(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 do wish all the country fans who watch Rodney Atkins' videos on CMT and listen to his music on the radio could meet this gentle, kind man who is a genuine country star. When he sings about the way of life in a small town or in the country, he's lived it.
Born in East Tennessee, Rodney was a sickly baby when he was adopted from the Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville, Tenn. Two families had already returned him to the home because the burden of taking care of an ill infant was too much for them to handle.
Allan and Margaret Atkins welcomed the baby into their family and never gave a thought about taking him back to the adoption agency. Rodney was their son.
Rodney proudly serves on the board of the National Council for Adoption. Earlier this year, he was named spokesman for the organization. He also works with the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. He's active in his church and in his children's schools.
Looking at Rodney now, it's hard to imagine he ever had a frail day in his life. He stands more than 6 feet tall and has a wife he adores and two beautiful stepdaughters who love him and call him "Big R." And, of course, there's his precious 7-year-old son, Elijah, who was featured in Rodney's video for "Watching You."
Rodney said when he told Elijah he was coming to my house to do CMT's Southern Fried Flicks, he showed him my picture on CMT.com. Elijah looked and said, "Oh, yeah. I know her!" According to Rodney, Elijah enjoys watching the show. (Such a smart, smart child.)
Rodney, wife Tammy Jo and the kids live a simple life in Middle Tennessee. To remain near his family, Rodney has what he describes as a "closet-sized" studio at their house so he doesn't have to leave home when he records. In fact, the only time he's not with his family is when he's on the road. When he was on various tours with Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride and ZZ Top, there were long stretches of time when he was away. For the most part, he can work mostly on weekends these days.
After supper, he and Tammy Jo like to drive down by the creek and talk. That's what they did when the two of them concluded she'd appear in his "Farmer's Daughter" music video. According to Rodney, she said, "After you do all the hay baling and all the work, at the end of the video, you'll need a farmer's daughter to marry." That's when Rodney told her, "That's you, Tammy Jo." Even she couldn't argue with that.
Rodney's relationship with Elijah has been expressed in many ways. I recall seeing him introduce the boy from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as he sang "Watching You," a song he wrote about his son. It's no wonder the single spent an incredible four weeks at No. 1. Rodney's other hits, of course, include "It's America," "Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)," "These Are My People" and "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)."
He and I tried for more than a year to find a date when he could tape Southern Fried Flicks. At one point, we booked the appearance, but he had to cancel when a concert suddenly popped up on his schedule. I was so happy when we confirmed his visit for Oct. 15. I'd prepared a mini-Thanksgiving meal and was waiting for his arrival when I got the news that his beloved father-in-law had passed away that morning.
"Rodney says you and he have tried so long to get together for the show, he's coming on out for an hour and tape it," one of his business associates told me. My heart almost stopped. Of course, I wanted him to come, but I knew his family needed him on this sad occasion.
Pro that he is, though, Rodney arrived at my house and went through the motions. He smiled for the camera, ate the food and was so nice. After we took photos, I held his hands and told him I knew what he was going through. We had a moment of silence, and I told him to give our love to Tammy Jo and the family. I told Rodney I was placing him in God's hands to help him through the days that followed.
Look for Rodney on Southern Fried Flicks on Nov. 21. Don't forget that newcomer Brett Eldredge and the movie, Gremlins, will be on the show airing Saturday (Oct. 30) at 8 p.m. ET/PT. For all of you who called and asked, Nov. 6 is the date to see Jamey Johnson's visit to my kitchen.
Bacon, Eggs, Coffee, Toast and Alison
Last week, Alison Krauss drove her son to school and then drove herself and a pound of bacon to my kitchen where I cooked breakfast for the two of us. One of the busiest singers around, I was proud Alison took time to stop by and visit. Nobody sings better, and nobody is more fun than the girl from Illinois who can also play the daylights out of a fiddle. And I am the lucky one who can truthfully call Alison my friend. I am blessed.
Miranda, Loretta and Garth
Loretta Lynn says Miranda was crying so hard in the studio, she didn't think the sassy Texan could finish her part when the two of them recorded "Coal Miner's Daughter" with Sheryl Crow for the album, Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn.
Here's hoping Miranda and Sheryl can sing the classic song on the CMA Awards without crying. I'm sure I'll bawl my brains out. I've loved Loretta Lynn for 50 years.
And did you know it took Loretta to convince Garth Brooks to finally sing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium? For the recent tribute concert celebrating her 50th anniversary as a recording artist, she asked Garth to sing "After the Fire Is Gone" with her. Since it was Loretta, he agreed to sing.
Considering all the places he performed when he was touring, it's hard to believe Garth never sang at the Ryman. Because of Hank Williams and all the legends who performed on that stage, Garth had a phobia about it. It was like he didn't think he was good enough. But he was and still is.
Speaking of Garth, he's scheduled a press conference for Thursday (Oct. 28) in Nashville. He'll be joined by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. It'll be interesting to see what this is all about.
Dierks Bentley's fifth annual Miles & Music for Kids motorcycle ride and concert raised more than $250,000 for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. A bevy of 1,200 bikers rode from Columbia, Tenn., to Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville for the concert featuring Dierks, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Del McCoury, Heidi Newfield, Laura Bell Bundy and others.
Jason Aldean donated proceeds from his recent concert in Evansville, Ind., to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. He raised an impressive $132,000, the most ever in the five years he's done an annual show for the charity. Jason had a friend who died in her 20s after battling breast cancer.
The grand opening of the Darryl Worley Cancer Treatment Center takes place Nov. 3 in Savannah, Tenn. In recent years, Darryl has dedicated money raised at his annual Tennessee River Run festival to help build the center.
Brad Paisley has signed his first major book deal, The Diary of a Player. It has to be the story of a guitar man. Brad is not a drinker, a doper or a smoker, but he's a heck of a player -- a guitar player, that is. More than 35,000 fans turned out in Gulf Shores, Ala., for Brad's recent concert to promote tourism along the Gulf Coast.
Nov. 16 is a red letter day for Keith Urban fans. That's the date his new album, Get Closer, will be released. Keith's marriage to actress Nicole Kidman is a real blessing. His albums are chock-full of love these days, thanks to Nicole and their precious little one, Sunday Rose.
CMA Country Christmas, an ABC special airing Nov. 29, will feature Sheryl Crow, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Rascal Flatts, Reba, LeAnn Rimes, Darius Rucker and Sugarland.
Kenny Chesney has released "Somewhere With You" as the second single from his Hemingway's Whiskey album. Kenny says the song is different from any he's ever done.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Green Pea Salad.