HOT DISH: Garth Brooks Receives Leadership Music Award

His Mentors Jim Foglesong and Allen Reynolds Also Honored

(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

"This is the best one of these I've ever been to,"said Trisha Yearwood, who is still called Miss Yearwood by her husband, Garth Brooks. Dressed in black, Trisha was stunning with her blonde hair hanging in curls around her face and down her back. "She looks like that every day," Garth whispered to me. "And all that hair is hers. No extensions. None of the extras," he added with a smile.

Leadership Music's annual Dale Franklin Award gala was held at Nashville's Renaissance Hotel on Aug. 23. The event honored music exec Jim Foglesong, songwriter, singer, record producer, businessman Allen Reynolds and country music's biggest superstar Garth Brooks. The star-studded night was attended by Martina McBride, Kathy Mattea, Lee Greenwood, Hal Ketchum, Victoria Shaw, Steve Wariner, Blair Garner, Crystal Gayle, Tony Brown, Jan Crutchfield, Dickie Lee, Bob McDill, Cowboy Jack Clement, Mel Tillis and 699 more famed and near famed.

Where did I sit? At the table for "Garth's Girls" near his table. To my left, at the next table were Garth and Trisha, Martina and John McBride, Steve and Caryn Wariner. To my right were Allen Reynolds, Dickie Lee, and Cowboy Jack Clement. To my direct left were Garth's manager Bob Doyle and his publicist Nancy Seltzer. To my right were CMT producer Santos Lopez and his beautiful wife, Rudrani Devi -- the lady who was shot by thug terrorists in a hotel in India and left for dead. You saw the news on CNN. I was so happy to embrace this woman. I prayed for her from the time she was shot until she returned to Nashville. I'm glad I could tell her this.

I have to agree with Garth's Miss Yearwood. It was the best party. Trisha said she and Garth met at songwriter Kent Blazy's attic studio where they recorded a demo. Trisha was paid $10, Garth did not get paid. "We hit it off," Trisha remembered. "But I had no idea he'd turn out to be Garth Brooks!" she exclaimed. He told her when he got his record deal she could open his shows. His word is gold. Like he said, she opened shows. Keep in mind, this was almost 20 years ago.

Honoring the businessman Jim Foglesong who signed Garth to Capitol Records was John Conlee, who sang the daylights out of "Rose Colored Glasses" and Lee Greenwood, who sang "It Turns Me Inside Out."

Honoring Allen Reynolds were his co-writers Dickie Lee and Bob McDill, former boss Cowboy Jack Clement; artists he produced, including Kathy Mattea, Crystal Gayle, Hal Ketchum and business associates Jim Rooney and Mark Miller. They told stories, sang songs and swapped memories and Crystal brought the house down with her rendition of Allen's song "Ready for the Times to Get Better."

Garth spent time at the mike advising the audience to control their work. "We own the content," he, well, demanded, then launched his set with "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." He must have felt great being back in the tune of things with those who create the music. He performed my favorite Garth hit, "Friends in Low Places" and his favorite, "The Dance."

Garth introduced the band, great studio musicians who played on his first and his last record and every album in between. That's the way Garth is. He doesn't like change. His manager since day one is Bob Doyle. His friends Martina and John McBride seated to Garth's right at dinner spoke highly of their former boss. John McBride was so funny and Martina looked like an angel and sang "The Thunder Rolls" as requested by Garth.

People came from all over. Bob Romeo with ACM, Barry Edelman and Rac Clark with Dick Clark Productions came from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Bill Lardie came from Amarillo, Texas. It was that kind of night. Friends from four corners.

Foglesong, who signed Garth to his record deal and Reynolds, who produced his records, presented Garth with the Leadership Music Award. Right then when everything seemed to be over, why, those musicians laid down the electric and picked up acoustic fiddle, Dobro, etc. The three honorees showed off big time by performing "Man of Constant Sorrow" from the movie soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou. I swear, classy suit-wearing Jim Foglesong made a mighty fine hillbilly. Course it was no problem for Allen or Garth. All they needed was the music and a beard.

Mrs. Brooks, aka Miss Yearwood, aka Trisha Yearwood gave a stunning performance of "To Make You Feel My Love" that was obviously for Garth. He sat until he HAD to stand and accept his wife's love song. Special. Very special. Garth wept.

Jack Ingram Enters Guinness Book

Had a call from the marathon man, Jack Ingram, who broke the world record for most radio interviews in 24 hours which turned out to be 215 interviews. When he called me, he wasn't even hoarse. Sounded great with two hours sleep in 36 hours. Is our boy Jack Ingram the only hillbilly in the Guinness Book of Records? How famous is that? I mean, I know somebody who is my friend, who has been to my kitchen and loves CMT and his name is Jack Ingram. He has talked on radio for 24 hours, ending on CMT radio. After the marathon, Jack actually sang on Fox & Friends without sleep, then flew to Dallas where he appeared at Adair's, the first club he ever sang in when he was like 19. Then off to the West Coast and Las Vegas to open shows for Toby Keith. Jack has just released his new album Big Dreams and High Hopes. Get yourself a dozen or two and give 'em for gifts.

Thanks for the call, Jack. It's always great to hear from you. And congratulations to you for the big win, buddy. You are the man. But I am still in shock that you can still talk and sing!

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood to Host CMAs Again

Doesn't seem like it's been almost a year since Brad and Carrie served as hosts of the CMA Awards, but it has. And on 11--11--09, they will host the 43rd annual CMA Awards live from the Sommet Center in Nashville. Brad Paisley is reigning CMA male vocalist and Carrie Underwood is reigning female vocalist. And eleven eleven is always a famous date at our house -- my son Billy's birthday. Time is flying for him, too.

Country Covers Football

Hank Williams Jr. has been singing about his rowdy friends coming over on Monday night for football for two decades and everybody watches Hank on ESPN. Sunday nights on NBC, it's Faith Hill singing "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night." All that's left is college football, but don't fret. We got that covered, too, with Kenny Chesney singing his self-penned, "This Is Our Moment," with a Sept. 3 debut for the game between South Carolina and North Carolina State. Keep it country!

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