HOT DISH: Turning Back the Calendar to 2005

Life, Death, Marriages and Good Turns Filled the Past Year

(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 shares her recipes at

Time flies. Before we get too far into the New Year, let's take a quick look at some of the things that happened in 2005.

January: I met my hero, Robert W. "Bob" McLean, at Earl Scruggs' 81st birthday party. McLean had previously purchased Mother Maybelle Carter's guitar and donated it to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. ... Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger met in Los Angeles at a telethon for tsunami victims. ... Keith Urban met Nicole Kidman in Los Angeles at a dinner honoring Australians. ... Gretchen Wilson's debut CD, Here for the Party, went triple platinum. ... Trace Adkins' Comin' On Strong was certified platinum. ... Winners at the People's Choice Awards included Tim McGraw, Shania Twain and Brooks & Dunn.

February: I was sick as a dog, hospitalized with pneumonia and the flu, when singer, songwriter, music publisher and artist manager Merle Kilgore departed this earth. Thank God, his service at the Ryman aired on TV, so I watched and wept from my bed. Kid Rock sang at Merle's eulogy but ended up in jail that night when he punched out a bartender at a girlie bar. ... Tim McGraw performed at the Grammy Awards and was joined by Gretchen Wilson and Keith Urban in a salute to Southern rock. ... Neal McCoy formed his own record label. ... Big & Rich went double platinum for Horse of a Different Color. ... Grammy winner Sammi Smith, best remembered for "Help Me Make It Through the Night," died in Oklahoma at age 61.

March: The annual Country Radio Seminar boasted performances by Gretchen Wilson, Trisha Yearwood, Big & Rich, Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes and Ronnie Milsap. Just before CRS began, the Country Music Disc Jockey and Radio Hall of Fame honored Dolly Parton with its career achievement award. ... I attended the Earl and Louise Scruggs exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and learned the event was underwritten by good-hearted Bob McLean. ... Today host Katie Couric attended Dierks Bentley's platinum party for his self-titled debut album -- and so did I. ... Reba McEntire promoted her clothing line at Dillard's. ... We lost 57-year-old singer, songwriter and cowboy Chris LeDoux to cancer.

April: Gretchen Wilson, Reba McEntire and Martina McBride presented Loretta Lynn the Johnny Cash Visionary Award during the CMT Music Awards. ... Trace Adkins' Songs About Me debuted at No. 1 on the country albums chart. ... Alison Krauss & Union Station went heavy metal when their Live album was certified double platinum and Lonely Runs Both Ways went gold. ... Steel guitar pioneer Jerry Byrd died in Hawaii.

May: May there never be another May as shocking as the one in 2005 when the tabloids were groping for information about the Kenny Chesney/Renee Zellweger wedding in the Virgin Islands. ... Everybody turned out when Kris Kristofferson and industry veteran Jim Fogelsong were presented their Country Music Hall of Fame medallions during a ceremony at the Hall of Fame and Museum. Director Kyle Young hosted the event that brought out Hall of Fame members Earl Scruggs, Brenda Lee, Kitty Wells and Eddy Arnold. Also attending were Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill and the Oak Ridge Boys. ... Chesney snagged the entertainer of the year trophy at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas. Keith Urban and Gretchen Wilson took home top male and female vocalist honors, and Brooks & Dunn were named duo of the year. ... At the unveiling of several bronze statues at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, Calif., Garth Brooks surprised everyone, especially girlfriend Trisha Yearwood, when he proposed. ... Bluegrass fans mourned the passing of Jimmy Martin. I attended the memorial with my sons.

June: Like every June for the past 35 years, the most wonderful fans on earth swarmed Music City. Drenched, they took to rain like ducks for the CMA Music Festival (formerly Fan Fair) that took over Lower Broadway across the Cumberland River to the Coliseum where country's A-team performed during the evening concert series. The biggest country music show on earth featured Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Big & Rich, Montgomery Gentry, Wynonna, Trick Pony, Gretchen Wilson and a bevy of others. Boy, was I humbly proud when the Grascals (with my son, Terry) performed on the show. ... Shooter Jennings was cast to play his father, the late Waylon Jennings in the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. .... Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, 78, had triple bypass surgery.

