(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 Academy of Country Music is based in California, so their main awards show has always been a West Coast event. Held April 1 in Las Vegas, the 47th annual ACM Awards show not only gave me smiles and tears, it made me laugh out loud a few times.
Carrie Underwood hit the stage looking more like a pro than I'd ever seen her before. She was sure of her moves and her grooves. As hard as "Good Girl" is to sing, Carrie nailed it to the wall while surely thinking, "This is the last time I'll write a melody that's this hard to sing."
Thompson Square's chart-topping "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" helped them blow away the competition in the vocal duo of the year category. When ACM exec Bob Romeo surprised Shawna and Keifer Thompson with the award during a special concert, they couldn't believe it. And it couldn't have happened to two nicer and more talented folks.
Another noteworthy moment was when the Eli Young Band received the song of the year trophy for their recording of "Crazy Girl." Of course, the award also went to songwriters Lee Brice and Liz Rose, but this wonderful band has been out there on those hillbilly highways for a dozen years, and they're still smiling because "Crazy Girl" made it to No. 1. The four band members returned from Australia in time for the ACM Awards. Attending with their lovely wives, they were the happiest people in Las Vegas. Brice and the Eli Young Band have been to my kitchen for some down-home cooking on Southern Fried Flicks, so that makes me even happier for them. I don't know Liz Rose, but I must congratulate her, too.
A man worthy of watching is Eric Church. He performed his song, "Springsteen," and demonstrated his solid songwriting is preparing him for superstardom in the near future. He's got the goods. Watch his smoke.
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, voted male and female vocalist of the year, were also surprised by their wins. The couple will celebrate their first wedding anniversary in May. It must have taken Blake a full minute to get his bearings when it was announced he had won. He'd been co-hosting the show with Reba McEntire, and the look on his face indicated he hadn't been thinking about who might win the male vocalist prize. Many of us figured Miranda's win in the album of the year category for Four the Record would be a slam dunk for her, but it was a huge surprise to her. When she thanked Jesus for the talent, I knew I was amidst homerun hitters. It is my humble prayers that this couple can remain the people they are today.
I was sure the entertainer of the year arrow was aimed at Brad Paisley or Kenny Chesney. Boy, was I wrong. I was happy Taylor Swift won, but I'm not ashamed to say I was also so very sad Brad or Kenny did not win. Those acquainted with me know how much I've loved those boys for many years. We are so blessed with artists like them. I loved watching Brad and Zac Brown dueting in their matching caps, and Kenny's duet with Tim McGraw was wonderful, as well.
Lady Antebellum's win in the vocal group category must have made Linda Davis and Lang Scott sky-high happy. Linda and Lang, fine Christian folks, are the parents of Lady A's Hillary Scott.
The single record and vocal event awards went to Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson for their duet of "Don't You Wanna Stay." Jason was up on that stage with his tight, raggedy britches and Kelly in a designer gown.
Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" took home the video of the year prize. That song is so crazed and fun and wonderful. Country music needs country fun. Toby made some country fun for the crowd.
Swift Racks Up Some Entertaining Figures Overseas
And with Taylor Swift being named the ACM's entertainer of the year for a second year, it's worth mentioning how her recent stint of entertaining has paid off. Check out these figures for the sellouts during her tour of Australia and New Zealand:
Melbourne, $4,151,650 (three shows)
Sydney, $3,429,360 (two shows)
Auckland, $2,888,560 (three shows)
Brisbane, $2,416,030 (two shows)
Perth, $1,878,530 (one show)
If I did the addition correctly, that's more than $14 million. It's like winning the lottery!
By the way, first lady Michelle Obama doesn't know me from Adam, but I feel like I know her, and it made me happy to know she was kind enough to attend Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards to present the Big Help Award to Taylor in recognition of her humanitarian activities.
May God bless the first lady, her husband (our president) and the country superstar.
Alison Krauss to Receive Honorary Doctorate
The Berklee College of Music in Boston has the good taste to present my dear friend Alison Krauss an honorary doctorate during commencement exercises on May 12. The Eagles and Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke will also be honored.
Remembering the Late Earl Scruggs
After 88 years on this earth -- nearly all of them as a banjo picker -- Earl Scruggs passed away. From radio to black-and-white television, Earl and Lester Flatt ruled as they brought bluegrass music to a mainstream audience. When Flatt & Scruggs split up in 1969, Earl went out on his own, teaming with his sons Randy, Gary and Steve as the Earl Scruggs Revue. When his youngest son, Steve, died in 1992, I was so thankful for being able to take food to the family. They never forgot that.
After Steve's death, Earl and his wife Louise moved from their home in Madison, Tenn., to Franklin Road in Nashville. I always enjoyed the company of Louise and Earl. They were fun and funny. I remember visiting them at their big house. After Louise showed me around, I asked, "How many bathrooms are in this house?"
"Fourteen," she replied.
"Fourteen commodes and two butts," I joked.
Louise and Earl never forgot that, and we would all laugh when they'd bring it up in conversations through the years.
Then Louise got sick and could not get better. When she passed away in 2006, I cried for days. Earl's banjo and his strong mind kept him going as he continued to perform at festivals and other events. Then he, too, grew older and weaker until the Lord called him home.
The Ryman Auditorium was filled to capacity with musicians when Earl's funeral was held on April 1. WSM-AM/Nashville DJ Eddie Stubbs gave a marvelous eulogy. The Del McCoury Band performed "Take Me in Your Lifeboat" and were followed by Ricky Skaggs and the Whites performing "Gone Home."
Modern day banjo master Bela Fleck acknowledged one of Earl's lesser-known accomplishments as an inventor. Earl and banjo player Bill Keith came up with what is known as the Scruggs-Keith banjo pegs that allow players to quickly change the pitch of the instrument's strings for a special effect. At the service, Bela put the invention to good use by playing a song that showcased the pegs and the genius of Earl Scruggs.
Charlie Daniels noted his first job in Nashville working in the Earl Scruggs Revue. He said he was treated like one of the family. Charlie loved Earl.
Emmylou Harris sang "The Other Side of Life," accompanied by Vince Gill and Jon Randall. John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played a couple of songs and talked about his old friend. Marty Stuart performed "You Are My Flower" in the style Earl played on the guitar. Marty and his excellent band then harmonized on "Who'll Sing for Me." Lastly, Vince was joined by Skaggs and Patty Loveless to sing "Go Rest High on That Mountain."
And it was over, except for the banjo players with their instruments lining the middle aisle of the Ryman as the silver casket made its way out of the building.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Fruit Salad.