(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.)
Who cried the hardest? Who cried the longest? Who will still cry when all of this is over?
Nancy Jones. That's who. Usually smiling and laughing with a hug, Nancy knew when her husband George Jones was sick and knew when he was well. George was her priority.
He was her man. And whatever it took to keep him between the lines in the road, she would do. She looked after their home and the property that surrounded it. And as strange as it may sound, it is true: Those who wept for George wept for Nancy, too.
Time and again, I have used this CMT space to say my favorite song was "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and George Jones was my favorite singer. If that was selfish to do, I'm sorry. It was important to me that the people who read what I write knew the truth.
I recall the first time I heard the song on the radio. I was driving on I-65 in Nashville when the song came on the air. There was nothing to do but pull off the highway and stop. Getting out of the way of five lanes of traffic was no easy chore, but I made it by the skin of my teeth.
"What a song!" I said aloud to no one but myself.
I knew then and I know now that it's a masterpiece.
When George came to my kitchen to appear on CMT's Southern Fried Flicks, it was a thrill beyond words. I could not believe he was there, but Nancy made it easy. I'm sure she saw I was antsy in the presence of such greatness as her husband.
"Professional" best describes George on that day. I have a photo of the two of us on my fridge. I always hoped he could come back again, but it never happened.
It was funny that day. The shoot ended, and pretty soon, into the front door emerged Terry Smith and Terry Eldredge representing themselves and the Grascals. Like two little boys, they stood in the living room and talked with the great George Jones -- as close to heaven as they will ever be on this earth.
And I have wished that Nancy was in the photo, as well. Having her with George in a photo would have been the ultimate. They were the team. Even George gave Nancy credit for looking after him and his problems through the years. A photo of the two of them would have been peaceful for me in my kitchen. But he's gone, and Nancy did the best she could to look after him until his last breath left his body. All of us who loved George Jones and his music have to appreciate this woman -- the one George credited for saving his life.
May heaven stay a little brighter with George Jones there. May he wait in patience for his friends to meet him there. So many greats will be in line to shake the hand of the great Mr. Jones -- Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck and many others.
The funeral service at the Grand Ole Opry House was attended by a who's who of country stars and those from the world of politics and media. In addition to former first lady Laura Bush, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and TV hosts Mike Huckabee and Bob Schieffer, Kenny Chesney and Barbara Mandrell offered eulogies. Musical tributes were provided by Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Ronnie Milsap, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt, Wynonna, the Oak Ridge Boys and -- performing "He Stopped Loving Her Today -- the great Alan Jackson. Many others sat quietly in the audience, including Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, Trace Adkins, Jamey Johnson, Rodney Crowell, Bill Anderson, Marty Stuart, Little Jimmy Dickens, Joe Diffie and Bobby Bare.
The world misses George Jones. Across the Pacific, across America and across the Atlantic to England, tears may cease to dry following the service at the Grand Ole Opry House. But it will take so much longer to ease the hurt in the bodies of those who love and already miss this great singing man.
Jason Aldean, Kristen Bell Hosting CMT Music Awards
Jason Aldean and actress Kristen Bell will be co-hosting the 2013 CMT Music Awards set for June 5 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. You'll be able to watch the show live on CMT and CMT.com.
Nominations for the 12th annual show will be revealed Monday (May 6) and performers and presenters will be announced soon. Tickets go on sale May 11 at 11 a.m. ET at all Ticketmaster outlets and the Bridgestone Arena box office.
Jason will be performing concerts at Boston's Fenway Park on July 12-13, but I also see that he'll be visiting Beantown on May 30 for a big concert raising money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The show at the TD Garden Arena will also feature Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, the J. Geils Band, Carole King and lots of others.
Kellie Pickler News
Rumor has it that our very own Kellie Pickler, the dancing machine that she is, may go to Broadway after finishing up the season of Dancing With the Stars. I sure hope the little girl from Albemarle, N.C., wins this dancing gig. I love that Kellie!
Derek Hough, her Dancing With the Stars partner, was along for the ride when Kellie recently played a concert in Effingham, Ill., but that wasn't the big news of the night. Effingham is the hometown of her drummer, Gregg Lohman, who hadn't performed with her since suffering serious head and neck injuries in a traffic accident on March 2.
When Kellie returned to the stage to encore with "Red High Heels," she was surprised to see Gregg sitting behind the drums -- ready to play.
"When I hit the stage and saw that Gregg was now sitting behind his drum set, I fell to pieces," she said in a message on her Facebook page. "For those who do not believe in miracles, we witnessed one last night."
Pistol Annies' Annie Up
The threesome known as the Pistol Annies were standing in a circle and singing face to face when they recorded their new album Annie Up. The production team of Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay and Glenn Worf had them circle the microphones and sing their three-part harmonies together all at once.
Since day one, I had an image in my hillbilly mind for these three girls as the Dixie Chicks Plus, but Pistol Annie Angaleena Presley says they're not doing anything special.
"Loretta Lynn did it before us," she said.
Bandmate Miranda adds, "We're just doing it for our generation."
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Baked Pork Chops.