(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.)
The CMA last week announced Garth Brooks, Hargus "Pig" Robbins and Connie Smith as this year's inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. This honor, to me, is the highest one a country music star can achieve in their lifetime. And they chose three of the best.
Garth will be inducted as the modern era artist, while Connie will join the Hall of Fame in the veterans era category and Pig will be inducted in the recording and/or touring musician active prior to 1980 category. The latter is awarded every third year in rotation with the non-performer and songwriter categories. (Boy, that last part is a clear as mud.)
Garth burst onto the scene as part of the legendary class of 1989. Never taking baby steps, he reached the epitome of superstar prominence as he took the country music genre to new heights. As a singer-songwriter, his talents stretched to include theatrics and showmanship while performing in venues never used before by country music acts. Yet Garth maintained a down-home way about himself, and his performances never lost sight of his Oklahoma country music roots. And with all of his many accomplishments, Garth admitted he was astounded and honored to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Garth has sold more than 128 million records. The RIAA declared him the "Male Solo Artist of the 20th Century."
Pig Robbins, a much-loved studio musician, has been on the scene for 50 years, playing piano and making the records of country music's best sound even better. Blind since the age of 4, Pig's handicap has never held him back. And he still can't believe he's going to be in the Hall of Fame with his piano-playing hero, the late Floyd Cramer.
"I couldn't believe it when [CMA executive director] Steve Moore called me the other day and informed me that I had been chosen to become one of the new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame," he said at Tuesday's (March 6) press conference in Nashville. "All I could say was, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.' I have always considered myself lucky, and I guess my good luck has struck again. I am so honored."
In 1959, Pig performed on his first major recording, "White Lightning," which became George Jones' first No. 1 hit. That, alone, is a feat to be proud of.
Connie Smith is called "the Rolls Royce of female singers" by WSM-AM/Nashville's Eddie Stubbs. The great Dolly Parton says, "You know, there's really only three female singers in the world -- Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Connie Smith. The rest of us are only pretending."
Connie has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 46 years and sings as great today as she did when she made her first Opry appearance. The Ohio native has five children -- two sons and three daughters. Both sons are ministers. Today, Connie is happily married to country star Marty Stuart. She's the "girl singer" on his television show and is the same beauty she was when I first met her many, many songs ago.
The official inductions will take place during a medallion ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Catching Up With Gloriana
Brothers Tom and Mike Gossin met Rachel Reinert on their first day in Music Town. The brothers had been gigging in Wilmington, N.C., singing at the beach and going to college. Rachel, pursuing her career as a solo act, told the brothers she had a one-bedroom apartment. They had nowhere to live, so they moved in, and the threesome secluded themselves to work on the songs that eventually showed up on their 2009 album, Gloriana.
Gloriana, the band, scored a gold single with "Wild at Heart," and an angel named Taylor Swift chose them as an opening act on her Fearless tour. They were voted breakthrough artist of the year at the 2009 American Music Awards and were named the Academy of Country Music's top new vocal group in 2012. Not bad for a couple of brothers from Utica, N.Y., and a girl who was born in Florida and moved to California and, finally, Nashville for a place to sing.
They call Emblem Music Group/Warner Bros. Records home. They believe in the Warner Music Nashville president John Esposito and the other folks who work there. Their new album, A Thousand Miles Left Behind, will be released later this year and includes "(Kissed You) Good Night" and the foot-stomping "Wanna Take You Home." They were involved in writing all of the songs for the project.
Rachel just returned from Paris for a visit with her pop music boyfriend. (I forgot to get his name.) She no longer lives with Tom and Mike, but the brothers now live with their dad -- the man who turned them on to country music.
Gloriana are a trio now, and do not ask me what happened to the group's fourth member, Cheyenne Kimball, who appeared on the debut album and the Taylor tour. I did not ask, and they did not offer the info. Rumor has it, the band had played a show in Missouri in July, and Cheyenne never returned to the bus after the concert.
At the time, she tweeted, "Fans, I am no longer a part of Gloriana." She never gave an explanation for her departure from the band. They had no idea it was coming. Weird. Freaking weird.
Surprising Bradster the Prankster
The biggest prankster in country music must be Brad Paisley. I'll never forget the time he pulled my skirt up to my upper leg and had me recline on a gurney while his fiddler and drummer -- wearing cowboy boots and a towel -- pushed me across the stage in front of Lonestar at a concert in Indianapolis.
Well, Carrie Underwood didn't do anything that drastic, but she recently got even with Bradster the Prankster. Unbeknownst to him, she drove three hours from Nashville to Knoxville, Tenn., to attend his concert. When Brad began to perform "Remind Me," the duet he and Carrie took to No. 1, he was expecting to see her in a video hologram that's part of his usual concert production. Instead, Carrie paraded onto the stage while a red-faced Brad grinned as she sang her part to perfection. Did Brad speak? I don't think so.
Carrie ain't doing bad these days. Her "Good Girl" single debuted at the top of Billboard's country digital sales chart. Her new album, Blown Away, will be released in May. The gown she wears in the cover photo sort of resembled the cut of Angelina Jolie's Oscar gown. Not as much leg, however.
Congratulations to Kenny Chesney, who just scored another No. 1 single with "Reality," a song he co-wrote with Brett James. Kenny's new album is set for release on June 19. No title yet.
Taylor Swift played the 100th show of her Speak Now World Tour while performing a series of dates in Australia. So far this year, Taylor has grossed more than $35.1 million to top Billboard's latest list of the music world's biggest moneymakers.
Congratulations to Randy Houser and wife Jessa Lee on the March 5 birth of their son, West Yantz Houser. (In case you were wondering, mom's maiden name is Yantz.)
Bubba Strait -- George's songwriter son -- named his son George Harvey Strait. That's a good country name.
"If I Die Young," The Band Perry's smash single, has been certified quadruple platinum for sales of 4 million copies.
Julianne Hough is in New Orleans working on an untitled film. Written and directed by Diablo Cody, the project also features Russell Brand and Holly Hunter.
I'm curious about the new ABC series, Nashville. I sure hope they use Southerners to act like Southerners. There's nothing worse than actors from New York and Hollywood trying to talk Southern slang. Well, except maybe folks from Europe trying to do it.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Soup.