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HOT DISH: Rich Gets Richer
Former Lonestar Member Is One of Nashville's Hottest Commodities
(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 John Rich first took Gretchen Wilson to Epic Records, he had left the band, Lonestar, and was living on dreams and borrowed time. Today, Rich is hotter than a firecracker lit on both ends.

And Rich must be getting richer than any singer-songwriter on Music Row these days. First, he helped organize the MusikMafia with Wilson and others and teamed up with Big Kenny to form Big & Rich. When they showed up for a concert in Indianapolis in April 2004, John was talking a lot about what they were going to do. "I'm Big, and he's Rich," Big Kenny said to me while eating from the 16-foot Subway sandwich backstage. Today Kenny can say, "I'm Big, and he's rich."

Rich co-wrote a whole bunch of songs for Gretchen's first album, including "Redneck Woman," her debut smash. The record has sold over 4 million copies. He also co-produced and wrote songs for Big & Rich's debut CD, Horse of a Different Color, which is certified double platinum. John is producing Shannon Brown's new album for Warner Bros. and, most likely, wrote some of the songs. He co-wrote Faith Hill's latest smash, "Mississippi Girl," and co-wrote Keith Anderson's debut hit, "Pickin' Wildflowers." Lordy, Lordy, John Rich has also co-produced Gretchen's upcoming album, All Jacked Up, and surely wrote or co-wrote enough of the songs to see zeros all across checks. At the rate he's going, he may be on the pages of Forbes magazine by December.

Hollywood Women and Hillbilly Men

When the news reached fans that Kenny Chesney married Renee Zellweger, tears flowed like April showers from female eyes as they screamed, "What does she want with Kenny?"

Many a rumor and thousands of songs later, word leaked out that Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were spotted together. Public relations people deny they are an item. Don't believe them. They are paid to not tell the truth.

But a lot of people still wonder why Hollywood women are reaching out to hillbilly men?

Brad Paisley and actress wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley (of ABC-TV's According to Jim and the film, Father of the Bride) have a coast-to-coast relationship that works. Whoever is off work for a day or two flies wherever the other is working. In Brad, Kim found a husband who loves her and does not chase other women. That's two good reasons a marriage can work.

Clint Black and Lisa Hartman, married for several years, have a daughter, Lily, and happiness. Lisa, too, has a man who loves her and is not a womanizer.

With Kenny, Renee found a real man who's not afraid of hard work and not ashamed to be what he is: a hillbilly. He's all man, honest as the day is long, has a neat sense of humor and enough money to allow him to quit working if he chooses. But here's a man who adores his fans with a passion, a man who loves eternal. Some of his road crew are buddies from junior high and high school. Hopefully, Renee wanted an honest God-fearing man -- because she sure married one.

Keith Urban is the most humble country male singer I've ever met. Should he and Nicole get anything worked out past hand holding, I imagine she'd enjoy sitting around the house listening to Keith play the guitar. After all, he is one of the finest musicians on the planet. With her past history, meeting a humble male must be head and shoulders above the movie stars she's known who spend a lot of time looking at their image in a mirror. Keith is not only the cutest guy in country music, but he's also the only guy I know who calls his mama in Australia daily. Being a good son sounds like good husband material to me.

Tanya's Reality Show

I understand Tanya Tucker has begun filming her reality show for the TLC channel. Camera crews followed her to a concert in Cummings, Ga., where she did not disappoint. It seems Tanya wasn't the only Tucker girl singing for the Georgia fans. Her 16-year-old daughter, Presley, has grown into quite the beauty and, like her mama, is a singing teenager. Apparently, the TV show is meeting expectations. I heard they're planning 16 shows, sans Tanya's sometimes boyfriend, Jerry Laseter, dad of her young daughter, Layla.

Here, There, Everywhere

Marcel -- a singer-songwriter of one name fame -- penned Josh Gracin's No. 1 hit, "Nothin' to Lose," on Lyric Street Records, where my pal Doug Howard keeps his earphones on while bird-dogging songs. I do believe Marcel, who once recorded for Mercury Records, spilled ink on Lyric Street paper this week. Congratulations to the dude best known right now as Jessica Andrews' boyfriend. You know, Marcel favors Tommy Lee but is cuter and doesn't have as many tattoos.

Speaking of greatness, the great Merle Haggard, Toby Keith and David Allen Coe were among those taping the CMT Outlaws 2005 concert show in L.A. last week. Boy, I started something when I named that music Outlaw Music.

This past week, I taped a two-hour interview with the A&E network for a special about women in country music.

Dick Clark has improved enough from a stroke to return for ABC-TV's upcoming New Year's Eve celebration from Times Square in New York City. However, he'll be joined by a co-host. His partner for confetti at midnight is Ryan Seacrest, who has signed a long-term agreement to host the show.

Singer, songwriter, author and man of many hats -- including Texas gubernatorial candidate -- Kinky Friedman is busy crisscrossing the Lone Star state shaking hands with men and kissing babies' mamas. On a recent visit to a New Orleans casino, however, my longtime friend dropped a quarter in a slot -- and won $45,000. With that kind of luck, Kinky will be Gov. Friedman.

I have not heard "Homegrown Tomatoes" by Guy Clark nearly enough this summer, but I've been eating them like there's no tomorrow.

It is good to hear that Brooks & Dunn continue to meet and greet with fans and pose for photos. It shows they're not getting above their raisings or forgetting who made them the most awarded duo in the history of country music. That is the word I got from their Cincinnati gig.

Painting, dry-walling and all that goes with moving into a Music Row office is going on
while Scott Borchetta and his team that includes John Zarling, Tony Morreale and Denise Roberts get ready for Toby Keith's big label announcement. Stay tuned!

For the first time in its 16-year history, the International Bluegrass Music Association's awards show will take place in Nashville. Scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Ryman Auditorium, it will be the third consecutive year Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs have hosted the show. Performances from outstanding artists will lead up to the announcement of the winners in 17 categories and two Bluegrass Hall of Honor inductees.

Rhonda Vincent is recuperating at home in Missouri following major abdominal surgery. The bluegrass diva was stunned when Dolly Parton dropped by to visit.

Sawyer Brown have something to brag about. After releasing "They Don't Understand," their 50th single for Curb Records, their 21st album, Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, hits stores Tuesday (Aug. 23).

A No. 1 party celebrating Rascal Flatts "Fast Cars and Freedom" took place last week at ASCAP. Incidentally, 23,000 fans turned out to see the trio at the Ohio State Fair, and they played sold-out shows at state fairs in Indiana and Illinois.

The Oak Ridge Boys have been named official musical ambassadors of the National Anthem Project, a music education campaign. If you don't know the lyrics to the national anthem, shame on you. The Oaks aim for kids to learn the words. So should you.

Since my son, Terry, is a member of the Grascals, I feel obliged to tell you the group opened the show for the great Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall in New York City this past week.

The music in the heavenly choir became sweeter last week when two of country's greatest fiddlers took the journey home. Vassar Clements and Rufus Thibodeaux
will be missed.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Taco Appetizer.
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