(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.)
My kitchen will never be the same -- not since Kid Rock showed up there to enjoy chicken parmigiana, green beans, new red potatoes, squash and chocolate cherry trifle. Getting to know the Kid better was unbelievable. Such a nice, kind, sweet guy, one cannot help loving the young man from Detroit who loved Waylon and loves Hank Williams Jr. As a matter of fact, he and Hank just returned from Alabama, where Kid thinks he's found several hundred acres adjoining the 1,200 acres Hank owns. They love to hunt together.
Take minute to learn why he is Kid Rock.
Born Jan. 17, 1971, in the small town of Romeo, Mich., his parents owned horses and a six-acre orchard. Robert James "Bob" Ritchie, the third of four children, picked apples and took care of the horses. His small town life seemed dull, so he became interested in rap music, learned to break dance and began participating in talent shows in Detroit. At the tender age of 11, he joined a break dance crew and taught himself to work a belt-driven turntable. Ritchie DJ'ed during high school for beer and joined Groove Time Productions to perform basement parties for $30 a night. It was then he was given his stage name by clubbers who liked to watch "that white kid rock." Why he's still Kid Rock.
He started rapping, joined a hip-hop group and became friends with producer D-Nice, who eventually invited a rep from Jive Records to see him perform. A demo deal was followed by a record contract when Kid was all of 17, but his parents did not approve. Besides D-Nice, Kid found himself among other rap heavyweights -- Ice Cube, Too Short, Mac Dre and Yo-Yo. He released his debut album in 1990, but Jive did not push the product, so he was released from the contract the following year. Back in Detroit, Kid became friends with Uncle Kracker, who became his DJ until he went solo sometime in 2000.
Kid Rock released his eighth studio album mid November 2010. It was his first without a parental warning sticker. Produced by Rick Rubin, Born Free has edge and swagger and wit like his previous releases, but he does not rap, and there's no metal. The album is Kid looking at the world through the lens of Detroit and reflecting the times -- the economy, people out of work. It features friends like Martina McBride and T.I. on "Care," Sheryl Crow and Bob Seger on "Collide," Zac Brown on "Flying High" and Trace Adkins on "Rock Bottom Blues."
Kid Rock hosted the CMT Music Awards this year for the second time. Wynonna joined him onstage and proved they can both sing stone country. During the commercials, Kid changed clothes more times than Reba used to at her concerts. He wore red britches at the awards show, but he wore bib overalls and a "wife beater" shirt to my house.
I'd always heard he's a steadfast supporter of the U.S. military, but here's a guy who's doing more than waving a flag. As a matter of fact, one of his pals from the service was with him when he came to my house. Without seeking media attention, he has quietly made numerous trips with the USO and on his own to play for the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. His Born Free album was made available to military families to download free.
Kid has partnered with Jim Beam to make large donations to Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to military troops, the families they leave behind and wounded warriors when they return home. He gave proceeds from a concert to families affected by the bombing of the U.S. Cole in 2000.
My Friend, Alison Krauss
Almost as soon as Kid Rock left my house, Alison Krauss waltzed into my kitchen. Her long curls were past her shoulders, and she was wearing one of those dresses that fits skintight. Her waist is small as as Dolly Parton's. Would you believe Dan Tyminski followed Alison into the kitchen. Tyminski admitted he'd heard rumors of my country cooking which enticed him to join Alison for the visit.
Alison's 2007 triumph with Robert Plant, the multiplatinum Raising Sand, provided her with six additional Grammys, bringing her total to 26. That's more than Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand or any other female. Alison and Union Station's new CD, Paper Airplane, sold a whopping 83,000 copies during its first week out and almost that many the second week. This is rare for any artist who doesn't get any significant airplay on mainstream radio.
While Alison was touring with Robert Plant, the other members of Union Station were touring on their own. When the time come to reunite for the new album, some of the songs they'd previously chosen no longer felt right. They tried recording some of them but ended up trashing what they'd done. In the process, for the second time in her life, Alison was hammered by a bout of migraine headaches.
"There's been records that were tough to make, but this one takes the cake," she says.
So Alison visited her songwriting pal, Robert Lee Castleman, who claimed he was in a dry spell and feeling uninspired, too. He had a melody in his head, however. Alison stayed long enough to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them and left. A few hours late Castleman called and said, "I've got it."
"What's it called?" she asked
"'Paper Airplane,'" he replied.
So Robert wrote the song. Alison and Union Station recorded it and some other great material until the album was finished with everyone's picky approval. The tour debuted early this month with two sold-out shows in Louisville, Ky., and they played the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival over the weekend in Manchester, Tenn. They'll be playing around 50 additional dates through the end of September.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Baked Chicken.