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HOT DISH: Martina Is a Shining Star
More on Keith Urban, Dixie Chicks, Bon Jovi -- and Roy Acuff
(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.)

It was such a pleasant surprise when I got my November issue of Guideposts magazine and saw my friend, Martina McBride, smiling from the cover. To those who may not be aware, Guideposts was founded by the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and his wife Ruth Stafford Peale. Martina is a perfect cover girl for this magazine.

Parents, grandparents and anyone else: If you're in charge of children, you will want to take them to Martina McBride's Christmas concert if it comes to your area. She's a superstar, but Martina is first and foremost a mom and a wife. You can trust Martina to feature wholesome family entertainment without sass or smut. Her holiday concert is designed to be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Ever since Delaney was born in 1994, she has been Martina's "road daughter." Younger daughters Emma and Ava have grown up in that role, too. The tour bus serves as the family's house on wheels, and Martina works her schedule around her children. Husband John McBride is her sound man, so it's a family affair both on and off the road. These days, John and Martina have a state-of-the-art recording studio near their home in Music City, and they have also opened a music publishing company.

When I first met Martina, she'd just stopped selling T-shirts for Garth Brooks during his tours and had become his opening act. John was Garth's sound engineer.

A native of Sharon, Kan., Martina began her career singing with the Shiffters, her dad Daryl's family band named after their last name, Shiff. After she and John were married, they moved to Wichita, Kan., and Martina performed in clubs, belting out Cyndi Lauper and Madonna songs that she disliked as much as the secondhand smoke in her hair.

The turning point came when her dad called to say he was going to enter a battle of the bands. "Would you like to sing a few songs with us?" he asked. "I'll be there!" she replied.

On the night of the show, John taped Martina's performance while he worked the soundboard. Midway through a Patty Loveless song, she got "a feeling of connection with the audience," she told Guideposts. No, Martina and the band did not win the competition, but John walked away with a cassette of Martina singing country music -- the music she loved. That prompted them to move to Nashville, and I'm glad. Martina is truly a shining star.

It's worth noting that the biggest applause during the CMA Awards show was for Martina's performance of "Anyway." It comes as no surprise that "Anyway" is now the highest-debuting single in her career. The single entered the ever-lovin' country chart at No. 40.

Keith Urban Enjoys Strong Sales While in Recovery

Keith Urban's fans are true blue. While he's in rehab and getting healthy again, Capitol Records went ahead with their plans and released his new album, Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing. Some 270,000 fans bought the CD and allowed him to debut at No. 1 on the country albums chart.

If Keith had been out there promoting the CD, I wonder how many copies would he have sold.

In related news, the Wreckers announced on the Imus in the Morning radio show that they'll open shows for Keith in 2007.

Bon Jovi and Roy Acuff

Boy, am I thrilled that famed country performer Jon Bon Jovi will be the keynote speaker for Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. While Mr. Bon Jovi is in town for the March 4 event, maybe he can come by my house and sing "The Great Speckled Bird" for me.

Speaking of "The Great Speckled Bird," a signature song for the late, great Roy Acuff, it pleased me to pieces after the CMA Awards show when I read an article published by the Courier & Press newspaper in Evansville, Ind. The headline asked, "Whatever Happened to Roy Acuff's Country Music?" Now, that's a question worth considering.

Dixie Chicks' Concert Revenue Grows

I see once again that the Dixie Chicks are not waiting in the welfare line following their performances in Canada. As it turns out, 31,914 fans paid a total of $2,447,055 for concert tickets in Toronto. Another 18,390 paid a total of $847,250 in Ottawa and 11,584 bought $807,762 in tickets in Saskatchewan. Folks like me work all our lives and never see that kind of money, so I'm not worried about the wellbeing of those girls.

Although the Dixie Chicks have stayed away from politics during their concerts, chatty Natalie Maines did throw in a mention during their Nov. 11 show in Tacoma, Wash., when she told the crowd, "Last week's elections left me feeling like Christmas."

Here, There and Everywhere

With "Love You" having just become his second Top 10 single, Jack Ingram's "Wherever You Are" has made the list on the CMT 20 Sexiest Videos of 2006 TV special. My friend, Deborah Honeycutt, and I decided that all Ingram has to do to be the sexiest is to show up.

Aaron Tippin will not spend Thanksgiving with his family this year. He plans to leave the comforts of home to spend the holiday with the troops in Afghanistan during a 10-day visit.

Tracy Lawrence will be in Music Town on Thanksgiving and has designs on cooking some turkeys. The former bad boy is set to fry 100 turkeys for the homeless men, women and children at the Union Mission in Nashville.

The Colgate National Showdown will be held Jan. 25 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. This is the 25th anniversary of the event. Past regional winners include Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Billy Ray Cyrus, Sara Evans, Montgomery Gentry and Martina McBride.

George Strait's Fresh Cut Christmas holiday CD is being sold exclusively at Hallmark stores, but it sold more than 1 million copies in just seven days to become his latest platinum album. By the way, Brad Paisley Christmas is also a great new holiday record for 2006.

Lucky Kentuckians will be treated by Montgomery Gentry, Gary Allan, Styx and Rodney Atkins at Rupp Arena in Lexington on New Year's Eve. No doubt, there will be some serious toasting going on among that crowd.

See this week's Hot Dish Recipe of the Week: Corn Chowder.
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