(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.)
Barry Gibb, eldest of the singing brothers of Bee Gees fame, bought Johnny and June Carter Cash's estate in Hendersonville, Tenn., and became everybody's neighbor right off the bat by performing at a May 1 fundraiser to help out tornado victims in Sumner County.
Backstage at the concert at the high school football stadium, friends and neighbors said howdy to the newcomer. "He's just as nice as can be," someone giggled. "Barry shook everybody's hand," said another. He sang three songs, including a duet with singer Kelly Lang on "Islands in the Stream," the 1983 hit he and his brothers wrote for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Besides Lang and Gibb, the other performers included the Oak Ridge Boys, Gary Allan, the Whites, Connie Smith, the Del McCoury Band, Lorrie Morgan and Ricky Skaggs.
Earlier in the day, he took himself down to the old RCA Studio B where a Roy Orbison tribute proclamation was made by Nashville's sunglasses-wearing mayor, Bill Purcell. Barbara Orbison, widow of the singer, is campaigning to get her husband's likeness on a postage stamp. Longtime Orbison fan Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame came to the Music Row event with his manager, Clarence Spalding. Dunn allowed, "Roy influenced a lot of us who sing high."
Gibb, who also sings high, plans to live in the Cash house this summer during renovation. "There's a lot of work to be done on the place," he said, smiling. He estimates the repairs will take a year to complete.
The 59-year-old Gibb proved he wants to be a good neighbor by attending the two events. And he also proved he wants to be a Nashvillian when he admitted he wants to record a country album using local musicians, engineers and recording studios. Has the Bee Gee come home?
Somebody, please tell Barry his next door neighbor, Connie Smith, is one of the all-time great singers in any genre.
Brooks & Dunn Partners With Toyota
The Brooks & Dunn hot air balloon was parked in the front yard to welcome invited guests to Ronnie Dunn's estate that's beautifully situated off the road near Nashville. We drove past the perfectly landscaped family residence and through fenced acreage to Ronnie's famous "barn" that is truly an upscale house.
The lavish event was scheduled to announce Toyota's sponsorship of Brooks & Dunn's Long Haul tour and to unveil the latest models in the Toyota Tundra truck series. The partnership marks the first time Toyota has aligned itself with country music.
Ronnie and partner Kix Brooks treated the crowd to acoustic versions of "Red Dirt Road," "That's What It's All About," "Play Something Country" and "My Maria." The four songs were reassuring: The most awarded duo in the history of country music still want to get it done.
Yes, of course, we got to eat. Barbecue pork and chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob, salad, rolls and pie. It was a day to remember, and I am happy I was a part of Brooks & Dunn getting it done yet another time.
Toby and Joe
Through the years, I've learned sidemen make the music and tell the truth. So I asked Joe Nichols' guitar player, a 12-year veteran named Brian Spradlin, "What's it like out there on the road opening shows for Toby Keith?"
A smile crossed his face as he replied, "Couldn't be better. Toby is nice as can be. He and his entire band and crew have treated us so special. When we get as big as Toby, I hope to see Joe and us have the same kind of people he's got."
Well, now, since we've set that straight, let's have a big hand for my friend, Toby Keith. And let's have another big hand for the only singer on the road who has chops equal to Merle Haggard and George Jones -- Joe Nichols!
Call him Lucky Green! Remember when Pat Green started hanging around Nashville? He showed up at a Kenny Chesney concert in Louisville and opened shows the next year for him. Well, Pat recently went pro-am golfing with Kevin Costner, Wayne Gretzky, John Elway and other celebrities. "Lucky" and golf pro Matt Weibring were the champs of the BMW Charity Pro-Am tourney at The Cliffs in Greenville, S.C. "Lucky" Green was handed the keys to a brand new BMW Z4 Roadster. I need one of those! I need one, big time!
Bits and Morsels
Mary Chapin Carpenter told The Associated Press that depression caused her a lot of pain. To hide her feelings, she was quiet. Even family and friends assumed she was just shy. The worst part was being afraid someone would find out. She's under doctor's care.
Record producer Rick Rubin said that the day after June Carter Cash passed away, Johnny (Cash) said, "I need to have something to do every day. Otherwise, there's no reason for me to be here." Rubin, who produced Cash's series of albums for American Recordings, kept a recording engineer on hand 24/7 so when John was able, they'd work. The sessions resulted in American V: A Hundred Highways. Set for release on July 4, the album includes the last song Cash wrote, "Like the 309."
Always There, Hallmark's first Mother's Day CD, features one of country music's favorite mamas, Sara Evans. Sara, husband Craig Schelske and their three children enjoy life on the road traveling in their kid-friendly home on wheels.
American Idol champ Carrie Underwood celebrated her No. 1 success with the writers of "Jesus, Take the Wheel" at ASCAP. Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson, the three songwriters, gave Carrie all kinds of credit for her performance of the song -- and so do I. However, I give a whole heap of credit to RCA Label Group senior VP of A&R Renee Bell and her incredible staff for finding the song and matching it up with Carrie. The TV show named her a winner, but the song made her a star.
I was sure cute Kellie Pickler, the 19-year-old small-town girl from North Carolina, would follow Carrie's lead on Idol, but she was voted off the show. The reason? Her performance of an Andrea Bocelli song! Opera! Loretta Lynn could not sing opera, and neither could Kellie Pickler. Hopefully, Kellie will get signed to a record deal. I stopped watching the show when she lost.
Congrats to Chris Young, the Nashville Star winner. Signed to the RCA label, he's a cutie and can sing. And he walked away with the keys to a brand new truck.
Go indie! Little Big Town celebrated a gold CD for their Equity Music Group debut, The Road to Here. Go Equity!
Diamond Rio's Team Rio raised more than $50,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, thanks to magic fingers Jimmy Olander, Rio's guitarist. Jimmy and a host of volunteer runners and walkers participated in Nashville's Country Music Marathon and Half-Marathon and collected pledges for the charity.
Emerson Drive helped raise more than $5,000 for the Child Abuse Prevention Fund that serves the Milwaukee area.
Just when things look perfect in the music business, there's another blooming merger! I'm so tired of it. Now there's talk of Warner Bros. merging with EMI. They will not let well enough alone! Now that the WB has merged with UPN, we won't know until May 15 if Reba, the TV sitcom starring our own Reba McEntire, will remain on the air. According to Reba, "With television, you never know." According to me, "It sucks!"
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chocolate Fudge Pie.