(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.)
When Wynonna Judd visited my home recently, we had a nice visit and a wonderful time -- even with a kitchen filled with men aiming cameras at us.
I was seated behind the desk in my office when Wy arrived. We hugged, and I asked about the young man who was with her. It was her 16-year-old son, Elijah, who had driven his mom to my house. Now, buddy, that will make you realize how fast time passes. I remember when he was born.
Elijah has his mom's dark eyes -- eyes that show total respect and love for Wynonna. It could come from being home-schooled by his mother or simply being a part of every aspect of her life.
Lordy, did my mind fly. Here stood a young lad who plays baseball and loves all sports. And now he's now just one year younger than Wy was when her mother, Naomi Judd, was dragging her out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m. to make appearances on Ralph Emery's TV show that aired live in Nashville at 6 a.m. After that, they had to rush the 20-plus miles back to Franklin, Tenn., for Wy to get to school on time. Ralph called the duo the Soap Sisters because Naomi made lye soap and delivered it to him on the show.
Yes, Naomi was finagling any and every way she knew how to get attention for herself and her singing daughter. And Wy was just a teenager much like her Elijah and his 14-year old sister, Grace, are now. She liked candy bars, sleeping late, playing her guitar and singing -- an average teen but with a God-given voice like an angel.
Naomi was working as a nurse, emptying bedpans at Williamson County Hospital to support daughters Wy and Ashley. She must have thought "goldmine" or "entertaining would be easier" when she'd hear Wy sing. So Naomi continued to add harmony, a practice she'd started back in Kentucky when Wy got her first guitar at age 12.
That harmony blend was the key to the Judds landing a record deal. They had no demo tape -- or the means to record one -- so Wy played guitar while they sang. They performed "A Mother's Smile" for Joe Galante and others at RCA Records and almost brought the room tears. Just 30 minutes later, the Judds had a record deal. Brent Maher came onboard to produce the girls, and Don Potter, a studio musician, became their guitar player, backing Wy.
Their first single "Had a Dream" peaked at No. 17 on the country chart. But with no bus, no show and no band, the Judds were booked to open for the Statler Brothers in December 1983 at Omaha, Neb., performing in front of 10,000 screaming fans. This was followed by the release of "Mama He's Crazy" and "Why Not Me," which both topped the chart in 1984, and they were honored with a Grammy that year and the following year in the category of best country performance by a duo or group. More awards followed, including the ACM's top vocal duet (1984-1990) and the CMA's top vocal duo (1988-1991).
All the while, Wynonna sang while Naomi, with her 25-inch waist holding up a full skirt over crinoline petticoats, would be prissing, flirting and dancing all over the stage, adding harmony when required. It was said, at times, that Naomi would drive Wy crazy.
Battling hepatitis C, Naomi retired in 1991. Following a 124-date farewell tour, the Judds' curtain fell.
The past two decades have not been easy for Wynonna. She has struggled to maintain her life and career. She's gone through two failed marriages and raised two children on her own. She's fought a weight problem. And she's done the only thing she knows to support herself and her children -- sing.
In 2009, Naomi joined Wynonna at the CMA Music Festival. (That's the event I still call Fan Fair.) Some 50,000 screaming fans welcomed them as they performed "Love Can Build a Bridge." Afterwards, Wynonna and her mom kept thinking about that day. The warm response they received is the reason they decided to do their Last Encore tour in 2010. Fans came out in droves, convincing them to extend the tour into 2011.
I must mention Wy's book, Restless Heart, released earlier this year. Published by Penguin, it's her first work of fiction.
Longtime fan Oprah Winfrey reached out to Wy and Naomi when she formed her own television network. A one-hour television series starring the duo debuts on the network on April 10. Six episodes are definite, and the series may continue airing on Sunday nights. Will they sing? Watch and see! Will Naomi talk? Lord, yes!
I Will Stand by You: Essential Collection, an album set for release on April 5, includes all of the Judds' No. 1 hits and two new tracks -- "Back Home" and "I Will Stand by You." And Wy will record a new solo album for Curb. She told radio programmers during the recent Country Radio Seminar that it's a country record, adding that she'll be coming to them for their help.
Remember what a great country singer Wynonna is? The first time I heard her sing "Mama He's Crazy," my mouth flew open in amazement. I thought I'd never get my mouth closed again. She is the one and only Wy.
I had to ask about what I'd been hearing about her and Highway 101 drummer Cactus Moser. Don't run around telling the preacher and everybody, but I got the skinny straight from Wy in my kitchen over country-style steak and gravy, Sunday potatoes, green beans, ambrosia and peach cobbler.
"Now, Wy, rumor has it Cactus Moser kissed you square in the mouth onstage in Arizona," I said.
"Not a rumor. Right here," she smiled, pointing at her lips. "We've been together 18 months."
So you heard it here, and it ain't no rumor!
It's All in the Movies
Trace Adkins plays a biker in the new Matthew McConaughey movie, The Lincoln Lawyer. And, girls, they tell me Matthew does remove his shirt.
Kix Brooks has completed a small role in the upcoming movie, Thrift Store Cowboy. He'll also have a leading role in The Last Ride. He'll shoot that one in Arizona in May.
Julianne Hough is set to be the love interest of Tom Cruise in his film adaptation of Rock of Ages.
And on TV
If you watched the debut broadcast of Celebrity Apprentice, you know it was men against women -- and the women won. Viewers of the kickoff show at contestant John Rich's Mount Richmore abode in Nashville included Dierks Bentley, Bo Bice, Cowboy Troy, Larry Gatlin, T.G. Sheppard, Two Foot Fred and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, along with Rich's Celebrity Apprentice castmates Meat Loaf and Mark McGrath.
Blake Shelton has agreed to be a coach on NBC's new musical competition series, The Voice. Look for the premiere on April 26. Other judges include Christina Aguilera (sure hope she arrives sober!), Cee Lo Green and Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine.
More News for You
From May 14 until her name is etched in stone, Miranda Lambert will be Mrs. Blake Shelton. That's the date they've set for their wedding.
Speaking of the ever-wonderful Miranda, her opening act on her new tour is Justin Moore. What a show that will be.
Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber will appear with Rascal Flatts in the upcoming video, "That Should Be Me." Flatts lead vocalist Gary LeVox's two daughters, Brittany and Brooklyn, made their TV debut in the video -- or their daddy couldn't come home.
Jason Aldean has extended his My Kinda Party tour into the summer. He's averaged more than 10,000 tickets sold for the past 14 shows, a good indication he's inching toward superstardom and could achieve that status before the leaves change colors this fall. His support acts are Thompson Square and the incredible Chris Young.
Bradley Gaskin, a singer-songwriter from Duck Springs, Ala., stood up on the stage of the Sony Music Nashville show on the General Jackson showboat and got the attention of the crowd attending Country Radio Seminar. With just his voice and guitar, he virtually blew them away with his song, "Mr. Bartender." Is he the last act A&R exec Renee Bell signed before she exited the label? John Rich heard Gaskin's songs on MySpace, took him to Sony -- and we've got another country singer. Praise God!
Montgomery Gentry have signed a recording contract with Average Joe's Entertainment. The award-winning duo will release their first single for the label this spring.
Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Kid Rock, Jimmy Buffett and John Mellencamp will appear at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that runs April 29-May 1 and May 5-8.
Speaking of Kid Rock, do you remember the Hot Dish column I wrote about his Nashville concert? Well, he sent me an e-mail accompanying the article that read, "Awesome. Kid Rock."
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Spaghetti Casserole.