July: On a hot day in July, Lyric Street Records' Doug Howard told me Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today was the first million-selling album of 2005. ... Country Thunder, an outdoor festival in Wisconsin, featured 34 major stars, including Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes and a plethora of our finest. ... McGraw became the first hillbilly to ever sell out the Hollywood Bowl. ... George Strait's Somewhere in Texas CD debuted at No. 1 on the country and pop charts. ... Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry was in Ohio when he was thrown by a horse that got spooked. Gentry suffered a serious leg break. ... It was quadruple platinum for Brooks & Dunn's Greatest Hits and platinum for Sugarland's debut CD, Twice the Speed of Life.

August: It was announced that Alabama, Glen Campbell and DeFord Bailey would become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. ... Toby Keith launched his record label, Show Dog Nashville. In related business, Toby opened his I Love This Bar and Grill in Vegas. ... Garth Brooks announced Wal-Mart and Sam's Club as the exclusive retail outlets for his music. ... I really enjoyed the retired Tom T. Hall's three-night run at the Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater. ... Keith Urban's Be Here was certified double platinum. Thirty days after its release, George Strait's Somewhere Down in Texas went platinum and so did his 20th Century Masters Collection. Room to Breathe became Reba McEntire's 18th platinum CD. ... Fiddle virtuoso Vassar Clements died following a lengthy illness.

September: Smiles were mixed with tears of joy when Bob McLean gave his biggest and best gift when he purchased the world's most famous mandolin, Bill Monroe's Gibson F-5 model, and presented it to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sept. 13 -- Monroe's birthday. McLean also found, bought and donated a couple of Johnny Cash's guitars. ... One of our worst disasters hit when Hurricane Katrina blew and washed away southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Country stars were first to volunteer: Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn, Gretchen Wilson, Hank Williams Jr., Alan Jackson, Sara Evans, Terri Clark, Reba McEntire, Sugarland, Travis Tritt, Charley Pride, Darryl Worley, Phil Vassar, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Craig Morgan -- just to name a few. ... Lee Ann Womack and Brad Paisley announced the nominees for the 2005 CMA Awards during a ceremony in New York. ... After a four-month marriage, it was announced that Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger had filed for an annulment. ... Terri Clark married her road manager and guitar player, Greg Kaczor, in Canada.

October: I exclusively interviewed Garth Brooks for this column when he appeared on the Grand Ole Opry's 80th birthday show, and I was there when Dierks Bentley was inducted as the newest Opry member. (Little did I know when Dierks introduced me to his girlfriend, Cassidy, that she'd become his wife!). ... Another call from Doug Howard who informed me Rascal Flatts' Feels Like Today was triple platinum and Josh Gracin's self-titled CD was gold. ... The late Chris LeDoux's Greatest Hits went platinum.

November: It was sad for me when they took the CMA Awards show to New York City, but I watched as Keith Urban was named entertainer and male vocalist of the year, Gretchen won female vocalist, Brooks & Dunn were awarded duo of the year and Lee Ann Womack won the well-deserved album of the year honor for There's More Where That Came From and single of the year for "I May Hate Myself in the Morning." ... The Recording Academy honored Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, Tim McGraw and CeCe & BeBe Winans during a gala event in Music Town.

December: Like it never happened, the Kenny Chesney/Renee Zellweger marriage was annulled -- and tabloids screamed around the world. ... Dierks Bentley eloped to Mexico. ... The Tennessean newspaper named its 2005 Tennesseans of the year -- and four are friends of mine and country music. First was the wonderful Amy Grant aka Mrs. Vince Gill. Amy is not only one of the most beautiful and talented females on the planet, I love her for making Vince a happy man. The second one, Ed Benson, as the head of the Country Music Association, had more on his plate than 10 people. Serious about his gig, Ed seemed uptight to me, so I started to pinch his butt -- and, wouldn't you know, he liked it! The third one was Vanderbilt University chancellor Gordon Gee. I am so hillbilly, I had no idea it wasn't proper to call Vanderbilt's chancellor "baby," so I did. "Baby" is what I call people I love. Seriously, the university is lucky to have a man of Gee's character and know-how leading them and their athletes, and we are lucky he likes our music. Lastly, my always ASCAP Awards dinner date is Robert Hicks, the award winning author of Widow of the South. When Robert toured the U.S. to promote his book, he took Tennessee and country music every step of the way. ... And while we didn't realize it, the year ended with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and his wife, Linda, finalizing plans to purchase Johnny and June Carter Cash's home on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tenn.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Fried Steak.

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