HOT DISH: Billy Bob Thornton, Kinky Friedman Collaborate on New Book

More News About Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Other Country Stars

(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.)

Up early one morning recently, I checked out Imus in the Morning to see what host Don Imus was up to. And there was my longtime friend Kinky Friedman and one of his friends, Billy Bob Thornton.

As usual, Kinky was every bit the Texan with his well-fitted black hat, jacket, pants and shirt with white piping. He looked smashing. I thought to myself, “Ashton Kutcher could have taken styling lessons from Kinky for the ACM Awards and would not have looked so tacky and dowdy in his too-big hat and too-big slouchy red jacket that he must have purchased off the rack at Goodwill.”

Billy Bob has a way of talking that gets right to the point.

“Why is it nobody in Nashville writes ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ anymore?” he asked.

I shouldn’t speculate on why they don’t write songs like that these days, but the answer to Billy Bob’s question centers around Kris Kristofferson, the song’s writer. He is the son of a U.S. Air Force major general who wanted no part of this hillbilly town for himself, his wife or his family.

Kris had a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England and earned a master’s degree in English. He began writing songs in college, but he graduated and joined the U.S. Army, going to jump school and becoming a pilot stationed in Germany.

During a two-week furlough in 1965, Kris returned to the U.S. He and some of his songs came to Nashville, where he met Johnny Cash. He became an English literature instructor at West Point and continued songwriting. An Army friend suggested Kris send some of his songs to his cousin, Marijohn Wilkin, a songwriter and music publisher in Nashville. When she answered, Kris quit teaching and moved to Nashville. He got a job as a janitor at Columbia Records and began working at the Tally Ho Tavern, a bar on Music Row where Curb Records is located today.

Nearly every song Kris had written up until that time topped the charts, with several crossing over to pop radio. Then he headed to Hollywood, where he co-starred with Barbra Streisand in the hit movie, A Star Is Born. If Kris wrote another major hit after that, I do not recall it. However, he saw chart action again in the mid-’80s when he joined forces with pals Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings for the Highwaymen. But he made movies right and left, got nominated for stuff and made a freight train full of money. He and his attorney wife and family reside in Maui.

Billy Bob and Kinky have co-authored a memoir, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghost. Billy Bob says he’s talked out his life story the way Southerners do. He recorded it in his home studio. (He lives in Beverly Hills in a house previously owned by guitarist Slash.) Pulling up some comfortable chairs, with Kinky and others as an audience, he poured out his hillbilly soul, using his gift for gab to blend comedy with tragedy (like us Southerners do) to tell his life story from his meager beginnings in rural Arkansas.

Billy Bob could not tell his story without mentioning his former wife, actress Angelina Jolie. Not only did he tell the story, he actually showed it with a homemade video during his Imus in the Morning visit. Seeing Angelina’s luscious, pouty lips all over his mouth, I thought, “Lordy me, that girl is gonna eat his lips off of his face.” But she didn’t. She looked so young and beautiful and happy. Of course, the clothes she was wearing did not favor the red gown, slit from floor to waist, she wore to the Oscars this year. Nobody, but nobody, was as beautiful as she was that night.

The book has got to be the saddest bunch of fun anybody ever has written. Billy Bob writes that he’s afraid of antiques. Explain that!

I loved Billy Bob in Sling Blade. And my dear friends, the late Earl and Louise Scruggs, loved Billy Bob and Angelina when they came to town to visit them.

Taylor Swift Pledges $4 Million to Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Taylor Swift, Billboard‘s woman of the year, is working on a building — the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where country music lives. How can we ever thank this little lady for her $4 million pledge to fund the new education center at the museum?

When I learned of Taylor’s generosity, I called WFMS in Indianapolis, the radio station I’ve worked for the past 16 years, to spread the great news. As usual, I could not hold back my tears. I only wish I was wise enough and knew English well enough to explain what my heart feels.

As Taylor looks ahead, she’s aware that generations to come — including her future children and grandchildren — will learn about country music and those who made it by visiting the museum in Nashville. Thanks, Taylor, for this most generous of gifts. And may God continue to bless you and may you continue to bless our children and all the fans with your music.

