(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.)
Can you believe that superstars Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame while Taylor Swift was named the Nashville Songwriters Association International's songwriter/artist of the year? And they were all in the same room! Even without live TV coverage, isn't this right up there with the Emmys and Oscars? I think so. I really do.
And Taylor even performed Alan's masterpiece, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," prompting him to say, "That was the prettiest version I've ever heard." Taylor also received the songwriter/artist of the year award for the fourth time in five years.
In addition to Garth and Alan, this year's Hall of Fame inductees included Allen Shamblin ("The House That Built Me"), John Bettis ("Heartland") and Thom Schuyler ("16th Avenue").
Members of the NSAI voted "If I Die Young," The Band Perry's hit written by Kimberly Perry, as its song of the year. And the songwriter of the year honor went to Chris DuBois, whose credits include Brad Paisley's "Anything Like Me," "Old Alabama" and "Water."
It was a big night in Music Town. The men wore black.
No matter how you count them, there are many more people in Nashville these days than when I first came here in the early '70s. Back then, I knew every studio musician, every road musician and every musician looking for a job by name. I also knew every songwriter and could hum most of their songs because they were hits. Folks like Harlan Howard, Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman and Hank Cochran -- who could not love their rhymes?
How could I forget Shel Silverstein? He'd come by our office and scream his songs to us as he'd strum a guitar. I knew Shel, and nobody like Shel dares to darken the doors of Music Row today because most of the doors are all locked.
Music Row today is more of a business than a musician or songwriter's place to dream, but thank God for the songwriters who still believe in the magic of a great lyric or melody.
Country Stars Lend a Helping Hand
Asleep at the Wheel, the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Lyle Lovett and others raised more than $500,000 for those affected by summer wildfires in Central Texas. Both Willie and Lyle cancelled their previously scheduled appearances to perform at the recent benefit concert in Austin, Texas. And if that isn't love, God didn't make little green apples.
Kellie Pickler's grandmother was her angel. She raised her but died of cancer when Kellie was just 15. So she was on Kellie's mind when she joined Women Rock for the Cure in the fight against breast cancer during the Grand Ole Opry's third annual Opry Goes Pink show. In addition to performing, she flipped the switch on the Opry's barn backdrop, turning it pink for the second show of the night. She donated tickets, backstage passes and autographed items for the event. Another big-hearted country star.
Dierks Bentley hosted his sixth annual Miles & Music for Kids motorcycle ride and concert in Nashville on Oct. 16 and raised $205,000 for the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Eli Young Band, Josh Thompson, Kevin Fowler, Colt Ford and Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley were among those who rode from Columbia, Tenn., to Music Town for the big concert. Dierks Bentley and his friends have big hearts, too.
Martina McBride's Empire State Building Finale
Martina McBride, who is accustomed to traveling aboard a mighty fine Prevost tour bus, took to the rails and rode coast to coast on Amtrak. Leaving Los Angeles, she made 11 stops before reaching New York City, where she turned on pink lights at the Empire State Building to keep America aware that October is breast cancer awareness month.
It still wasn't quite enough for Martina, though. She trekked to the top of famous skyscraper and performed several songs. That had never been done before, so I was told.
Martina's trip coincided with the release of her new album, Eleven.
Some No. 1 Singles to Celebrate
Blake Shelton, hotter than a candle lit on both ends, recently celebrated his fifth consecutive No. 1 single with "God Gave Me You." He's riding high with his first CMA entertainer of the year nomination, and he'll kick off the new year with a 27-city tour with Justin Moore and Dia Frampton. Earlier this year, Blake was Dia's coach on NBC's hit series, The Voice.
And Carrie Underwood and Alabama joined Brad Paisley on the Grand Ole Opry stage last week during a private party to celebrate his two latest No. 1 singles. "Remind Me" was his duet with Carrie, and "Old Alabama" was his collaboration with Alabama founding members Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook.
Craig Campbell Visits My Kitchen
Singer-songwriter Craig Campbell is from Georgia -- just like Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and even Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson and a passel more. I was happy to spend some time with the talented young man from Lyons, Ga., when he recently came to my kitchen to tape an episode of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks.
"Honestly, my life began when mama married my stepdad," he told me. "I learned to sing and play piano in church. I became interested in performing at 15."
His older sister persuaded him to enter the local round of the Jimmy Dean/True Value Country Showdown, and he finished first and won again the next year. Craig formed a band, Out of the Blue, while working as a corrections officer at a Georgia prison. He and his friends then became a house band at a bar and started playing music five or six nights a week. After moving to Nashville in 2002, he was asked to fill in on piano at the Stage, a honky-tonk on Lower Broadway. Halfway through the set, he was hired full time.
Along the way, he met Luke Bryan, who introduced him to several songwriters. Craig sang demos and began writing songs. He started dating Mindy Ellis, began playing piano in her band and married her. For 15 months, he played piano in Tracy Byrd's road band.
In 2008, he met Keith Stegall, who produces Alan Jackson, among others. Craig signed with Bigger Picture Group to work with Keith, who is part owner of the company. Bigger Picture Group introduced Craig with "Family Man" in 2010.
Touring this week in Florida, Alabama and Kentucky, Craig was on Willie Nelson's summer tour and is set to play CMC Rocks the Hunter festival in Australia in March with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Broccoli Cheese Soup.