HOT DISH: George Jones’ Death Saddens Country Community

More News About Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley 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

George Jones died Friday (April 26), and I know I should have a lot of things to write about this wonderful man and his incredible career.

But the truth is that I burst into tears when I heard the news, and I’m still in shock. Those of you who know me are aware that Jones was my favorite singer, and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is my favorite song.

Please allow me to collect my thoughts and dry my eyes. My love and prayers go out to his wife Nancy and all of his family. It’s a sad time for country music and country fans, and I’ll write more in my column next week.

In the meantime, here’s the column I intended to run this week.

Willie Nelson Celebrates 80th Birthday

Friends and neighbors, lovers and likers: What a thrill to read about my friend Willie Nelson’s 80th birthday celebration. Willie never has been one to do a small celebration. If you’re gonna do it, do it up right with big-time friends who can pick and sing.

One birthday party isn’t enough for Willie, either. He was in Nashville recently for an appearance on CMT Hot 20 Countdown and to tape CMT Crossroads: Willie Nelson & Friends From Third Man Records. Third Man Records is Jack White’s studio complex, and he introduced the show. As for the friends, they were some of the best — Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Norah Jones, Ashley Monroe, Leon Russell and Neil Young. The unforgettable CMT Crossroads episode is slated to air in late June.

Willie says his birthday is Monday (April 29), although most reference books list it as April 30. As it turns out, he was born just a few minutes before midnight — which seems like an appropriate time for him to make his very first appearance anywhere.

Willie dearly loves his home state of Texas, and he was saddened when he heard about the recent explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Some 14 people were killed in the April 17 accident, including 12 firefighters from five fire departments. The explosion destroyed part of the small town located just down the road from Abbott, Texas, where Willie grew up.

“West is like our backyard,” Willie told CMT. “It’s where I grew up. I rode my bike from Abbott to West and back all the time on that road where all this stuff happened.”

He had already planned to celebrate his birthday with a Sunday (April 28) concert near Austin, so he decided to turn the show into a benefit for the West Fire Department.

With a six-decade career, Willie has a catalog of more than 200 albums to his credit and is a seven-time Grammy winner. He brought pop and country together by writing unforgettable songs like “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and “Hello Walls” by Faron Young. His continued use of the phrase “Outlaw music” was a result of his first album on Columbia Records in 1975 titled Red Headed Stranger. After years of relative obscurity, the album catapulted his success around the world.

And at age 80, he’s still hot.

Brad Paisley Paints for Haiti Mission
Brad Paisley is a famous artist in the music world, but he used another artistic talent recently to raise money for Life Beyond, a nonprofit medical mission assisting needy residents in Haiti. During a fundraiser in Franklin, Tenn., Brad stood off to the side and painted a landscape that was auctioned for $15,000. The painting titled Same Moon showed the Nashville skyline on one side and Haiti on the other.

Life Beyond, which focuses on basic human needs such as health care, clean water and food, evolved from the mission work of Nashville surgeon Dr. David Vanderpool and his family. He and his wife are selling their home and belongings to move to Haiti to work.

Water filtration systems, backed by Brad and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, now filter approximately 50,000 gallons a day. They’ve visited Haiti to see Life Beyond’s work. Dr. Vanderpool says of the Paisleys, “They have shown enormous generosity.”

Brad is one of the nicest young men in all of show biz. When he called me last week, I wept. Many of you are aware that I’ve been sick and hospitalized. Finally, I’m home and I expect Brad to come and see me soon. It’s precious to have a friend like Brad who never forgets.

Look for Brad on the season finale of ABC’s Nashville along with Kimberly in her recurring role. The show airs May 22.

Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum Heading to the Big Apple
Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum are heading to the Big Apple to launch the release of their new albums.

Kenny is up first with Tuesday’s (April 30) arrival of Life on a Rock. He’ll start the day off with a performance on Good Morning America before appearing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. While he’s in town, he’ll perform Wednesday at the Highline Ballroom for an invitation-only concert for Sirius XM satellite radio to air Saturday (May 4).

Lady A’s Golden will be released on May 7, and they’ll be performing that night at the McKittrick Hotel. The performance will benefit Musicians on Call, which brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. While in New York City, the members of Lady A are planning to visit a pediatric hospital.

See the Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id=”1640324″]A Family Chow.[/news]