(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.)
Well, it came and went: That time of year. The time I call "push-up bra time." Women push bigger body parts in smaller places during Nashville's week of industry awards than they dare try to do all year long. It wears me plumb out every year, and every year I swear I am not going to strap myself in ever again. But I do.
To the best of my knowledge, the following describes The Week That Was. I enjoyed each and every minute, but, whew, I am glad it's over.
Songwriters Hall of Fame Banquet
Held at the Renaissance Hotel, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame banquet attracted almost 900 people who watched the induction of Vince Gill, Jerry Reed, Gary Burr, Mike Reid and Roger Murrah into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Brad Paisley, writer of "Alcohol" and co-writer of "Mud on the Tires," who was named singer-songwriter of the year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Kudos also go to songwriter of the year Jeffrey Steele. And congrats to Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon, who penned the NSAI's song of the year, Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road."
ASCAP's Connie Bradley sure had the right idea in moving the performing rights organization's awards show to the Ryman Auditorium. Rascal Flatts opened the program with "Had It Not Been," and no matter what you read elsewhere, this is the gospel song the trio performed. ASCAP songwriter of the year Craig Wiseman sang his ASCAP song of the year, "Live Like You Were Dying," which he co-wrote with BMI writer Tim Nichols.
Wearing his "painted-on" blue jeans, white shirt and black hat, Kenny Chesney became the fifth songwriter ever to receive ASCAP's Voice of Music award. Grateful Kenny made a marvelous speech stating he was, first and foremost, a songwriter. The audience responded to Kenny in a positive and loving manner, and he left knowing the entire music business remains behind him 1,000 percent.
Wearing a black pantsuit, a thin and ailing Gretchen Wilson was on voice rest, but she showed up to pick up her awards. Both Jamie O'Neal and Terri Clark, who received an award, wore pantsuits, too. Non-attendee John Rich was named songwriter-artist of the year and offered his acceptance speech via video. Other winners included Brad Paisley, Jimmy Wayne, Darryl Worley, Phil Vassar, and Billy Currington. American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, who attended with RCA senior vice president of A&R Renee Bell, was resplendent in white.
EMI Music Publishing was named publisher of the year for the fifth consecutive year, and the hard working, never lazy head of the Nashville office, Gary Overton, smiled as photographers popped their electronic flashes. Overton is always busy. His writers love him, and Music Row respects him. What ticks me off is when those guys with EMI from New York come to Nashville and go onstage and put their faces in the photos when they have not done diddly squat toward getting songs pitched or recorded or to help writers. The Partner in Music award went to the owners of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. And the absent John Rich, dressed in drag, emulated the ailing Wilson to sing their co-written "Redneck Woman" in a video. It was not a pretty sight.
After the show, my escort, author Robert Hicks, writer of the bestselling novel Widow of the South, and I followed the red carpet across Fourth Avenue where everybody went and got high. (Silly, we went up to the 27th story of BellSouth's "Batman building," the tallest building in Music City. That's as high as we get here.) There was food in some rooms, desserts in other rooms and drinks everywhere. But if you wanted to get higher, there was always the 27th floor.
When BMI salutes their best, they know how to turn their Music Row office into a get-down party. Like ASCAP the night before, BMI named Tim McGraw's smash hit "Live Like You Were Dying" song of the year. The evening's host, BMI's Del Byrant, announced there was a three-way tie for songwriter of the year. One of Music Row's favorite songwriters, Harley Allen, shared the honor with Big & Rich's Big Kenny and Lonestar's Richie McDonald. Big Kenny's pregnant wife picked up his trophy, but like his partner in music the night before, he delivered his acceptance speech by video.
The great Charlie Daniels, accompanied by his beautiful wife, Hazel, was honored as BMI Icon. Travis Tritt and Montgomery Gentry gave Daniels a musical salute of his music: a mix of bluegrass, country, Southern rock, gospel and pop. Other BMI winners Sugarland's Kristian Bush, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Jeff Hanna, Ronnie Bowman, Billy Dean, Paul Overstreet, Ronnie Dean, Bill Anderson and Toby Keith.
By the way, I visited with Toby, and he told me the Paramount film folks allowed him a day off from movie shooting in Atlanta to come to Nashville for the BMI Awards. He also said Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds and Kelly Preston are in the movie. And he says it is a pretty big project. Also, Toby assures me he continues to fly to Oklahoma every weekend on his dime to practice football with his son's team. Toby is serious about football, and so is his boy.
Special BMI guests included the legendary Little Richard (dressed in yellow) and the wonderful Neville Brothers and their family from New Orleans (who lost most of their belongings to Hurricane Katrina). Opry Dan Rogers was my escort to BMI. We enjoyed seeing Scott Hendricks, Lee Roy Parnell, Robert K. Oermann, Carrie Underwood, Joe Galante, guitar man Steve Cropper, John Michael Montgomery, Stephanie Smith, BMI's Perry Howard (son of songwriting legend Harlan Howard), Frances Preston, Don and Charmaine Cook and, of course, the marvelous Travis Tritt, Charlie and Hazel Daniels, David and Susanna Ross and, again, the ever-wonderful Renee Bell.
Love, prayers and sympathy to Curly and Bernice Putman on the passing of their 6-year-old grandson from cancer. My heart aches for you.
Garth Comes Home
The big-eyed audience was fidgeting while they waited for country's biggest star and music's most famous retiree, Garth Brooks. After all, it was the Grand Ole Opry's 80th birthday, and the favorite son had returned home. They were not disappointed. Steve Wariner introduced legends Little Jimmy Dickens, Bill Anderson and Porter Wagoner who were followed by superstar Brooks. There was so much excitement in the air, would have thought it was the second coming ... or maybe the Tennessee Titans had broke their losing streak. Garth added harmony to his three heroes' hits and sang a couple songs with Wariner, including "Longneck Bottle." During his second show, Garth sang his all-time favorite, "The Dance."
Artist Bill Rains was present at the show for the unveiling of a 7-foot, 6-inch bronze statue of Minnie Pearl that he'd created as part of the celebration. The country music humorist will be honored Tuesday (Oct. 25) in her hometown of Centerville, Tenn., when the statue is placed on the east side of the local courthouse. It would have been Minnie's 93rd birthday.
What a thrill it was talking with The Today Show's Willard Scott. He's definitely "one of us," and I told him so. Willard likes Vince Gill and the "older ones," like Little Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagoner. After seeing the beautiful Connie Smith and hearing her angelic vocals, Willard wanted to be her fan club president. Watch out, Marty Stuart.
Good to run into young Josh Turner on the red carpet. I have high hopes for this young man who brought "Long Black Train" to Music Town.
I also took in the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Celebration at the Opry House that featured Larry Sparks, the Osborne Brothers, Melonie Cannon, Ralph Stanley and the Grascals.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Apple Salad.