(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.)
"Celebrities Participate in Steer Riding Contest at Nashville Event," screamed the headline on the Championship Bull Riding (CBR) Web site. The article said country stars would not be competing with the CBR professional riders. Well, I certainly hoped not. CBR pros can't write, sing and play music, and only a few country artists can claim to have any real experience with riding a bull.
And while the music pros weren't riding the huge bulls the CBR pros deal with, they were in a contest to determine who could spend eight seconds riding a steer. Last week's event at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium was one of the many activities coinciding with the 2009 CMA Music Festival. Jack Ingram, Trent Willmon and Jason Meadows were among those accepting the steer riding challenge.
Unfortunately, things didn't turn out as Jack had hoped. In three seconds, he was flat on the floor after being thrown from the steer. As he struggled to catch the breath that had been knocked from him, onlookers doubted he'd even be able to get up.
Jack was taken to a local emergency room where doctors told him he had not sustained any broken bones. He flew home to Austin, Texas. Still, though, he was in some serious pain from the ordeal when I got in touch with him.
"I feel like I've been in a car wreck," he said. "That's my first and last time on a bull." He added, "This job is hazardous enough without adding serious bodily harm."
The CBR was established in 2002 to give riders more opportunities to earn a living riding bulls. CBR rider Cooper Kanngiesser won the big prize during the pro competition in Nashville. In the celebrity steer riding contest, Willmon was declared the winner even though he, too, was thrown.
Country artists are almost always willing to help out a good cause, and $20,000 raised from ticket sales at the Nashville event went to Tough Enough to Wear Pink, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. And that's a very worthy cause.
All I can say, though, is that I thank God that Jack, Trent and Jason weren't injured for life, and I hope the CBR never asks our stars to do anything like this again.
Country Music on Redneck Riviera
There are those who refer to that beautiful strand of white sand along the Gulf of Mexico as the Redneck Riviera because so many Southerners vacation there. Call it what you want. The week I spent there with family was heaven on earth.
We drove down I-65 south from Nashville to Montgomery, Ala., and then headed to our destination. The sun was still shining as we unloaded the SUV and took off for Pompano Joe's on the Gulf. On a Monday night, the place was packed with sunburned backs and people sucking down beer. We found outside seats, and pretty soon, a real cute dude with way too many tattoos strummed across the strings of a guitar made in Nashville and began to sing the beach anthem, "Margaritaville."
Our loud applause must have clued the singer we'd just arrived from Music City. A good singer, he was also singing great songs like "In Color," "Chicken Fried," "Then" and about a dozen more faves before we got a table. Gilligan's, Hog's Breath, the Back Porch, Goat Feathers, the Red Barn and the Donut Hole -- we hit all the high spots while enjoying a week of fresh seafood. You will hear country music almost everywhere you go on these shores.
Eric Church Hooks First Prize
They were late arriving at the Porter Wagoner Memorial Artists and Angler Fishing Tourney on Percy Priest Lake near Nashville. And by the time they almost overloaded the boat with beer and Jack Daniel's, nobody had high hopes for Eric Church and his motley fishing partners -- ESPN's NASCAR correspondent Marty Smith and champion marksman Bill McGuire -- to catch any fish. As it turned out, the threesome caught 18.43 pounds of bass to win the first prize, and they had photos taken to prove they weren't lying. No doubt, one of those photos will grace the wall of Bass Pro Shop at Opry Mills.
Love and Theft's "Runaway"
When I asked Lyric Street/Carolwood Records exec Doug Howard about the new trio, Love and Theft, he was happy to respond. "Ohhhh," Doug laughed with his Missouri drawl. "I tell you what, after I heard those guys perform their songs in my office, I was afraid to allow them back out on the streets of this town. They were that good and that different, and I didn't want anyone else to hear them." Their first single, "Runaway," is gaining traction at country radio, and their debut album is set to be released on Aug. 25.
For the first time since 1990, Alan Jackson will perform in Europe. His itinerary will take him to Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Fast Ryde is the new duo on the new record label, Republic Nashville. Big Machine/Valory Music Co. boss man Scott Borchetta, who has served up Taylor Swift with finesse and grace, is equally excited over his new act.
Lady Antebellum has doubled its weekly sales since their performance of "I Run To You" on the ACM Awards in April. The band has more than 20 concerts to go on Kenny Chesney's Sun City Carnival tour before it wraps in August.
Singer-songwriter Holly Williams, of course, is the granddaughter of Hank Williams and the daughter of Hank Jr. -- and she's also the spitting image of her beautiful, blonde grandmother, Audrey Williams. Holly will visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for an interview and performance on July 3.
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones and "Rank Stranger" by the Stanley Brothers are among the 25 recordings the Library of Congress recently selected to add to the National Recording Registry.
CMT One Country has partnered with good-hearted Dierks Bentley for his Miles & Music for Kids fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network. Expanding from Nashville to other markets, the motorcycle rides and concerts will also be taking place in Dierks' hometown of Phoenix, as well as Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago. This year's kick-off event is set for Oct. 11 at Nashville's Riverfront Park.
How does Forbes find out how much money the stars make? Who tells them? Since they know that Kenny, Toby and Tim are raking in the dough and how much, why didn't they know Bernie Madoff was stealing?
Stars Joining Mike Snider for Comedy Show
A concert series titled "Pickin' and Grinnin' With Mike Snider: A Grand Ole Comedy Revue" launches in the Opry House's Studio A on Wednesdays through Saturdays from June 25 until July 25. One of the funniest guys in country music, Mike Snider, the pride of Gleason, Tenn., will be telling jokes and stories and picking his banjo. Magician Scott Cantrell will be appearing with him on the shows. Mike says if a joke bombs, he'll ask the magician to make him disappear.
A Perfectly Good Guitar
Rock 'n' rollers smash guitars while country stars play them. With Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Vince Gill and Steve Wariner, I'd place any of these guys against any rock guitarist. Certainly, these guys have as much talent (and a lot more class) as any rocker who ever opened a guitar case.
I say that to say this: I read in the newspaper that NASCAR driver Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway during the first weekend in June. In the victory lane, he slammed the trophy -- a custom-painted Gibson electric guitar -- into the ground. Gibson guitars are tough. When it didn't break, he smashed it again.
When I read this, I thought I would puke. It literally made me sick. Times are hard, and the folks at the Gibson guitar company are kind. That guitar could have been played by a poor kid who might grow up to be the next Brad, Keith, Vince or Steve. But now it's gone, never to be played. And all because a grown man won a race and acted like a spoiled brat.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fresh Strawberry Pie.