(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 a couple of excited phone calls from New York last week from friends who had seen 9 to 5: The Musical which officially opened on Broadway this past Thursday (April 30) at the Marquis Theatre. Everybody I talked to was animated and excited.
"An amazing show. Fantastic!" said one. The other allowed, "The actors are unbelievable. Especially Megan Hilty, who is a standout as Dora Lee," the character Dolly Parton played in the 1980 movie that also starred Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Dolly was on the Late Show With David Letterman last week to publicize the musical's opening.
Stephanie J. Block, one of the stars of the Broadway production, has recorded the most incredible version of "I Will Always Love You" with Dolly. Block will include their collaboration on her new album that's scheduled to be released in June.
The Grass Was Blue at MerleFest
If there's one thing better than bluegrass music at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, it's more bluegrass music. Before departing to audition at the Grand Ole Opry in 1939, the creator of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, rehearsed his first Blue Grass Boys band in Asheville, N.C., for six weeks.
Some 60 years later, perfect picking weather brought more than 70,000 bluegrass fans to the Wilkes Community Campus in Wilkesboro, N.C., on April 23-26 for MerleFest 2009. The people came and poured in to see Doc and Richard Watson and guests Linda Ronstadt, Travis Tritt with Jerry Douglas and Emmylou Harris along with great bluegrass music by the Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, the Grascals, Sam Bush, Mountain Heart with Tony Rice, the Waybacks, John Cowan, the SteelDrivers, Dailey & Vincent, the Peter RowanBand and many others. In all, more than 95 acts performed.
Miranda Lambert Just Keeps Rolling
After Reba McEntire's solid performance at the recent Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, Calif., Brad Paisley closed out the Saturday night show. And after Kid Rock's appearance the next night, Kenny Chesney rocked the house.
Lots of female artists performed during the festival, but who got the call to fill in for Sheryl Crow to sing "Picture" with Kid Rock? Answer: Miranda Lambert. I'm told she delivered a great rendition.
In other news about Miranda, a busted knee didn't stop her from joining Chesney as the opening act when his Sun City Carnival Tour opened a few days before they appeared at the Stagecoach event. Miranda apparently sliced her knee on a rock while hog hunting. She won't tell the whole story, but Miranda jokes, "You ought to see the other girl."
Jay DeMarcus Provides Christmas in April
Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus made a special surprise delivery to McGavock High School in Nashville last week. The old piano at McGavock was in shameful disrepair -- with some keys that didn't even work. The music students were in shock when Jay uncovered the brand new baby grand and sat down to sing "Bless the Broken Road."
The donation was made by the Nashville Alliance, a nonprofit organization, through money raised during the annual CMA Music Festival that takes place each summer in Nashville.
"As artists, we donate our time to the CMA Festival so that we're able to give back," DeMarcus said. "Music education was important in my life and, because of that, I'm able to do what I do today."
Pianos were also delivered earlier in the month to three other public schools in the Nashville area.
A Killer Stretch of Road
The Killer is much tamer than he was in his younger days, but the great Jerry Lee Lewis can still pound a rock 'n roll piano. Just help him to the stool, and he will show you how it's done. Jerry Lee was in Music Town last week to be honored by the Tennessee legislature when they voted to name a stretch of road in his honor. The road, located near Memphis, Tenn., runs from the Mississippi state line to Interstate 240.
"It's not every day you get a street named after you," he said. "It's a great honor."
Best Cellars Was a Top Sell
Last week's Best Cellars Dinner in Nashville raised more than $160,000 for the T.J. Martell Foundation in support of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. In attendance for the 10th anniversary sit-down dinner were Martina McBride, Jamey Johnson, Amy Grant, Jay DeMarcus, Heidi Newfield, Big Kenny, Kellie Pickler, Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Michelle Branch, Jake Owen, Sarah Buxton along with singer-actress Chynna Phillips, actor Billy Baldwin and other movers and shakers.
"The Best Cellars Dinner is one of the best events in Music City and has raised more that $1.5 million for cancer research," said Sony Music Entertainment Nashville chairman Joe Galante, who served as co-chair of the fundraiser.
Randy Houser's Cute Video
Have you seen Randy Houser's video of his new single, "Boots On," on CMT.com? It's one of the cutest things I've ever seen. The 4-year-old Drake Dixon playing his guitar and singing with Randy has got to be one of the all-time great videos. By the way, Drake is the son of Nashville songwriter Dillon Dixon.
Reba McEntire is set to return to the Grand Ole Opry stage on May 9. She hasn't performed on the Opry since before her TV sitcom, Reba, and her stint in the Broadway hit, Annie Get Your Gun." Reba's current single, "Strange," is the fastest rising of her illustrious career.
Goodhearted Mac McAnally has pledged to donate all his artist royalties from his new single, "You First," to the Wounded Warriors Project.
Kenny Chesney tapes an episode of Austin City Limits on May 12. He has also invited twins Kate and Kacey Coppola to host the tailgate parties in 11 markets during his current tour.
For years, Tracy Lawrence's mom and dad coaxed him to record a gospel album -- and now has. Tracy says his new album, The Rock, is a representation of where he is today.
Jake Owen has invited fans to celebrate with him at a free event during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. The party at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Brentwood, a Nashville suburb, is set for June 11.
The Voice of the Barroom Has Been Silenced
One of the greatest barroom singer-songwriter's ever, Vern Gosdin, has died. The 74-year-old Alabama native will be long remembered for songs like "Set 'Em Up Joe" and the CMA's 1989 song of the year, "Chiseled in Stone." I saw Vern a month or so ago at the Cracker Barrel in Nashville. He had a slight limp, the result of a stroke sometime back. He died in a Nashville hospital after apparently suffering another stroke.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Squash Casserole.