(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 thousands of bluegrassers show up anywhere, it's a huge deal. Especially if the International Bluegrass Music Association is hosting the event. Pickers pick all night until dawn and then sleep all day.
The best of the best came to Music Town last week, and they did paint the grass blue. There was no champagne, but there were busloads of beer. I'd wager more beer is consumed during the IBMA Festival than any other time of the year in Nashville.
This year was a fun, yet somewhat sad event. Celebrating the 100th birthday of Bill Monroe brought lots of tears mixed with laughter. Told by veteran musicians, stories about Monroe were a perfect complement to a terrific bluegrass event.
Roland White, Vic Jordan and Bill's son James Monroe had some funny recollections to share with the fans. They told about the time they flew to Italy, where Bill ordered lasagna at a restaurant at the airport. Many Italians make lasagna with spinach, so that's exactly what the waiter served him. Bill looked at his plate, called the waiter back to the table and returned the lasagna -- requesting they make it for him without that green stuff. They did.
I remember once Bill stopped by the house and asked, "Got anything to eat?"
"Pie," I said.
"Chocolate and coconut," I replied. "Which do you want?"
"I don't want no chocolate," Bill replied.
That was so typical Bill. He knew which pie he wanted -- and it wasn't chocolate.
When Bill died in 1996, he left a void so huge, it will never be filled. He was a man who developed his own style of music, walked with pride and loved America, the flag and the Lord.
It's almost unbelievable that one person with little or no education could write songs and create a style of music unheard of before. It was the sound of nature -- birds, fox hounds, chickens, kittens, puppies or the running water of a creek. Those sounds that escape most ears were heard and loved by Bill Monroe.
He loved the sound of rain. It was Bill Monroe who taught me to love rain. I'd just had my hair done one day when he came by the house, took my hand and led me to the porch.
"You're messing up my hair," I screeched.
"Look up," he demanded.
"See the raindrops," he said. "See the beauty. So many you cannot count them, but there's no two alike."
Needless to say, my hair was soaked, but I learned a lesson that day. Raindrops, like snowflakes, are all different sizes and shapes. And each one is beautiful. Look up the next time it rains.
The Del McCoury Band helped kick off IBMA's 2011 World of Bluegrass conference on Tuesday (Sept. 27) in the shadow of a spot that Bill Monroe truly loved -- the Ryman Auditorium. Dierks Bentley and Vince Gill, two great country performers who love bluegrass, were Del's special guests. The great Sam Bush and several others stopped by, too. They made it as good as could be.
To each of the fans who showed up for the IBMA events -- including Sabro and Toshio Watanabe from Japan, the musicians in the band from Scotland who are friends of my son and the late Jimmy Campbell's parents who drove down from Detroit -- allow me to thank each of you for coming. I do love the music.
The Night Rascal Flatts Cried
On Tuesday night (Sept. 27), the Grand Ole Opry was rocking with music by Rascal Flatts. Midway through their performance, Vince Gill paraded onstage. The trio and their band were surprised, and the audience was beginning to roar. Gill, who's been known to enjoy a prank, was smiling. Joe Don Rooney thought Vince was trying to be funny when he began talking about a golf game. It seems the guys may owe him $5. Or is it $500?
Getting as serious as he could, though, Vince invited the group to become the next members of the Grand Ole Opry. Joe Don teared up, Gary LeVox wept openly into his hands and Jay DeMarcus did his best to dry tears with the back of his hands.
Opry membership is something Rascal Flatts have always wanted. DeMarcus talked about his folks saving up vacation money just to come to Nashville to sit in the cheap seats at the Opry House and see their heroes.
"Now, 20 years later, to be asked to be a part of it is completely, emotionally overwhelming," he admitted. "I don't even know what to say or do."
Rascal Flatts were not expecting to receive the greatest invitation of their career. Those boys were not ashamed to cry -- and cry, they did. Make the Grand Ole Opry proud, you three.
If You're Going to Pass Out Onstage ...
Randy Travis passed out onstage recently in Fort Worth, Texas, during the Crystal Heart Gala benefiting the local Huguley Memorial Medical Center. Singing to a room filled with doctors, he sure picked a choice place to pass out, I'd say.
A couple of doctors treated Randy on his bus and determined that a combination of dehydration, over-the-counter allergy medications, caffeine and the heat of stage lights caused Randy's problem.
Remembering Johnnie Wright
Less than two weeks ago, I told one of my editors at CMT.com, "We should write an article titled 'The Greatest Love Story in Country Music' about Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright."
My cohort agreed, but Johnnie passed away Tuesday (Sept. 27) at his Nashville-area home. The 97-year-old singer,Wells' husband for 74 years, closed his eyes for good, so the love story will never be written.
Johnnie Wright was a solo artist and part of the duo Johnnie & Jack with the late Jack Anglin. But he was the lifetime husband of Kitty Wells, the Queen of Country Music. Anyone fortunate enough to ever talk with Wells would hear her give Johnnie total credit for her success. He found "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," the song that took her out of the kitchen to the front of the stage. Johnnie even gave Muriel Deason the idea to adopt the professional name of Kitty Wells.
She was already 33 and wasn't really interested in a singing career, but when she was offered $125 to sing the song, she did it. The record sold more than 800,000 copies. Johnnie gave Kitty headline billing on shows even though advisors as influential as Roy Acuff told him a woman should not be allowed a place of such prominence.
As a duo, Johnnie & Jack were recording songs like "Ashes of Love" and "Poison Love" and co-headlining concerts with Kitty. All was well until Anglin was killed in a one-car crash on his way to a funeral for Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes. Anglin was killed on a road between my house and the house of Johnnie and Kitty. It is eerie when I think of it.
Sending love and sympathy to the 92-year old Kitty Wells, who will always be the Queen of Country music to me.
The Eli Young Band's "Crazy Girl" is a Top 10 hit. On Oct. 6, the foursome will hit the road with Dierks Bentley on his Country & Cold Cans tour.
Martina McBride will be in New York City on Oct. 14 to help light up the Empire State Building in pink to call attention to breast cancer awareness month. Martina will then go to the top of the building to perform material from her new album, Eleven. I understand Martina is the first person to sing from the top of this famous building.
Brad Paisley wrapped up his H2O II: Wetter & Wilder tour on Sept. 25 in Raleigh, N.C. During the tour, he played to more than 1 million fans in 52 markets, including five stadiums shows and eight concerts in Europe. Special guests joining Brad onstage for the tour finale included Blake Shelton, Scotty McCreery, Jerrod Niemann, Sunny Sweeney, Edens Edge, the JaneDear Girls and Brett Eldredge.
I heard from my friend Josh Thompson while he was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during CMT on Tour with Luke Bryan and Lee Brice. Josh was loving the tour -- having big fun and seeing the country.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Italian Meat Sauce.