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HOT DISH: Kiss From a Star Followed by Hug From a Legend
Writer Has No Shame in Visiting With NASCAR Great Richard Petty
(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 shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

When I called my North Carolina kin a few weeks ago and told them Keith Urban kissed me on the mouth, they half giggled and said, "She's at it again." But when I called and told them I got a hug from NASCAR legend Richard Petty, the homefolks got stirred up big time.

I explained how NASCAR and country music are partnering up for Sound and Speed, a huge event set for Jan. 13-14, 2006, in Nashville. Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, Trace Adkins, Jo Dee Messina, Diamond Rio, Kenny Rogers and others are joining forces with the Petty family (including King Richard and Kyle) and NASCAR greats Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip and Sterling Marlin to raise money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Fans can mix, mingle, get autographs and have pictures made with drivers and performers, plus attend a concert. Gill and Kyle Petty will host the activities.

The camp is in memory of Adam Petty, Kyle and wife Pattie's son, who lost his life at age 19 in a racing accident. It's located on 72 acres near the Pettys' Randleman, N.C., home. Kids with life-threatening illnesses attend Victory Junction Gang Camp free.

Richard, Kyle and Pattie Petty and 250 other motorcyclists visited Nashville last week during a 10-day trip that took them from Oregon to Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and then over to Indiana.

But back in North Carolina, tobacco-chewing men sitting on nail kegs, soft drink crates and benches at the country store and women under hair dryers at Amy's Beauty Shop on Boone Road are still talking about King Richard hugging me. It is a big deal with the homefolks. And I will have photos for proof!

I Laughed 'Til I Cried With Tom T.

Tom T. Hall wrote songs you can't forget. He wrote masterpieces like "Homecoming," "Ballad of Forty Dollars," "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died," "(Old Dogs-Children and) Watermelon Wine," "Little Bitty" and the ever so wonderful "I Love."

Superstar Martina McBride, making her first appearance since the June birth of her third daughter, Ava, and looking as thin and beautiful as ever, performed Tom T.'s best-known composition, "Harper Valley P.T.A." A No. 1 hit on the pop and country charts by Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, the song became a movie title and TV sitcom starring Barbara Eden.

Following 10 years of retirement spent picking bluegrass and tomatoes, Tom T. was asked, urged, cajoled and begged to be the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's artist-in-residence and to perform weekly shows there during the month of August. He finally agreed to three, not four, shows. I attended his first last week and have never laughed as much in my life. His best friend, Ralph Emery, whom he golfs with twice weekly, remarked that he knew Tom T. as a great songwriter, singer and storyteller but did not know he was a stand-up comedian. The man was hilarious.

One story Tom T. shared had to do with his very last performance that took place at the Ohio State Fair. He was booked for the afternoon show, and Clint Black was booked that night. His band arrived there on a tour bus, but Tom T. took a plane, rented a car and then bought a ticket to the fair. Hanging out backstage, a young man approached him and said, "Mr. Hall, you need to move your bus."

Looking at the parking area, Tom replied, "I don't know how to drive the bus, and besides, there's room enough for at least a dozen buses to park back there."

The young man answered, "Clint Black has 13 buses." Hall said he knew right then he'd retired one day too late.

Enjoying this rare evening of great entertainment were Tom's record producer, Jerry Kennedy, friend Cowboy Jack Clement, booking agent Tandy Rice and his friend, disc jockey Keith Bilbrey. Also attending the event were Hall of Fame members Jo Walker-Meador and Jim Fogelsong and board members Bob McLean, Mike Milom and Paul Corbin. Peter Cooper, music writer for The Tennessean newspaper, produced the show, and Hall of Fame executive director Kyle Young hosted the event when he wasn't splitting his sides or laughing his head off.

Hall's remaining two shows are already sold out.

Around Town and on the Road

I'm sure the Deuces Wild tour -- starring Brooks & Dunn and featuring Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and the fearless Warren Brothers -- will be alcohol free. Did I say that?

The wonderful Catherine Britt is on the road introducing country radio to the voice of Elton John. Before you start with any snide comments, please give a listen to "Where We Both Say Goodbye." Killer country. Catherine and Elton remind me of George and Tammy.

I was royally entertained at the Ryman Auditorium by Patty Loveless, Cherryholmes, Melonie Cannon and the Grascals. An entire night of acoustic music is mighty close to heaven. Patty's eight-piece band featuring twin fiddles is good as it gets.

During the grand opening of his I Love This Bar and Grill eatery in Las Vegas, Toby Keith reiterated that his favorite food on the menu is the fried bologna sandwich. I still don't believe it.

Aug. 30 is the next trial date set for Mindy McCready. Lord only knows what can or will occur in that girl's life between now and then. I found it theatrical that she OD'ed in the lobby of a Florida Holiday Inn where everybody could see her. Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but when a set pattern continues -- one never-ending travesty after another -- it just gets threadbare, worn and old. She's a pretty girl with a great voice who, from day one, has thrown away each and every opportunity presented to her.

Rascal Flatts recently performed its first USO gig entertaining troops in the Persian Gulf.

Continuing the second leg of his 2005 What I Do tour, superstar Alan Jackson is kicking it up a notch. His kinfolks, the Wrights, will continue opening shows, and he's bringing in chart-topping Sara Evans for several dates.

Yes, I am invited to the Terri Clark-Greg Kaczor celebration following their wedding. They are my friends, and I expect to go. Time, date and place are a secret.

Is the great Ray Charles story coming to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for a journey through his life? That's what I hear, and I try to hear everything first.

When somebody told Kenny Chesney that boats were floating on the rivers that surround Heinz Stadium for his show in Pittsburgh, nosy Kenny had to see everything. So he went out there to check it out, sip a cold one and shake hands with a few of the 54,000-plus friends and neighbors who came to the big show at the big stadium. Think about it: One year ago, Renee Zellweger had never heard of Kenny Chesney. Now she sleeps with him, and it's legal.

The Cowboy rides again. The great George Strait's newest CD Somewhere Down in Texas is 30 days old and already certified platinum. When you do something good and do it right, it comes out on top. Congratulations to George and co-producer Tony Brown.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pineapple Cake.
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