, “You Gonna Fly,” with songwriters Preston Brust, Chris Lucas and Jarren Johnston during a party at Chappy’s restaurant near downtown Nashville.

Busy writing songs for his next album while serving as a mentor on The Voice in Australia, Keith says, “My intention for this next record is to start exploring the stories in my own life.”

At the party, he faced the crowd, smiled at his beautiful wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and said, “Thank you, baby girl, for coming down.”

And thanks again to Keith and Vince Gill for co-hosting the recent We’re All for the Hall concert in Nashville and raising $465,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The parade of caring guests included Lady Antebellum, the Oak Ridge Boys, Rascal Flatts, Diamond Rio, Alabama, Pistol Annies, Blue Sky Riders, Thompson Square, The Band Perry, Little Big Town and surprise special guests Merle Haggard and Don Williams. Thanks to all who contributed their time and talents. We country music fans are the luckiest folks on earth to have you all.

Lady A’s Dave Haywood Ties the KnotVows
Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley had gotten married, and so had Hillary Scott. On April 14, their bandmate , Dave Haywood, followed the trend by marrying Warner Music Group exec Kelli Cashiola during a ceremony at Front Porch Farm near Ashland City, Tenn.

Carrie Underwood’s Single Is Already Gold
Carrie Underwood‘s “Good Girl” was released Feb. 24 and certified gold on April 4. Her new album, Blown Away, will be released May 1. On April 30, Carrie will appear on the Late Show With David Letterman where she’ll showcase music throughout her career. I tell you what. It’s my opinion that David Letterman is the best of the late night hosts. He’s done that job longer than anybody else.

Lauren Alaina’s Special Charity
American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina has become a Special Olympics Project Unify Ambassador for North America. She has been involved with Special Olympics since she was in the sixth grade, so that makes her the perfect person to help bring young people together through education, sports and other initiatives. Meeting her in my home for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks, I know that this young lady from Georgia will be marvelous with these special people.

Rascal Flatts “Banjo” Is Great Redneck Song
Rascal Flatts will kick off their Changed tour on June 15 in Hartford, Conn, with opening acts Little Big Town, Edens Edge and my friends, the Eli Young Band. Flatts’ latest single, “Banjo,” is a great redneck song if I’ve ever heard one. The late Earl Scruggs would have smiled at that song and patted his foot.

Steel Magnolia Bouncing Back
The press release from Steel Magnolia leads me to believe all is well with the wonderful duo of Meghan Linsey and Joshua Scott Jones. Following his stint in rehab, they’ve got some nice concert bookings ahead and have signed with Rainmaker Management.

Sending them all my best. And, Joshua, I still have your necklace hanging on my office wall!

Martina McBride’s Husband Got the Crowd’s Attention
Martina McBride is not ashamed to tell me and the world she gives her husband of 24 years, John McBride, a lot of credit for her success. I remember early in her career, there was a media party for Martina. The room was so loud, you could not hear yourself speak.

John, who had spent plenty of time on the road as Garth Brooks‘ sound engineer, pulled me over to the side and said, “Watch this.” He then raised the volume so loud, there wasn’t anyone in that room talking. They were eating and listening.

The best I can recall, Martina’s career took off like a rocket shortly after that because the media had her name on their tongues and her music on their minds.

Stars Join Waylon Fund Committee
Kris Kristofferson, Keith Urban, Jamey Johnson and Billy Ray Cyrus have joined the honorary committee of the Waylon Fund to spearhead a TGen diabetes research fund in honor of the late Waylon Jennings. The initiative will raise money to fund diabetes research at Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Waylon died in 2002 of complications from diabetes. TGen worked with his widow, Jessi Colter, and their son, Shooter Jennings, to establish the Waylon Fund to accelerate research into the genetic roots of a disease that afflicts 26 million Americans.

More News
Yes, indeed. Garth Brooks has still got it. I see where 15,322 fans bought tickets to sell out his show at the Calgary Stampede in just 58 seconds. It’s the fastest sellout in the event’s 100-year history.

When Eric Church brings his Blood, Sweat & Beers tour to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on May 5, he will celebrate 25 sold-out dates.

Luke Bryan‘s latest album, Tailgates & Tanlines, has been certified platinum. Yeah!

Did you see the photo of Glee‘s Chord Overstreet with actress Emma Stone? In the last photo I’d seen of him, he was with Taylor Swift. Taylor is cuter, Chord!

Doug Johnson, the Grascals, Tim O’Brien, Scotty Emerick, John and Judy Pennell, Audie Blaylock and others performed a tribute to the late singer-songwriter Harley Allen last week at Nashville’s Station Inn.

Showdog-Universal Music’s Carter’s Chord traveled to the Dominican Republic to shoot their music video for the song “Love a Little Bigger.” I’d love to see this trio of sisters connect with fans big time.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1683600"]Coconut Macaroons.[/news]