HOT DISH: Sammy Kershaw Is Still Trying

More News on Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood and Others

(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

I received a bio from Sammy Kershaw's publicist revealing things I never knew. Like a lot of you, I've been a Sammy fan for 15 years -- since "Cadillac Style" -- and thought I knew all there was to know about Sam, but I was wrong.

I called Sammy, who had just finished a concert in Harrisburg, Pa., and had to perform in South Carolina the next night. He'd been under his bus most of the day repairing a problem, he said. But that's Sam: If it's broke, fix it. If it needs bulldozing, do it. The man is not afraid of hard work. Here's his story:

Sammy was the oldest of three boys and a sister when his carpenter daddy died in Kaplan, La., of lung cancer. Twelve-year-old Sammy's childhood ended. He got a job and began singing on the side. There were hard times, but he managed to keep food on the table.

With his incredible voice, he eventually signed with Mercury Records and became a multi-platinum artist after releasing a string of Top 10 hits, including "She Don't Know She's Beautiful," "Anywhere but Here," "Haunted Heart," "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer," "I Can't Reach Her Anymore" and many others.

Sammy was living the dream in 1999 when he recorded the duet, "Maybe Not Tonight," with Lorrie Morgan. Two years later, the couple married, but the relationship became stormy. They separated, reconciled and then separated again. Around this time, his record label dropped Sam from the roster. Between his marital problems and getting dropped from his label, he says his life became the country song he could never write.

Sammy says he's right back where he started, but he's getting a new start at Category 5 Records with his new album, Honky Tonk Boots. In recording the album, Sammy turned to producer Buddy Cannon. Sammy is the first artist Buddy ever produced, and their first single together, "Cadillac Style," blazed out of the box in 1991 to start a string of hits. Buddy, who also produces hitmaker Kenny Chesney, says Sammy can deliver. He's still trying.

Ray Price: Now There's a Singer

"It's about damn time," said Ray Price when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Now 80, Price had been overlooked, so maybe he felt ignored back then. But he did not feel that way on Aug. 8 when the new exhibit, For the Good Times: The Ray Price Story opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

I was told the Perryville, Texas, native shed tears when he toured the exhibit and saw familiar photos of his ranch and of friends who have gone on before. It was good to see Buddy Killen at Ray's celebration. I'm sure Buddy, who became a multimillionaire through music publishing and other business ventures, recalls the days and nights when he used to play upright bass in Ray's band.

By the way, Ray Price can still sing a song as good as he ever could. Now let me tell you right now: There's a singer.

In the News

Five-time CMA Award winner and my good friend, Brad Paisley, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles will be in New York to announce several of the finalists for this year's CMA Awards during the Aug. 30 telecast of ABC's Good Morning America. Following the announcement in New York, CMT's Katie Cook and Lance Smith, along with rising stars Jason Aldean and Little Big Town, will be in Nashville to reveal the remaining nominees during a special edition of CMT Insider. The hottest duo in any genre of music, Brooks & Dunn, will host the 40th annual CMA Awards taking place Nov. 6 in Nashville.

Triple-platinum Carrie Underwood has been named country breakout artist of the year by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). The award is presented on behalf of wholesalers and retailers to artists who have contributed significantly to the health of the music industry through sales and creatively.

Jerry Lee Lewis' upcoming CD, Last Man Standing, is obviously referring to the famed Sun Record photo of him with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. After all, the rest are history, and he is left standing. Icons from all music genres appear on the Killer's CD, including George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Ron Wood, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, etc. What? No females?

Hank Williams Jr. says his Family Tradition barbecue sauce will soon be in grocery stores. If you just can't wait, you can order it from his official Web site.

When I saw Jake Owen perform back in the spring during the Country Radio Seminar, I said, "That boy is a star." He's sure headed that way. His name and photos are everywhere, and his CD, Startin' With Me, debuted in the Top 10 of the country albums chart. He's another one of those who's too cute to miss.

Some 25,000 people stood out in the rain to see Brad Paisley in West Palm Beach, Fla., where fans enjoyed a mini-Mudstock. Too bad Little Jimmy Dickens and I weren't there to get into the action like we did in Brad's "Mud on the Tires" video.

It's been several years since I co-hosted the WE Fest in beautiful Detroit Lakes, Minn., with Minneapolis radio dude John Hines. That's a region that grows real country music fans and the prettiest young people, honest to God, I've ever seen. Long-legged blondes with Swede bloodlines -- and the girls were good looking, too! They tell me Trent Tomlinson, doo-rag and all, encored twice during his 90-minute performance there earlier this month.

Multi-talented Vince Gill, who I call plumb perfect because he is, has released the first single from his forthcoming four-disc, multi-genre boxed set, These Days, that's due for an Oct.17 release. "The Reason Why" is Vince's first new single in two years. He wrote or co-wrote each of the 43 songs on the record. The day before the album is released, Vince will embark on a 25-day tour.

I don't recall where I learned this item. However, it is truly entertaining so here goes: Wonderful Trace Adkins was in New York being interviewed for one of the satellite radio services radio when Gene Simmons of Kiss barreled into the studio and blurted, "What people really want to know, Trace, is, 'What about the groupies?'" Not to be outdone, Trace shot back, "I'm just going around the country trying to take care of the ones you left in a crumpled heap, Gene."

Let's send prayers by the dozens to Texas to the great Freddy Fender who has inoperable lung cancer.

Katrina Elam has joined Rascals Flatts' sold-out tour for 10 shows. Isn't this the same Katrina who jumped ship midway through Keith Urban's tour a few years back? Just wondering.

Dancing to Ralph Stanley songs? O brother, what's coming next? Choreographer Trey McIntyre is using songs recorded and made famous by Ralph Stanley in his new dance production, Go Out. Among the songs included are "Little Maggie," "I'll Remember You in My Prayers" and "O Death." When the production showcased in Beckett, Mass., the Boston Globe reported that death was cast as a cold-hearted woman in a red dress. Now, that makes all the sense in the world.

When help is needed, Charlie Daniels is there. Joining Charlie at the 10th annual Christmas for Kids benefit concert on Nov. 20 at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium are Craig Morgan and Sawyer Brown. This is part of the annual Tour Bus tour where drivers raise money by charging a fee for fans to tour stars' buses. The money allows needy kids from 25 area schools to shop for holiday gifts. Big, burly bus drivers come away with tears when little kids use part of their money to buy something their mama needs. God bless Charlie and all those who help children.

Congratulations to Josh Turner for earning two platinum CDs in a row. His second album, Your Man, has just been certified for shipments of 1 million copies. Those who said Josh will be a one-hit wonder with "Long Black Train" must have been joshing.

Alan Jackson's Precious Memories, the gospel CD he recorded for his mama as a Christmas present, has also been certified platinum.

Here's a personal thanks to Mike Curb, owner of Curb Records, who had patience and believed in Rodney Atkins for 10 years. Rodney's new album, If You're Going Through Hell, recently debuted at No. 1 on the country chart. That's not all, though. His single, "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)," stayed on the country chart for more than seven months before crawling to No. 1 -- where it remains for the second consecutive week.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: White Beans.

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