(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 can barely remember when I started winding up an old battery Victrola upstairs at Grandpa and Grandma Boone's house and listening to early country records. The story songs have stayed with me all my life. The lyrics of songs such as "Frankie and Johnny" start out describing a romance, but then you realize it's really about a romance that's gone terribly wrong.
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and the outcome is revealed in these lyrics:
With a rooty, toot, toot,
Three times she shot.
Right through that hardwood door.
She killed her man,
'Cause he done her wrong.
Country music imitates life. It always has, and it did again on July 4 in Nashville.
My thoughts rushed back to my childhood, sitting on the floor listening to those records, after I heard the tragic news that former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair was dead. Only 36 years old, he was a football hero and a prominent member of the Nashville community.
Also dead was Sahel Kazemi, a 20-year-old waitress who was dating McNair, a married man and father of four sons. Kazemi had some financial and legal problems, but she apparently also suspected McNair was seeing yet another woman.
Police say Kazemi shot McNair four times as he slept on a sofa before shooting herself in the head. She had only recently purchased the gun she used, and when I heard about her body being found at his feet, I could not help but think about these old songs from my childhood -- songs about women who loved men but could not have them.
At the time of the shooting, the world was still reeling and weeping over Michael Jackson, whose life was apparently jerked away by prescription drugs. The Jackson story took up half of the newspaper's front page, and reports of the McNair murder took up the other half. As I got ready to tape another episode of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks, I found myself cooking and humming a tune about a gal named Frankie who killed her man. Once in a while, I'd feel a tear sneaking down my face.
Youngsters like Taylor Swift and Kellie Pickler probably never heard "Frankie and Johnny" and other of those old songs of tragedy, such as "Long Black Veil," "Otto Wood" and "The Wreck of the Old 97," but they are the vehicle that launched country music long before the parents of these girls could carry a tune.
They don't write country songs like they used to, but Jamey Johnson's doing a pretty good job of putting truth on paper these days.
Better News About Some of Country's Finest
Congratulations to Brad Paisley for debuting at the top of this week's country albums chart after selling 129,527 copies of American Saturday Night during its first week of release.
ACM entertainer of the year Carrie Underwood is in the process of completing her new album to be released Nov. 3. A new single is expected to hit radio late this summer. She still hasn't decided the album's title, though.
Happy birthday to Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin, who turned 82 last week.
George Strait's new single, "Living for the Night," is from his forthcoming CD, Twang, and it has hit the Top 15 on the country chart in just three weeks. That makes it the fastest-rising single in his career. Strait co-wrote the song with his son Bubba and a guy who has written a few hits for him -- Dean Dillon. (By a few, I'm talking about a list that includes "The Chair," "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her," "Ocean Front Property," "I've Come to Expect It From You," "If You Know Me" and "Easy Come, Easy Go.") The last time George wrote a song for himself was in 1982. That song, "I Can't See Texas From Here," was featured on his debut album. Congratulations to the one and only Cowboy.
Two Country Greats Hospitalized
Ferlin Husky, known for hits such as "Gone" and "Wings of a Dove," has been hospitalized in Nashville for an accelerated heart rate, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The 83-year-old entertainer's condition improved enough last week for him to be moved out of the hospital's critical care unit.
Grand Ole Opry member Mel McDaniel, 66, is still in a Nashville-area hospital after suffering a heart attack in June. His string of hits includes "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On," which hit No. 1 in 1984.
A Final Note
Be sure and watch the new episode of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks featuring my beautiful guest, Whitney Duncan, and the movie, Necessary Roughness. Whitney's latest single is "Skinny Dippin'." Guys, you will wish you'd been there with us in my kitchen, but you can do the next best thing by tuning in Sunday (July 19) at 5:15 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. ET/PT.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pasta Salad.