(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.)
Longtime aficionados of country music will recall Russell Barnard, who owned Country Music magazine when it was a babe and a teenybopper. The face of Johnny Cash covered the magazine many, many times. Russell was a friend to many a country star and many a wannabe. He ran the magazine from New York and called me pretty often for facts. He still does, and that's why he called me last week. He needed a phone number.
"How's Cowboy?" he asked.
He was referring to the great Cowboy Jack Clement. I was embarrassed. I hadn't heard from Cowboy in quite a spell.
"Health issues," I explained.
If there was no Cowboy, would there have been a Sun Records? Would we have heard of Johnny Cash or Jerry Lee Lewis?
Cowboy was raised on the music of Roy Acuff and Wayne Raney. He got his first steel guitar when he was 13. He served in the Marines from 1948 to 1952. During those last two years, he was stationed in Washington, D.C., where he played banjo with Roy Clark, Jimmy Dean and the Stonemans. He was in a bluegrass duo, Jack & Buzz, with Buzz Busby. He went back to Memphis in 1955 to "thaw out" and became a dance instructor at the Arthur Murray Studio. He produced some tracks on Billy Lee Riley and played them for Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records. Sam recognized Jack's talent and raised him from $60 a week to $90 a week.
Cowboy formed Fernwood Records in 1956 and started his first publishing company, Jack Music, in 1959. The following year, he was working at Echo Studios in Memphis with Allen Reynolds (who later produced records for Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea, Crystal Gayle, Don Williams and others) and master songwriter Dickey Lee.
By the early '60s, he was working with Chet Atkins at RCA in Nashville, where he produced Jim Reeves. In late 1961, he went to Beaumont, Texas, to work with Bill Hall. They set up Hall-Clement Music and signed super-songwriters Jerry Foster and Bill Rice. In 1964, Cowboy produced the Johnny Cash classic, "Ring of Fire," in Music Town.
In 1965, he received Charley Pride's demo recording and persuaded RCA to sign him. He produced Charley's first single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night," and later produced artists such as Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, Doc Watson, Louis Armstrong, Waylon Jennings (including his award-winning album, Dreaming My Dreams) and John Prine.
And Cowboy has penned a whole passel of great country songs, including "Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog." A whole new generation of fans became familiar with that one after Johnny Cash's recording was featured with an ugly bulldog in a recent Volkswagen commercial.
I included all of this info so you fans will see and understand why I am screaming my insides out for Cowboy Jack Clement to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Oklahoma beauty Carrie Underwood calls her music publishing country Carrie Okie. Cute, huh?
Can a girl singer gross a half-million dollars at a concert? Sure she can -- if she's Carrie Underwood. Billboard reports Carrie did it not just once or twice but three times -- in Atlantic City, N.J., Baltimore and Vancouver. Her current single "Two Black Cadillacs" is a flat-killer smash.
Ashley Monroe's Solo Album Is Like a Rose
Ashley Monroe of the Pistol Annies has recorded a solo project, Like a Rose, set for digital release on Dec. 18, followed by release everywhere on Jan. 22. Produced by Vince Gill and Justin Niebank, the album features Ashley's duet with Blake Shelton, "You Ain't Dolly (and You Ain't Porter)." Rich!
Is a Tour in Garth Brooks' Future?
The final performance of Garth Brooks' engagement at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas took place Nov. 17, but hotel owner Steve Wynn told the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, "Garth is thinking of touring in August 2014." He also pointed out that Garth's youngest daughter will be off to college in 2014. You may recall Garth saying he wouldn't resume touring until all of his daughters have graduated from high school. Wynn also added, "It'll take six months preparation to put his tour together."
Wynn is reportedly talking to film director Martin Scorsese about putting together a TV special of Garth's concerts at the hotel.
Garth and wife Trisha Yearwood recently traveled to Haiti to pitch in for Habitat for Humanity. They joined almost 600 volunteers to help build 100 homes with families still impacted by the 2010 earthquake.
Taylor Swift is scheduled to headline this year's Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve special on ABC. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the celebration in New York's Times Square will also feature Carly Ray Jepsen and Neon Trees.
Kenny Chesney kicked off this year's Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign with a halftime performance at the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day. This was the 16th year the Cowboys helped launch the campaign. This year's funds will go to help those still suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
Trace Adkins was in Japan last week for four private concerts for the U.S. troops and their families during his seventh USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour in 11 years. His trip took place during a break in taping NBC's All-Star Celebrity Apprentice.
Easton Corbin, Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, Jana Kramer and Kip Moore have been selected to perform at the CRS 2013 New Faces of Country Music show during Country Radio Seminar. The private concert takes place March 1 at the Nashville Convention Center.
Tennessee native Chris Young seriously hung with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam at the Capitol Christmas tree-lighting ceremony right here in Music Town. Thank goodness we have electricity.
Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" (written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison), Pop Stoneman's "The Titanic" and "Foggy Mountain Banjo" by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys are among the recordings being inducted into the 2013 Grammy Hall of Fame.
Billy Dean has again joined Kenny Rogers on his 31st annual Christmas and Hits tour. The 22-city tour wraps Dec. 23 in Westbury, N.Y.
The Crested Butte Songwriters Festival is set for Jan. 18-19 at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort Hotel and Spa in Colorado. No doubt in my mind, Nashville has the finest songwriters anywhere. Some of our finest who will be off for the festival include Dean Dillon, Even Stevens, Paul Overstreet and Chris Young.
Girls, you have looked Dustin Lynch over. Well, haven't you? The Broken Bow artist, who does remind me of a young George Strait, has a sizzling second single, "She Cranks My Tractor." Fan me, somebody!
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Corn Chowder.