(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.)
Peyton Manning never said goodbye. Like just about every other football town in this nation, Nashville wanted him on their team. And there are those who say we came awfully close this time. Close, maybe, but not close enough.
Manning was so loyal to the Indianapolis Colts. Before that, he was loyal to the University of Tennessee, his alma mater he served so well and served him so well. Fans were so devoted to him, I wouldn't be surprised if about half of the Tennessee parents named their sons Peyton during his junior and senior year at UT.
The biggest headlines in the Nashville media during the past couple of weeks have been about the star quarterback and the hope he would return to Tennessee to play football. Like letters to Santa, Manning was deluged with offers and promises to convince him to move to Nashville and play for the Tennessee Titans. A Nissan dealership was ready to provide him with a free pickup truck so he wouldn't have to walk. Moon Pies, made in the mountains of Tennessee, would be his for free as long as he lived here. The Shoney's restaurant chain promised pancakes for life.
Tennessee's governor called to welcome Manning. Nashville's mayor was all smiles, too, with a good handshake. Even Grand Ole Opry general manager Pete Fisher offered Manning the Opry stage any time he felt an urge to sing. How could he turn his back on that? He loves to sing and loves the Opry.
The man owns a house near Chattanooga, Tenn. Why? Surely he doesn't just walk out the door and buy a house in an area he doesn't like.
Beyond that, there's his longtime friendship with Kenny Chesney. After all, Kenny could very well be the best friend he has. When Manning married Ashley Thompson in 2001, Kenny was there to sing "Me and You" during the ceremony.
The saddest thing I saw was a photo of 89-year-old Bud Adams, owner of the Titans. The man had offered Manning an easier life than he'd ever dreamed possible, yet he walked away. Bud was disappointed when Manning signed with the Denver Broncos, but so were a lot of people in Music Town.
Lady Antbellum Opening for Springsteen
Lady Antebellum will get a lesson from the Boss when they open for Bruce Springsteen at London's Hyde Park on July 14.
"There's no entertainer we look up to more than him," said Charles Kelley. "I'll be like a little kid at Christmas."
Due to high demand, the trio have been adding dates in larger venues during their current concert tour of the U.S.
Blake Shelton Really Listens
Blake Shelton hears with his ears, eyes, mind and his heart. He's learned when he listens with his heart, he will give solid answers on the hit TV show, The Voice.
And this is all the more reason why country music is happening all around us and all around the world. Unlike other genres, we listen to country music with our hearts, and we keep the music in our hearts. It's all the reason in the world for country music to grow and glow.
I'm so glad Blake and all the other great country artists know how to hear with more than their ears.
By the way, Blake sent home singer Gwen Sebastian, a contestant on The Voice, but has given her a stellar opportunity by adding her to his current tour. Calling her "a star," Blake says, "She has the rare ability to combine power with passion in her singing abilities. Although our journey together has ended on The Voice, it's just beginning in real life. I'm so proud every night to share the stage with her out here on the Well Lit & Amplified tour."
She'll be joining Blake when he performs Sunday night (April 1) on the ACM Awards airing from Las Vegas on CBS.
Speaking of the ACM Awards
Since I've mentioned the ACM Awards, I should point out that Kenny Chesney has been chosen to receive the Academy of Country Music's Crystal Milestone Award. The honor celebrates his incredible touring success, with more than 10.5 million tickets sold on his 11 national tours.
The Crystal Milestone honor will be presented during a special ceremony in Nashville later this year. In the meantime, Kenny will be performing on Sunday's ACM Awards, where he leads the field with nine nominations, including one for entertainer of the year, a category he has won four times since 2004.
The awards show will also feature performances by Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Sara Evans, Toby Keith, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Chris Young. Presenters will include 2 Broke Girls actress Beth Behrs and entertainment journalist Nancy O'Dell.
Taylor Swift, who's also nominated for entertainer of the year, says she loves her career and looks forward to the ACM Awards each year.
"Not only did you get to go out, travel the world and play these giant shows and get love back from your fans, but then you get nominated for an award," she said recently. "Award shows can be stressful, but the ACMs are fun."
Gracie, Maggie and Audrey McGraw are enjoying their visit to Australia with their famous parents, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who have been touring in the land Down Under. Tim says the family has been walking in Adelaide and found great restaurants. And they took in a botanical garden. Faith reports that they stopped by a chocolate factory.
With Kathie Lee Gifford on vacation from NBC's Today, five country artists were invited to co-host the show last week with Hoda Kotb. With Josh Turner kicking things off on Monday (March 19), Lee Brice, Randy Travis and John Rich made appearances before Kellie Pickler wrapped things up on Friday.
Gloriana's Tom Gossin announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Jamie Moffett during a recent concert in upstate New York. He popped the question on their 10th anniversary as a couple. Best of luck to both of them.
Tayla Lynn, granddaughter of the legendary Loretta Lynn and a member of the trio Stealing Angels, and fiancé Jon Cody Finger are expecting their first child -- a son -- in August. They plan to marry during a ceremony in Italy in early April.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Apple Crunch.