(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.)
Hank Williams Jr. made the pitch that got the ball rolling for the CMT Disaster Relief Concert that takes place Thursday (May 12) to assist tornado victims. Besides Hank, the live 90-minute event will feature Alabama, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw and many others.
Airing live from Nashville at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT, the event will raise awareness and funds for those affected by the recent devastating storms, floods and tornadoes. Presented by CMT and its pro-social initiative, CMT One Country, the concert will also be simulcast on CMT.com.
"I just couldn't believe what I was seeing on TV," Hank said. "Alabama is home. I am really pumped about helping. I want to raise a lot of money, and thanks to my good friends, we are going to be able to make a difference." Hank lived in Alabama for many years, and it's the state where his daddy was born.
CMT president Brian Philips noted that other news from around the world has overshadowed coverage of the destruction here in the U.S.
"CMT's audience is reaching out to us, and to our stars, in desperation," he said. "The other seismic news events of the past few days have had the unintended effect of limiting media coverage of this massive, historic American disaster. Simply put, CMT and our artists will not allow this to happen. We will raise money, and we will shine the brightest possible light on the urgent needs of our courageous neighbors. On behalf of CMT, MTV Networks and Viacom, we strongly urge other organizations to join us in this labor of love."
God bless Hank, Brian and all the artists and other musicians who will be participating in the concert. Most of all, God bless all of you wonderful country fans who are going to help our neighbors who are suffering because of the disaster.
Other Tornado Relief News
Even before the tornadoes ripped through Alabama, Oklahoma natives Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton had already made plans to host a tornado relief concert on May 26 at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Okla. Proceeds will benefit storm victims in Atoka County.
Reba was born in Kiowa, Okla., about 30 miles away from the devastated area. She lives in Nashville but still considers Oklahoma to be her home. Blake was born in Ada, Okla., but now lives in Tishomingo, Okla., less than 50 miles from the border of Atoka County, where storms destroyed many homes, businesses and schools.
And Brad Paisley has already raised his hand and said he will donate all monies generated from digital sales of his current smash, "Old Alabama," to tornado relief efforts in Alabama.
Shania Twain Hosting CMA Music Fest Brunch
Shania Twain went on The Oprah Winfrey Show last week to talk about her new autobiography, From This Moment On, and her upcoming docu-series on Oprah's TV network.
Shania gave the studio audience two-day passes to the upcoming CMA Music Festival in Nashville with accommodations at the Opryland Hotel. Shania will host a private brunch for the audience members.
Will Shania sing at the brunch? Nobody said.
Country Music Expo
It's seldom that I get to go out of town, but I did travel up to Indianapolis recently for the annual WFMS Country Music Expo. Several years ago, I met Keith Urban at an expo, saw Big & Rich perform for the first time and met James Otto there. One year, I interviewed Lee Ann Womack and also realized Brad Paisley would be a superstar. I bought Trisha Yearwood's cookbook there and remember hanging out with George Jones and his beautiful wife. I've enjoyed each and every moment at the expo -- and the 2011 event was just as special.
The Saturday show opened with newcomer Casey James, who did a good job and was followed by Flynnville Train, local boys who had a bevy of fans ready to party with them. After Heidi Newfield's performance, someone said how "real" she was and what a great job she did. And new artist Ashley Gearing is just so cute and performed like a keeper. Ashley had a photo made with yours truly, and I heard it was on her website before I returned to Tennessee.
Kix Brooks closed Saturday's show. He was funny and handsome, wore tight britches and sang and played "Red Dirt Road" -- sans longtime partner Ronnie Dunn.
Sunday was rainy and foggy, but the show must go, so Sunny Sweeney took the stage. She looked tired but still sang like a saint. All the girls said, "James Wesley looks so good and is so nice," and they were correct. Those young girls try to push me away from the young guys, but they cannot push concrete.
Gloriana is such a great little group. There are so many groups these days, but Gloriana can hold their own.
Josh Kelley had to go through hell and high water to get there. First off, he got stuck in Dallas. Then his plane was late. But not to worry. Those Indy men in blue can get the job done. They escorted Josh to the fairgrounds. He bolted onstage and then realized his guitar strap had broken. Now, that could be a problem! Josh, the brother of Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley, is married to actress Katherine Heigl, but none of that helps when you've got a broken guitar strap. Josh, the Georgia country boy that he is, took some duct tape and taped his guitar strap together. And the show did go on.
Sara Evans blew the lid off the place. She looked fantastic and sounded fantastic. Sara had her band with her, so she sang seven or eight songs, smiling and waving all the while. Those fans loved Sara. Of course, Sara sang her latest No. 1 single, "A Little Bit Stronger."
Thompson Square, the sweet little duo that visited my kitchen in April, closed the event with their monster hit, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not." They sure left a sweet taste in everybody's mouth. Several fans told me they knew the duo would be great because they'd heard me talking about them on the radio, read about them on CMT.com and saw them with me in the kitchen on CMT's Southern Fried Flicks. So there you be.
Any time I can hang with the fans of country music, I know I'm supposed to be there. Like me, they love the stars. Nobody on this earth means more to me than the fans of country music. Of course, I love God and my family, but next in line is whoever is humming Jamey Johnson's songs or Sara Evans' songs -- or even your own songs if you write and sing!
And I love Sam, the Indy policeman who was my escort at the expo. I wish I could think of another reason to go up there. He's really cute.
Charley Pride Film Gets Rock Treatment
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is set to star in the upcoming Charley Pride biopic. Terrence Howard was originally slated to portray the Hall of Famer, but other commitments caused the project to be temporarily shelved.
Born in a poor sharecropping family in Sledge, Miss., Charley played pro baseball before setting his sights on country music. He was signed to RCA Records by Chet Atkins and sold more than 70 million albums. He was the CMA's entertainer of the year in 1971, became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Our world-renowned Taylor Swift will be the last person to perform at this year's CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Looking over the star list for June 9-12, I do not recall it ever being bigger or better.
Lee Brice's "Love Like Crazy" was featured at the top of Today host Hoda Kotb's playlist. Hoda shares her Top 5 songs of the week with viewers during the final hour of the morning show she co-hosts with Kathie Lee Gifford. I wonder if Kathie Lee ever recalls her days in the late '70s on Hee Haw Honeys, a spin-off of Hee Haw.
Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood surprised bandmate Hillary Scott with a cake and balloons to celebrate her first ever No. 1 as a songwriter outside her work with the group. Hillary co-wrote Sara Evans' current smash, "A Little Bit Stronger."
I spoke with Alison Krauss last week. She and Union Station were headed to England, returning Friday (May 13). She'll be here at my house to shoot CMT's Southern Fried Flicks in June.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Strawberry Cake.