(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.)
I guessed they'd just cancel the George Jones farewell concert set for Nov. 22 in Nashville. Not so! After George's funeral, everyone kept asking his wife Nancy if they'd still do the all-star show at Bridgestone Arena that was planned to be his final concert. She asked Garth Brooks, Kid Rock, Travis Tritt, the Oak Ridge Boys, Montgomery Gentry, Sam Moore, Charlie Daniels, Jamey Johnson and others about it, and they all said yes.
"So with all the artists still planning on coming, we are going to honor George one final time," Nancy explained.
I'm still thinking about George. If I live to be 100, I will never forget the solemn, stern, hurt look on Alan Jackson's face when he walked on the Grand Ole Opry stage and sang "He Stopped Loving Her Today" at the close of George's funeral. He removed his hat at just the right time, placed it on his shoulder to cover his heart and sang the last line of the song with his eyes closed and his mind on heaven and his dear friend who had just gone home.
Vince Gill's heart was breaking as tears rolled down his face when he sang his self-penned song "Go Rest High on That Mountain." He just couldn't get out those lines of total truth, but he tried. And bless sweet Patty Loveless' heart -- she helped. Her vocals went up in a beautiful alto to cover when his faltered. Vince sang and Patty helped: "I know your life on earth was troubled/And only you could know the pain/You weren't afraid to face the devil/You were no stranger to the rain."
Seated on the front row, a teary Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood stood to honor Vince in his sorrow. Garth and Trisha stood to honor others, as well, especially Alan.
Brad Paisley just could not keep his tears hidden when he sang the marvelous Tom T. Hall song, "Me and Jesus." I agree with Barbara Mandrell, who spoke at the service, when she said, "George Jones was the greatest singer of all time." Another fan, CBS' Bob Schieffer said, "He knew about heartbreak. He knew about betrayal. He was more than a country singer. He was a country song." Former first lady Laura Bush said, "Pain and love -- George Jones spoke of both of them whenever he sang."
When asked about Jones' passing, Dierks Bentley passed his answer to Terry Eldredge. A member of the bluegrass band the Grascals, Eldredge was known to lay on his back on his sofa and listen to the songs of George Jones all night long. I was not surprised to learn that Eldredge kissed George's forehead as he lay in his casket. I'm sure our friend Dierks is not at all surprised. Eldredge truly worshipped George Jones and his music.
George Jones charted 167 singles over a 50-year run, an achievement that passed everyone in country music, even Eddy Arnold.
CMT Music Awards News
The 2013 CMT Music Awards will be hosted by Jason Aldean and actress Kristen Bell. The show is set for June 5 at Bridgestone Arena and will broadcast live on CMT. Eric Church, Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan have four nominations each. With three apiece are Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts and Florida Georgia Line. Nominated for two awards are Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes, Jana Kramer, Journey, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw.
Voting for the CMT Music Awards is underway at CMT.com.
Toby Keith Returns From Latest USO Tour
Toby Keith dropped in on troops in the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii during a 10-day tour that ended Tuesday (May 7). Since his first USO tour in 2002, Toby has performed on 11 USO tours and traveled to 16 countries where he's lifted the spirits of 225,984 servicemen and women. Thanks Toby, and God bless you as you continue the journey.
Keith Urban With the Rolling Stones
Did you see Keith Urban at the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- dancing and picking and singing with the Rolling Stones? Keith hit that stage like it was the Grand Ole Opry, looking really cute and young up there with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. From Urban's first run on the guitar, Richards was all smiles. He knew he had a guitar man who could pick his music. Same with Jagger. Mick knew full well that Urban could sing "Respectable," and Urban proved he could, so they killed the song. An A+ for Keith Urban onstage with the Rolling Stones.
A Splendid Marthafest
In December, CMT editorial director Chet Flippo was deeply saddened by the loss of his wife. The beautiful and smart Martha Hume had health problems but left us quicker than anyone thought about her leaving. Poor Chet grieved for his lifetime mate. Mostly he grieved alone. Chet's close friends meant a lot, and his niece Elizabeth comforted him even though she lived in London.
Being in show biz, the couple's friends were from all over, including Texas, California, New York, Florida and, of course, Tennessee. Chet wanted to honor Martha with a "do," and on May 5, an event was held in Nashville at Ruby, the once site of a church -- now a club fit for sipping and eating and visiting. Chet called it Marthafest. The name fit like a pair of old shoes.
Elizabeth hosted the event and kept us laughing with down-home Kentucky stories and secrets. Several others chatted about Martha, including Martha's two children, Bennett and Kristen.
Even I told a short story about Chet, Martha, Captain Midnight, Tompall Glaser and myself escorting Kinky Friedman and his band, the Texas Jewboys, backstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Rev. Jimmie Rodgers Snow was holding his Grand Ole Gospel church service on the Grand Ole Opry stage, and Kinky was set to sing "High on Jesus." His special guest was Dobie Gray. Anyway, I made it through the story, got plenty of laughs and met a lot of people since I began my part by saying, "I am Hazel Smith." Both of Martha's kids stopped by to tell me things Martha had told them. It was a wonderful gathering of minds that Sunday afternoon.
One lady said, "Martha loved telling the story about going with you to be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She had such a good time." Another said, "Martha told me about you and her having dinner with Bill Monroe. I could not believe that you and Martha went with Bill Monroe for supper. That is so funny."
So they continue to come by from Austin, New York, Knoxville and all the places Martha lived or visited. People met me because Martha told them about me.
Guests included Brian Philips and Martin Clayton of CMT and Liz Thiels and Jay Orr of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, along with my grandson and driver -- the wonderful Adam Smith.
See the Hot Dish recipe of the week: Lemonade Pie.