Tim McGraw Returns to the Bus Station
It makes me happy that Tim McGraw signed his new contract with Big Machine Records at the Greyhound bus station in Nashville because he rode into Music Town on a bus 23 years ago with nothing but a guitar. Wife Faith Hill and their girls went with Tim to the bus station for the signing with label owner Scott Borchetta.

Tim and producer Bryan Gallimore already have a plethora of tunes recorded. Hits, I’ll bet!

Loretta Lynn Wasn’t Wed at 13
Using my magnifying glass, I could see Loretta Lynn‘s birthdate — April 14, 1932 — on the copy of her birth certificate that appeared in the newspaper. This makes the legendary singer-songwriter 80 years old, not 77, as had been reported.

Why did The Associated Press drag this up after all these years? Was she married at 15 and not 13 like her Coal Miner’s Daughter autobiography read and the Academy Award-winning movie of the same title revealed? Was she the mother of four children not at 18 but at 21? Is this piece of paper anything more than a copy put together for reasons unknown?

I see her mama’s name is listed and signed as Clara Marie Ramey. This naive and wonderful family were uneducated hill people, but her mama knew better than to sign her last name as Ramey — her maiden name — unless someone told her to sign it that way. They just couldn’t let well enough alone. I’d rather have not known about this.

Vince Gill Wants More Country in Country Music
I read an article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette written by Rich Kienzle, the wonderful man of truth, where Vince Gill said he’d like to see country music be more country. Still one of the most-beloved singers in country music, Vince is not the only one who’d like to hear more fiddle and steel and truth in our songs.

Fans like Rich and myself are hungry for great songs like the George Jones classic, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” I cannot recall a bad song by George Jones, and I can’t think of a bad song by my friend Vince Gill, either. Keep ‘em coming.

Keith Urban’s Australian Success
The wonderful Keith Urban debuted at No. 1 on Australia’s Aria album chart with The Story So Far. The album features 19 of Keith’s most popular songs, including 14 of his U.S. No. 1′s.

Busy Keith is currently appearing as a coach on the Australian version of The Voice. He’s enjoying success at the top of the TV ratings where Australian audiences have had the chance to not only witness his high energy guitar playing and hear him sing with the other coaches, they’ve had the opportunity to sing along on nearly every song performed on the show.

Pete, Opry Dan and Brad
Grand Ole Opry general manager Pete Fisher and Opry Dan Rogers went to St. Louis to see Brad Paisley‘s recent concert. Opry Dan says he’s never seen a better concert.

“As we walked up to Brad, he asked me, ‘How’s Hazel?’” Opry Dan told me.

I’ve got no better friends than this.

Lots More News
Oprah Winfrey traveled to Music Town for an in-depth interview with Carrie Underwood and hockey-playing husband Mike Fisher for their first-ever television interview together. The couple talked about how they balance their fast-paced careers. They also took Oprah to a piece of land where they plan to build their dream home.

Lady Antebellum‘s concert appearance in Louisville, Ky., raised $285,000 to benefit Henryville, Ind., a nearby community ravaged by a tornado earlier this year.

Jason Aldean partied with 40,000 fans during two nights of concerts in Atlanta. At one point, he was partying onstage with Ludacris.

“Come Over” is Kenny Chesney‘s latest single from his new album, Welcome to the Fishbowl, set for release June 19. Go get two or three. It’s Kenny. You will need at least two! Radio is calling the single a smash. Kenny and Tim McGraw have wrapped up rehearsals for their Brothers of the Sun tour that kicks off June 2 in Tampa, Fla.

The wonderful threesome known as Gloriana are slated to release their sophomore album, A Thousand Miles Left Behind, on July 31. The band had a hand in writing all 11 tracks.

The CMA Music Festival is adding acoustic country performances during the nightly concerts at LP Field. Don’t you think it would be nice if they used bluegrass — which is also acoustic?

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1685883"]Hamburger Casserole.[/news]