(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.)
"Huckleberry Finn!" Brad Paisley said on my phone answering machine. I'd waited four days for the name of Brad and Kimberly Williams-Paisley's baby, so it was good to hear from him.
Brad's manager, Bill Simmons, called to alert me on Feb. 22 that the baby was born that day at 5 a.m. and weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
"Brad said he'll call you soon," Simmons assured me. He added, "No name yet."
Phone calls and e-mails followed, but not a hint of a name. Arista Nashville vice president of media Allen Brown called to ask, "Did you talk with Brad?"
I cannot tell you how many "Brad's gonna call you" I got.
The next day came. No name. No Brad call. I called Allen back, but he had no additional news to report. I left a plethora of phone numbers as I left Nashville and traveled to Indianapolis to appear at a boat, sport and travel show. The voicemail on Brad's cell phone number was full.
Allen was deluged with phone calls, as was Brad's publicist, Darlene Bieber. Every chance I had, I'd call Nashville. Country fans in Indy kept asking about the baby's name. On the drive back to Tennessee, I began calling again.
Four days later -- on Feb. 26 -- I was being driven to CMT's studio to be a judge on Karaoke Dokey when I got a call from Cindy Spicer of KUSS-FM in San Diego to tell me a fan heard the Paisley baby's name was either William Anthony or Anthony William. "Not true," said Allen when I phoned him.
"Hold on," said Allen as he dialed Darlene, who at that moment was in the process of writing up a press release announcing the baby's name.
"William Huckleberry," Allen said into the phone.
"Say what?!" I screamed back. "Huckleberry Finn or Huckleberry Hound?"
Laughing, Allen swore he did not know. Nor did Darlene.
Still in the limo, I quickly called WFMS-FM in Indianapolis and put it on the air. As soon as I got inside CMT, I called KUSS.
At the Karaoke Dokey taping, the CMT office was buzzing with wannabe singers and an abundance of screamers and clappers -- the usual famed and near-famed. It was a hillbilly zoo. We chose the best contestants singing songs by Tim and Faith and Shania Twain and then went home.
When I returned to my house, my answering machine was buzzing as I reeled into the door shortly after 11 p.m. The message was from Brad.
So here's the scoop:
"Hazel, Brad here. It's getting late. Thought I would get you. Guess you heard the baby's here. He's William Huckleberry Paisley. As in Huckleberry Finn -- a reference to a spirit of adventure I hope he embodies. I can see him now -- out playing in the woods, taking chances. Sorta conjures up ideas of Mark Twain, you know. He's healthy. Doing great. Kim's doing great. We call him Will. Can't wait for you to meet him. Thanks for your calls and good thoughts. I love you."
Well, was I happy to hear from him and learn why he and Kim chose the name. At least Brad was thinking of Mark Twain -- not Shania Twain.
Ellen, Oscar and Me
The world knows Ellen DeGeneres did a bang-up job hosting the Oscars. I was thrilled for Ellen and also for my friend, Karen Killgraff, The Ellen DeGeneres Show's head writer who served as a writer for the Oscars. It made me awfully proud to see Karen's name on the closing credits of the Academy Awards.
The next day, Ellen's talk show was a "best of" episode featuring clips from past programs. One of those clips featured the two of us making sweet potatoes when the cord to the electric mixer was not plugged in. The Oscars on a Sunday and me on a Monday. It's enough to swell my head if I didn't know better.
On a related note, the token Nashvillians -- and, might I add, the most incredibly beautiful couple at this year's Academy Awards -- had to be Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman. It was truly wonderful to view the couple snuggling in the audience.
Joe Nichols Gets Special Request
Remember in April 2005 when Anna Nicole Smith went to the Grand Ole Opry and sat on the front row? Anna loved country music, and that's why she came to Music Town. She asked to go backstage because she wanted to meet her favorite singer, Joe Nichols, who was performing that night.
At the request of Smith's attorney and companion, Howard K. Stern, Joe was asked to sing at her funeral that took place Friday (March 2) in the Bahamas. Joe's special performance included "I'll Wait for You" and Anna Nicole's favorite song, Ferlin Husky's "Wings of a Dove."
Craig Morgan's Party
Everybody and his sister and brother turned out for Craig Morgan's gold album party last week at Judge Bean's barbecue restaurant in Nashville. One of the good guys, my friend Craig knows I had to work that evening. Otherwise, I would have never missed his party. I hear the place was shoulder to shoulder -- barely breathing room -- so it wasn't like I was missed, but I sure missed not being there.
Craig, stay off motorcycles, and go buy your wife that sofa she wants!
One More Grammy Thought
Following the Grammy awards, where the Dixie Chicks were allowed to perform their own song, their CD sales jumped sky high. On the other hand, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, who were not allowed the privilege of singing their own songs, saw less impressive sales increases for their CDs. Imagine the difference in numbers had Carrie and the Flatts been allowed to sing their hits instead of music by Bob Wills and the Eagles. Oh well, you can't cry over spilled milk or a Grammy goof.
No Country in Latest Idol Crop
I will be surprised -- no, shocked is a better word -- if the 2007 crop of American Idol hopefuls get any farther than the competition. There's not a country act in the bunch. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the success of past contestants who sang country music. Carrie Underwood has sold 5 million copies of her first CD, Kellie Pickler's debut album is gold and Bucky Covington is already stirring up a lot of attention with his upcoming Lyric Street CD.
Kellie Pickler Meets Her Idol
If you were traveling anywhere near the Sony BMG building in Nashville early last week and heard a shriek of excitement, it was none other than Kellie Pickler. Sony BMG Nashville chief Joe Galante arranged for Dolly Parton, Kellie's all-time hero, to show up at the RCA compound to surprise RCA's latest prize artist. Yes, Kellie wept, and you could hear her screaming on four floors of the building and down four streets of Music Row.
Not many in this hillbilly town or anyplace else are man enough to walk in Charlie's shoes. The Charlie I speak of is Music Row veteran Charlie Monk. I'm glad the Country Radio Broadcasters' were wise enough to present Monk with their President's Award. Also during CRB's annual banquet, Vince Gill, Billy Currington and Don Schlitz serenaded Kenny Rogers with his hit songs as the recipient of the organization's Career Achievement Award.
Back to Monk, though. There's nobody who likes to joke and tease as much as Charlie. He'll almost lie to get a laugh, but I've also seen him offer his place in a long line to a lady with a cane. Yep, Charlie Monk is a great man. And so is Kenny Rogers.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.