HOT DISH: Hank Williams Jr. Plans to Run for U.S. Senate

Reba Signs a New Record Deal While Artists Party Hard During CMA Week

(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

Will wonders never cease?! Hank Williams Jr. says he will run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican candidate during the next primary election. It is my understanding that Hank has already talked with Sen. Lamar Alexander and former Sen. Bill Frist -- both Republicans -- regarding his candidacy.

Those of you who keep up with country music news by reading this weekly column are already aware that Hank spent a lot of time on the campaign trail with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice presidential running mate.

The Nights Before the Night of the CMA Awards

Lights were glowing up and down Broadway in downtown Nashville last Monday night (Nov. 10), and sounds of country music were coming out of nearly every doorway. The trendy Palm restaurant was overflowing with the beautiful people -- the great and near great -- and I was told that Rascal Flatts and Toby Keith were there behind closed doors and all a-whisper. You don't suppose they might be talking about performing stadium concerts together?

And there was Kevin Costner, who most of us know as an actor who wants to sing. After a visit with radio folks and record label reps, Costner spent some time hanging with one of his golfing buddies, Clay Walker.

Another celeb holding court at the Palm was Kid Rock, who was there with his band, business associates and friends. Kid Rock departed early after hearing that his pal, Kenny Chesney, and the Wailers were doing a concert around the corner, so he joined them onstage at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Kenny, the Kid and the Wailers laid down music for the crowd that spilled onto the sidewalk and into the street outside.

Monday night was also when Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott was named songwriter of the year at SESAC's annual awards event.

The next day, Darius Rucker and co-writer Clay Mills were honored by ASCAP during a party celebrating Rucker's first No. 1 country single, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It."

And later that night, the BMI Awards brought out power couples Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, and Jay and Allison DeMarcus. Miley Cyrus and dad Billy Ray Cyrus also attended the star-studded event.

Hank Williams Jr., who was presented the prestigious BMI Icon award, was joined by wife Mary Jane and children Sam, Katie, Holly and Hillary. Robert Randolph, Gregg Allman, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kenny Chesney paid tribute to him during a special musical performance.

BMI's country songwriter of the year award went to Casey Beathard, who co-wrote five top hits during the past 12 months. Taylor Swift's "Teardrops on My Guitar" was named song of the year.

Lots of Stuff Is Happening

It came as no surprise to me when Reba McEntire signed with the Valory Music Co. During Reba's heyday at MCA, Big Machine Records/Valory Music president and CEO Scott Borchetta was senior vice president of promotion at MCA Nashville. In that job, it was his responsibility to get country radio stations to play Reba's records. And, boy, did he ever succeed. The McEntire/Borchetta connection also extends to Scott's wife, the talented Sandi Spika-Borchetta, who served as Reba's personal makeup artist and stylist several hits ago.

The final leg of Rascal Flatts' Bob That Head tour kicks off Jan. 17 in Kansas City, Mo., with Jessica Simpson as the opening act.

President George W. Bush appointed Lee Greenwood to the National Arts Council for a six-year term. Greenwood wrote and recorded "God Bless the USA," an all-time favorite song of W's parents, George and Barbara Bush.

With other country artists partying during CMA Week in Nashville, John Rich performed in New York during the rededication of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In attendance were President and Mrs. Bush, New York Gov. David Patterson, U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, NASA astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Scott Carpenter and thousands of veterans. Rich sang "The Good Lord and the Man," a tribute to his late granddad.

Jimmy Wayne was doing an in-store appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville when the fire alarm went off. Several hundred fans in the store followed Jimmy across the street, where he continued to sign autographs. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I know I'm not the only one who thinks Jimmy is just that hot.

Tim McGraw will host Saturday Night Live this coming Saturday (Nov. 22). This marks Tim's first appearance on the show, and he's the first country artist to host SNL during this millennium. Also, beginning Nov. 26, Tim will be seen in theaters in Four Christmases, a movie with Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon and Jon Favreau.

Randy Owen, lead singer for Alabama, has just released a solo album, One on One, on the Broken Bow label. His memoir, Born Country: How Faith, Family and Music Brought Me Home, is also in stores now.

Jamey Johnson is confirmed to perform on The Late Show With David Letterman on Dec. 9. While in the neighborhood, Jamey will make his second stop in two months on the Imus in the Morning syndicated radio show. You can bet your life that Don Imus knows his country music and recognizes how great Jamey Johnson is.

Watch for Trace Adkins, Darius Rucker and Miley Cyrus during the upcoming Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A Tillis Family Christmas is heading on the road this year. Pam Tillis and dad Mel Tillis, along with her brother Mel Jr. and sister Carrie, will make a dozen stops to spread holiday cheer from Georgia to New Mexico and up to Canada.

My Thoughts on the CMA Awards Show

Once again, the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees -- and that includes Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Statler Brothers and the late Ernest "Pop" Stoneman this year -- barely got a mention on the show. That ticks me off. They're the real heroes of country music.

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood proved that country music has found two more great hosts. Except at the very beginning of the show, I saw no nervousness from those two.

Congrats to Brad and Carrie for winning the male and female vocalist prizes. And additional congrats to Brad for winning the video of the year award for his wonderful "Waitin' on a Woman" with the legendary Andy Griffith. They presented the video award off camera before the show even started. Isn't that crazy? Makes no sense to me.

It made me sad that Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Alan Jackson and Kellie Pickler did not win any awards, but I must say that each of them gave a winning performance. Among the outstanding musical moments were Urban's "Sweet Thing," Adkins' "You're Gonna Miss This," Jackson's "Good Time" and Pickler's "The Best Days of Your Life," along with Miranda Lambert's "More Like Her," Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," Paisley's "Waitin' on a Woman," James Otto's "Just Started Loving You" and Kenny Chesney's "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven."

Nicole Kidman was stunningly beautiful. Kellie Pickler was stunningly beautiful. And Carrie Underwood was stunningly beautiful.

When she presented Paisley the male vocalist trophy, Academy Award-winning actress and Nashville native Reese Witherspoon said onstage that she'd had such a great time at the CMA Awards show. I hope she did, but every time the camera showed her face, she looked totally bored and out of place.

And welcome back, Shania Twain! She looked beautiful but a little sad. Did I hear Kenny Chesney say, "You're looking real good," to Shania when she presented him with his fourth entertainer of the year award. I'm not trying to be a matchmaker but Shania and Kenny would be a real cute couple.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pumpkin/Gingerbread Trifle.

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