(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.)
During Taylor Swift's interview on ABCs Good Morning America, she did not comment or answer questions about current friend, Conor Kennedy. However, when they showed a black-and-white photo of an aging Ethel Kennedy, Conor's grandmother, Taylor broke her silence and said, "I love her."
The wife of the late Robert Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy has had kind words to say about Swift, too.
Filmmaker Rory Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy's daughter, directed and produced a new documentary, Ethel, that debuts Oct. 18 on HBO.
Taylor has always made it a point to avoid talking about her romantic relationships.
"I write about it in my songs, and I feel like you can share enough about your life in your music to let people know what you're going through," she says.
Still, John Mayer seems to think Taylor's song "Dear John" is about him. Taylor has never said and is apparently not concerned about what he's said or thinks. She's just performing and writing and being wonderfully famous.
Reports have been spreading online that Taylor will portray singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell in the film adaptation of the book, Girls Like Us, but a rep for Taylor says nothing has been confirmed.
Keith Urban Stuck Between Divas on American Idol
Poor Keith Urban has to sit on the panel of American Idol judges with two goofy women at each other's throats. At a recent audition in Charlotte, N.C., Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey were yelling at each other over Keith's handsome head. If Keith weren't such a gentleman and a country music star, he might have punched them out.
By the way, did you hear that Barbra Streisand says she would like to record a duet with Keith? Now there's a woman with taste and class.
Wedding Bells in Thomas Rhett's Future
Cute Thomas Rhett's bachelorhood is coming to a close -- before Halloween, in fact -- when he and Lauren Gregory will tie the knot.
This is not some recent romance. Thomas and Lauren have known each other since the first grade. They dated some when they were both 15, broke up and then got back together. They got engaged in December.
George Strait Plans for the Future
After 30 years, George Strait intends to quit touring. The Strait-man boasts 44 chart toppers, more than any other artists in any genre in history. He's a pioneer in that he was the artist who dared to take country concerts to football stadiums with opening acts that included future superstars such as Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks and others.
He still wants to make records and have No. 1 hits. He says he'll even perform occasionally, but he doesn't want to continue touring.
The man is phenomenal. I've loved his singing and songs since the first time I heard him. He never tried to go pop. George is a wonderful traditional singer who is married to the same woman -- Norma -- since day one.
Loretta Lynn Celebrates 50 Years as Opry Member
Loretta Lynn recently celebrated her 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Fans like Trace Adkins, Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert joined in the celebration. And Miranda brought her Pistol Annies along to make their Opry debut that night.
Big show! Quite a night! Love me some Loretta. She's like George Strait. Nothing pop about her.
Zac Brown Band Pack 'Em in at Concerts, Festivals
I see in Billboard that the Zac Brown Band grossed $981,707 for two shows at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Their Southern Ground Music and Food Festival recently welcomed 15,000 fans during its first time in Music Town. Guests included Gregg Allman, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam.
They'll be hosting a similar festival on Oct. 20-21 in Charleston, S.C.
Chris Thile Gets Some Big Bucks
Mandolinist and singer-songwriter Chris Thile, formerly of Nickel Creek and a current member of the Punch Brothers, is one of 23 recipients named to receive "genius grants" of $500,000 -- $100,000 a year for five years -- from the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
A California native, Chris attended college in Kentucky and now resides in New York. The 31-year-old musician thought it was a prank when he got the phone call about the grant, but his manager assured him it was all on the level.
Thile told the New York Daily News he'll probably save most of the money, but he is thinking about buying a vintage mandolin that's now on the market. A 1925 Gibson F-5 usually sells for $150,000 to $200,000 and only 200 were made. Thile points out that it's rarer than a Stradivarius violin.
So all you music fans, go out to the festivals and see Thile's new toy -- if he's brave enough to take such a prize on the road.
Dolly Parton Ends Involvement in Nashville Water Park Project
Dolly Parton has announced she will no longer be involved with Gaylord Entertainment in the development of a new water park in Nashville. The announcement came following the approval of Marriott's $210 million purchase of Gaylord's management/operations division.
Dolly knows we need a family type theme park in Nashville, but she knew she had to do what was best for her Dollywood Company, which also operates the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., so she withdrew her offer. The park's future is uncertain. So sad.
Willie Nelson Prepares New Book
Willie Nelson will offer a personal look into his life as a songwriter, singer and performer in a new book, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, set for release on Nov. 13. He promises to open up about music, politics, relationships, his wives and children and offer some never-before-seen photos. He writes about living in Maui and his life in Nashville and why he moved to Texas.
Charlie Daniels Makes a Visit
Charlie Daniels is one of the most beloved people in country music, so imagine what a thrill it was for me to have Charlie in my kitchen for a recent taping of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks.
Charlie has a Christmas album set for release through the Ryan's Family Steakhouse chain to benefit the YMCA -- with money going to families of veterans. You know that this is the top priority for Charlie in 2012. There's no one that he respects more than those who have served our country in the armed forces.
It sure made me proud to have Charlie in my kitchen eating food that I prepared. There's just not many folks as great as Charlie Daniels.
Thoughts About Jason Aldean
When I saw the photo of former American Idol contestant Brittany Kerr seemingly pushing Jason Aldean against a bar stool in a club in Hollywood, I was stunned. It brought back memories of Kitty Wells singing, "Sometimes married men think they're still single." At least Jason was man enough to say their open display of affection -- hugging, touching and flirting -- was a huge, drunken mistake on his part.
Ms. Kerr allowed that she didn't know Jason was married. Duh? Don't girls in California ask, "Are you married?" At least look at his ring finger. Jason was wearing his wedding band. You can see it in all the pictures. Surely you could see the ring in the dark corner of a bar.
Jason has been married to his wife since 2001. The couple began dating when he was 17 and she was 14. Jason's wife is a country girl, and country girls are way up on my totem pole. He was raised by a single mom who took great care of him and still loves him. And he loves her, too.
I read where Jason posted a message saying, "The truth is I screwed up. I had too much to drink and let the party get out of hand and acted inappropriately at a bar. I ultimately ended up embarrassing my family and myself. But I left the bar alone, and that's the end of the story."
To me, the saddest part of this story is how this must have affected Jason's wife and the rest of his family. It should have never happened. And while I really don't know Jason, I'm sure he wishes it never happened, too.
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Hazel's Chutney.