(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.)
I had to turn in my Hot Dish column long before Sunday night's (April 5) Academy of Country Music Awards, but I was happy to see that Brad Paisley and Keith Urban were announced last week as early ACM Award winners. Brad's "Waitin' on a Woman" was named video of the year. He shares the honor with producer Mark Kalbfeld, producer/director Jim Shea and director Peter Tilden. Brad and Keith's performance of "Start a Band" won in the vocal event category. Congratulations to two guys who arrived as pickers and singers and turned into superstars!
Speaking of the ACM, the organization will honor George Strait as its Artist of the Decade during a taping taking place Monday (April 6) in Las Vegas for a May 27 airing on CBS. A-teamers will be on hand to herald George -- friends like Brad, Keith, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Foxx, Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, John Rich and some surprise guests.
Did you know? George has had the same manager, Erv Woolsey, for 29 years. He's remained with MCA Records since he began recording in 1980. Ben Farrell has promoted his tours since day one. George has pretty much kept the same band. Tony Brown has co-produced all of George's records since the movie, Pure Country. Of most importance is the fact that George's wife Norma is always by his side.
Thanks, ACM, for honoring the man who should have been honored many, many songs ago. And thanks, George, for choosing songs that country fans can actually hum!
Steve Martin Returns to Opry Stage
Everything I've read about Steve Martin's May 30 appearance on the Grand Ole Opry says he is making his debut appearance, but I recall him being in Music Town years ago and visiting the Opry stage with his banjo and a bevy of balloons that he twisted and tied to resemble dogs, hats and other objects. He also appeared at the Exit/In club near downtown Nashville that night. My son Billy drove John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to the club where they watched Steve perform with his balloons and banjo.
Steve Martin is great. I'm proud that he will appear on the Opry with McEuen (his friend and producer) along with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Stuart Duncan, Tim O'Brien and others. You can buy Steve's album, The Crow -- New Songs for the Five-String Banjo at Amazon.com. Later this year, it will be available at all music retailers.
Rodney Atkins Busy With Album Launch
Rodney Atkins had four consecutive No. 1 hits on his last CD, If You're Going Through Hell, and he's hoping to have the same kind of success with his new album, It's America. The lead single, also titled "It's America," has already climbed to the Top 5. Like his last album, Rodney recorded this one at his house. His top critic is his wife, Tammy Jo, who has cut-and-dried opinions such as, "Oh, I don't think I'd pursue that anymore" and "You probably shouldn't let anybody hear that."
To help launch the CD's release, Rodney and his band headed to the Stage, a honky-tonk in downtown Nashville, and played some of his new music. Rodney also went to New York City for an appearance on Larry King Live and a performance on Today. With the album finished and summer touring right around the corner, the Atkins family will be spending some time at Disney World.
Jimmy Wayne Inspired by Travis Tritt Hit
Did you hear about the classic Travis Tritt love song, "Anymore" coming on the radio and bringing memories to Jimmy Wayne? "Anymore" was the first song Jimmy ever sang onstage in front of an audience. Jimmy was still a student when a convict from a local prison came to his high school on a Think Smart program. The convict spoke to the students about staying off drugs, then he took a guitar and sang a few songs.
The next day, Jimmy called the prison and spoke to the warden, who allowed him to visit the prison once a week to work with the convict. Meanwhile, the school invited the convict back to perform an hour-long concert. The convict asked Jimmy to come onstage and sing with him. They had learned "Anymore" in the prison yard, and Jimmy made his singing debut shortly afterwards at the Bessemer City High School in Bessemer, N.C.
The RIAA has issued platinum certification for Zac Brown Band's single "Chicken Fried" which has sold over 1 million copies. Congratulations, my friend for the singing, the picking and the chicken.
Craig Morgan has been named celebrity spokesperson for Bush's grillin' beans. Craig will work with Jay Bush and Duke Bush (the latter being the famous golden retriever) in print and electronic ads running through July.
Stokes Nielson of the Lost Trailers and wife Maria will celebrate the Fourth of July with more than fireworks, burgers and franks. The holiday marks the due date of their second child (their first son). Daughter Averly, now 18 months old, will no doubt be mama's little helper with her brother.
The Grascals will travel to Los Angeles to perform at actor Steven Seagal's birthday celebration.
Remembering Hal Durham
Reading former Grand Ole Opry general manager Hal Durham's obituary in the local newspaper made me so sad. I wanted to sit down and write an emotional article, but it wasn't to be. The black-and-white picture of Hal with Bill Monroe on the occasion of Monroe's 50th anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry screamed volumes. Words could not mean nearly as much as the smile on Monroe's face as he held his hands outward to the audience. His hat, suit, tie and WSM radio belt buckle were all in place as he stood beside his friend in 1989. On the last page of the same newspaper section was yet another priceless photo that almost took my breath away. It captured Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff with Hal in 1980 on the Opry's 55th birthday.
These two photos reveal how very much the stars loved Hal. With his deep, friendly voice and ready smile, he kept a family atmosphere backstage. Everybody liked him and was sorry when he retired in 1996. His outstanding choice of Opry members included Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs, the Whites, Reba McEntire and Riders in the Sky. Hal died in his sleep at his home in Cape Coral, Fla., on March 28.
Here's wishing everyone who reads this a very Happy Easter. Dye eggs for the kids and cook for the adults, but don't forget the reason for the season.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: French Coconut Pie.