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HOT DISH: A Whirlwind Tour of 2004
It Was the Year of Toby and Tim, Alan and George, Keith and Gretchen and Kenny
(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

January -- All of Music City was pulling for Tug McGraw, father of superstar, Tim McGraw, who had battled brain cancer. The baseball legend died in his son's arms. ... Vince Gill announced he'd end his 12-year tenure as host of the CMA Awards. ... Much loved songwriter, Max D. Barnes died of complications from pneumonia. ... Singer-songwriter Randy VanWarner died. ... Toby Keith hosted a pre-Super Bowl, CMT Crossroads Special, with an all-star cast including Willie Nelson. ... Brian Philips, EVP/GM, CMT attended.

February -- Off and running, Shania Twain's CD UP! with sales of 10 million made her the only artist in history to have three consecutive Diamond Award albums. ... Kenny Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down CD, first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan sold 550, 581. ... Tim McGraw was signed for a supporting role in the movie Friday Night Lights. ... Grammy Awards smiled on the late June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash, as well as Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs. ... An appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show by moi!

March -- My friend, the hard-working Allen Brown was promoted to Vice President Media, RCA Label Group overseeing staff and artists on RCA, BNA and Arista. ... Country Radio Seminar New Faces show showed off Dierks Bentley, Pat Green, Buddy Jewell, Craig Morgan and Jimmy Wayne. CRS Super Faces show featured Rascal Flatts. ... Big-hearted and plumb perfect Vince Gill returned to Belmont University for celeb basketball game to raise funds for the sports program.

April -- Adding class, star power and country roots, Dolly Parton hosted CMT's Flame Worthy Awards. Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, Rascal Flatts and Shania Twain took home awards, and Reba McEntire was honored with the Johnny Cash Visionary Award. ... 30,000 fans showed up when WFMS radio in Indianapolis celebrated their annual Country Music Expo with a bevy of stars including Wynonna, Clint Black and Big & Rich before anyone had an inkling of who they were or what they do!

May -- Fiddle-playing Dixie Chick, Martie Siedel and hubby Gareth announced the birth of fraternal twins, born on May 3. ... Medallion ceremony was held at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honoring new inductees Carl Smith and the late Floyd Cramer. ... Following the release of the hit single, "Redneck Woman," out of nowhere came Gretchen Wilson with a debut CD Here for the Party selling 227,000 pieces first week. ... Plumb perfect Vince Gill was named president of Country Music Hall of Fame for a third term. ... I can't say or spell his last name. Paul Villadolid was named VP Programming & Development for CMT. ... Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon and Dr. Constance Gee invited me to the snazzy Steeplechase where horses race, women wear hats and Eye saw Kix Brooks, Clarence Spalding, Sony A&R executive producer Mark Wright, Cowboy Jack Clement, William Morris prez Paul Moore and the ever-wonderful Robert Hicks. ... ACM statues were awarded to Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Ray Price.

June -- The wonderful world of Fan Fair was changed to CMA Music Festival. Loyal fans by the thousands converged on Music City with camera in hands, autograph book in backpack and comfy shoes on feet. These true blue fans of country music waited hours in line for a glimpse of and an autograph of their favorite. 132,000 strong bought tickets for the 2004 event, and CBS-TV filmed a special that aired with respectable ratings. ... Terri Clark was inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member. ... Chely Wright departed Vivatone Records over "creative differences." ... Faith Hill headed to Connecticut to act in the movie The Stepford Wives. ... Music Row mourned the passing of the great Ray Charles. Willie Nelson and CMT's Brian Philips attended the funeral service in L.A.

July -- The great Alan Jackson was honored in his hometown of Newnan, Ga., with a dedication ceremony for the Alan Jackson Highway hosted by The Centre for the Performing and Visual Arts. ... Gretchen Wilson's platinum record party for her debut album Here for the Party in the rotunda of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum turned out to be a double-platinum party. ... Kenny Rogers and his wife Wanda became the proud parents of twin boys. ... First week Jimmy Buffett's License to Chill scanned 238,597 copies. ... Jo Dee Messina signed with Dream Artist Management. ... CMT Hot Dish debuted, and I proudly joined the journalism staff of CMT.com. ... Dolly Parton recorded with the Grascals.

August -- Hotter'n a pistol, Tim McGraw's album Live Like You Were Dying sold 765,739 pieces first week out and debuted No. 1 on both country and pop charts. This was McGraw's third No. 1 both country and pop. ... McGraw's record producer, Byron Gallimore, formed a co-publishing agreement with Cal Turner and Daniel Hill of Cal IV Entertainment and Gallimore's Song Garden Music. ... Brooks & Dunn were announced as new hosts for the CMA Awards in November. ... Tim McGraw was in Texas filming Friday Night Lights with Billy Bob Thornton. ... Faith Hill performed 10 - 14 songs in Las Vegas at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, her only solo appearance in 2004. ... Ronnie Dunn, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Jamie O'Neal, Julie Roberts, Steve Azar and Jedd Hughes turned out to help Reba McEntire celebrate her No. 1 single Somebody. ... Sara Evans, hubby Craig Schelske and children Avery and Olivia moved into new digs in Williamson County. ... Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams, also purchased property with a house in Williamson County. ... Alan Jackson released his wonderful CD What I Do. ... Handsome Fletcher Foster was my escort to the party thrown by Leadership Music honoring equally handsome Tony (wow) Brown.

