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HOT DISH: No CMA Awards Performance for Dierks Bentley
Socializing at the Hall of Fame and Remembering Porter Wagoner
(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 hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)

Dierks Bentley's "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)" is hovering near the top of the country singles chart -- and his Long Trip Alone is up for album of the year honors at the CMA Awards -- yet he's not performing on Wednesday's (Nov. 7) awards show. That makes no sense whatsoever to me. Does it make sense to you?

I was advised on Halloween that Dierks will be a presenter at the show. Well, la dee-dee, that's better than nothing, I reckon. Also on Halloween, I learned that ABC-TV stars James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim) and Kate Walsh will serve as segment hosts on the awards show. Denton and Williams-Paisley are perfect for the gig since James is from Goodlettsville, Tenn., near Nashville, and Kim (aka Mrs. Brad Paisley) resides in Franklin, Tenn. Walsh used to be on Grey's Anatomy but now stars on another ABC show, Private Practice. Neither of these shows has zilch to do with country music or the awards, but Walsh's participation in the awards ceremony doesn't come as a surprise to me. After all, ABC is broadcasting this year's awards show.

Hall of Fame Hobnobbing

Who'd ever dream that Caswell County, N.C., born and bred Hazel Smith would be sitting and sipping and chatting at a tiny round table at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with Chet Flippo, Dan Rogers and Dierks Bentley while Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts Joe Don Rooney and CMA exec Tammy Genovese paraded around the room? This miracle occurred Oct. 28, the night Ralph Emery, Vince Gill and Mel Tillis were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the annual medallion ceremony.

When I am blessed to attend one of these special events, I am so thankful Vince, Ralph and Mel can smile and say, "Howdy, Hazel," simply because our lives are held together by a common bond which is both perfect and wonderful -- country music, the greatest music on the planet.

Hall of Fame member E.W. "Bud" Wendell placed the Hall of Fame medallion around Emery's neck and called him "a giant in this industry." Raul Malo, the Gaither Vocal Band, Con Hunley and Ray Stevens honored him beautifully in song.

Bill Anderson presented plumb perfect Vince Gill with his medallion and told him, "You've earned it." Vince, the most loved person in country music, was saluted by having his songs performed by Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Michael McDonald, Guy Clark and Big Al Anderson.

Tillis was presented his medallion by Little Jimmy Dickens, who stood on a box and said, "When Mel steps on a stage, he upgrades country music." One of the greats -- Bobby Bare -- honored Tillis with "Detroit City," and Kenny Rogers followed with an awesome performance of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town." Mel's daughter, Pam Tillis, and Dierks Bentley closed the segment.

Just so you fans will know how serious Dierks Bentley is about country music, he rode all night without sleep so he could proudly honor Mel at the Hall of Fame ceremony.

As has become a tradition, the ceremony opened with Randy Scruggs playing "Amazing Grace" on acoustic guitar and closed with the entire audience singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." I am so proud to be a small part of this business that is not afraid or ashamed to sing songs with a heavenly message.

Remembering Porter Wagoner

The Hall of Fame induction and medallion ceremony was one of the classic country music events, but all of us were saddened when we learned that Porter Wagoner had passed away at 8:25 p.m. that evening. Porter, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, had planned to attend this year's ceremony. The 80-year-old native of West Plains, Mo., was hospitalized on Oct. 15, diagnosed with lung cancer and released to hospice care on Oct. 26.

Porter made his last appearance on the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 29. His daughter, Debra, talked with my CMT producer, Shane Caldwell, on Oct. 11 and said her daddy wanted to appear on CMT's Southern Fried Flicks, the television show I host. That surely speaks volumes for Porter's work ethic. He wanted to work until the end. May God rest his soul.

Porter's funeral was held at the Grand Ole Opry House, where he performed every Friday and Saturday night dressed in his rhinestone covered suits emblazoned with a wagon wheel and a great big "HI!" written inside the lining of his coat that he'd open for the fans to enjoy. I attended the service with my son, Terry Smith of the Grascals. My eyes welled up with tears when I saw one of the floral arrangements -- a wagon wheel with one of the spokes missing. Until Terry told me, I had no idea that his band had sent it.

The show must go on -- and it will -- but Porter will be remembered and missed.

Carrie Underwood Sells Some CDs

When the smoke was cleared and all the numbers were counted, SoundScan reported that Carrie Underwood's new CD, Carnival Ride, sold 527,101 copies during its first week of release to place the American Idol queen at No. 1 on Billboard country albums chart and the Billboard 200 pop chart. It sets a record as the highest first week sales in SoundScan history for a sophomore country album, and it also gives her the highest selling debut week of any female artist in 2007. Her digital sales soared to 44,928 in the first week, the largest country debut in digital album chart history.

Just so you know, Rascal Flatts' sales debut a few weeks ago was 546,505, the highest so far in 2007. Also of interest, Raising Sand, the new album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, sold 112,308 units in its first week out. This doesn't seem like we're falling behind in CD sales, does it? By the way, when Carrie was told her numbers, she acknowledged the people who are truly responsible for her success and said, "I want to share a sincere thanks to all my fans for supporting me over the past two years and for making my dreams come true."

Chatting With Brad Paisley

Had a wonderful chat with my dear friend, Brad Paisley. He was cruising from north of Los Angeles to Universal City, where wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley was working on a TV program, when he called from a traffic jam.

I was surprised, almost shocked, to learn Brad had not met Hank Williams Jr. before the recent taping of the CMT Giants: Hank Williams Jr. TV special in Los Angeles. Said Brad, "I've been a huge fan of Hank, loved his singing, his playing and especially his songwriting. It was a great way to meet him. So ... when I walked into Hank's dressing room, he smiled and said he was watching TV and heard this real cool guitar music -- girls were wearing bikinis -- and he was sure it was a commercial for Jose Cuervo or whiskey or maybe Miller Lite. But, no, it was for Hershey's."

You might remember that Hershey's is Paisley's tour sponsor.

Lordy Me!

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has signed a new six-year, $67.5 million deal. Gee, that's more than CMT pays me!

Romo has been linked to our very own Carrie Underwood -- along with Sophia Bush, Jessica Simpson and even Britney Spears. Boy, did his taste go way down.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pumpkin Pie.
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