September -- Deana Carter gave birth to a son. ... Both Skeeter Davis and Roy Drusky died. ... Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines gave birth to a second son. ... Doug Howard was elected president of the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy by the board of governors. ... L.E. White, who came to Nashville as a fiddle player with Bill Monroe, died at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn., of a heart attack. The Grammy winning songwriter is best known for "After the Fire Is Gone," a hit for Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty and for Willie Nelson and Tracy Nelson. ... First-time father Cledus T. Judd had a baby daughter. ... I met newcomer Catherine Britt over lunch at the Tin Angel. ... I went to the annual Harvest Jubilee at Dollywood and recommend you attend next year. ... Martina McBride and Gretchen Wilson got stuck in the Huron, S.D., mud -- well, their buses did. ... Kenny Chesney's Music City concert drew fans from all across the country. And they walked in front of cars, ran red lights, wore Kenny T's, wore Kenny hats, love Kenny Chesney. ... Me and cute Charlie Sheen were on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.... The great Willie Nelson hosted the 19th Farm Aid near Seattle.

October -- The CMA announced the 2005 Country Music Awards will take place in New York City at Madison Square Garden (to my sorrow). Kix Brooks, CMA board president, and Trace Adkins, CMA board member, were on hand with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the announcement at New York's City Hall. Sara Evans named her third child Audrey, born on the 5th.... Gary Allan's wife, Angela Herzberg, died at their Hendersonville, Tenn., home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. ... Those really smart folks at Warner Bros. Records have a new comedy imprint, Jack Records, and have signed the crazed and funny Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron "Tater Salad" White, AKA the Blue Collar tour. ... Friday Night Lights, co-starring Tim McGraw, opened in theaters nationwide with a $20.6 million box office tracking. McGraw got big time reviews for his acting performance, and about the same time, it was announced that his 59-city tour with ticket sales of 800,000 yielded $50 million. ... Award winners at IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) were Curly Seckler, the late Bill Vernon, Del McCoury Band, Larry Sparks, Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson & Quick Silver and King Wilkie. The event was hosted by Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski. ... Dolly Parton and the Grascals kicked off a 40-city tour. ... The debut of George Strait's 50 Number Ones scanned 342,969, proving the cowboy still can. ... At an auction, Gretchen Wilson's britches brought $7,700 for meningitis research. ... Willie Nelson will star in the role of Uncle Jesse in the Dukes of Hazzard movie. ... Toby Keith announced a string of I Love This Bar & Grill eateries with the first at Harrah's in Las Vegas. ... Hottie Keith Urban's Be Here CD debuted at No. 1, while his single "Days Go By" was a multi-week No.1.

November -- The Country Music Association honored Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson, Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, and Kris Kristofferson and Jim Foglesong were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Giving birth four weeks earlier, Sara Evans simply blew females away with her svelte figure. ... Continuing with awards, the BMI most-performed song award went to Shania Twain, Toby Keith was BMI's songwriter-artist of the year, Casey Beathard was named country songwriter, BMI Icon recipient was Loretta Lynn and the President's Award went to the retiring Frances Preston. ... ASCAP named Brad Paisley songwriter-artist of the year, songwriter award went to Chris DuBois and Neil Thrasher and Founders Award went to the wonderful Emmylou Harris. ... Josh Turner hosted the Christian Country Music Awards at the Ryman where he was named songwriter of the year, and his self-penned song "Long Black Train" was named song of the year. ... SESAC gave Joe Nichols his first songwriting award for "Cool to Be a Fool." ... Freddie Hart, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver and Dennis Morgan were inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame. ... George Jones' TV special 50 Years of Hits with a ton of guests aired on PBS over Thanksgiving. ... Tim McGraw's Thanksgiving special featuring wife Faith Hill on NBC-TV scored big ratings. ... John Michael Montgomery joined Erv Woolsey for management. ... Brad Paisley's "Mud on the Tires" video debuted with someone you know making mud pies. ... Sony signed Jon Randall. ... Phil Vassar's "In a Real Love" topped the charts. ... Mindy McCready pleaded guilty in Williamson County Court to prescription fraud. She was ordered to serve three years supervised probation, perform 200 hours community service, pay $4,000 fine and have random drug tests.

December -- Trace and Rhonda Adkins named their third daughter, born Dec. 3, Trinity Lee. ... The legendary Martha Carson died. ... Ricky Skaggs and the Whites performed their wonderful Christmas show at the Ryman with third generation White grandkids, Molly and Luke Skaggs and Rachel White. ... Vince Gill and Amy Grant's live Christmas show, Simply Christmas, in San Antonio was audioed/videoed to Baghdad and wherever else American service people are deployed. ... Singing at her Christmas special, Martina McBride announced she was expecting her third child in June. ... Hit songwriter Mack Vickery, who penned "The Fireman" for George Strait, died at his Nashville residence on the 22nd. ... Dixie Chick Emily Robison announced she and hubby singer-songwriter Charlie Robison are expecting twins in April. Let's see, this makes three babies for Emily and Charlie, twins for sister Martie and hubby Gareth and two boys for Natalie Maines and Adrian Pasdar. When they roll down the road again, there'll be seven babies under age 4 on one bus. WOW!

Country music sales are up 14 per cent. Now, that's good news. Pray for the troops.

Have a happy New Year.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Corn Casserole.
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