HOT DISH: Country Stars Boost the Nation's Economy

News About Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and More

(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

People keep talking about the bad economy, but don't blame it on our country stars. They're doing their part to make sure plenty of dollars are still circulating.

Taylor Swift earned more than $35 million in 2011, more than any other musician, according to Billboard. The publication focused on U.S. income streams, including touring, sales and songwriting royalties. Totals do not include revenues from sponsorships, merchandising or licensing for TV and film.

Taylor's $35,719,902 put her ahead of U2's $32,116,315. Kenny Chesney ranked third with $29,837,103, while Jason Aldean placed ninth with $13,409,011.

All the Swifts and Boones combined, who lived in Caswell County, N.C., where I was born and raised, never made that kind of money in a lifetime. But I'm very happy Billboard's top musician is a natural-born hillbilly who swears by her songwriting pencil and legal pad.

While we're talking about stimulating the economy, country acts are packing 'em in at venues throughout the nation.

A capacity crowd of 15,084 showed up for Brad Paisley's recent concert in Lexington, Ky., where he grossed $715,778. Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and Thompson Square pulled in a concert gross of $669,909 for their show near Chicago.

Blake Shelton, Justin Moore and Dia Frampton grossed $439,944 for a stop in Seattle. Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert and Drake White's total was $353,772 for a show in Orange Beach, Ala. And the Zac Brown Band and Levi Lowrey grabbed a $344,206 gross in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Not bad for a night's work. Country music is just so good, we don't need to talk about the bad economy.

Blake and Miranda News

When Blake Shelton spoke with reporters on the red carpet at Cosmopolitan magazine's recent Fun Fearless Awards, he acknowledged he and wife Miranda Lambert have talked about the possibility of having a baby. However, she said they agreed that they are at least two years away from parenthood.

There's so much happening with their careers right now, they want to enjoy it. When they get ready to have a baby, they just want to sit around. Lord, somebody needs to talk to that boy about 2 a.m. feedings and changing diapers. And Miranda taking care of her dogs is not the same as taking care of one's own child. However, when the time comes, I'm betting they will be great parents.

Blake, of course, will be joining Reba McEntire to co-host the ACM Awards show on April 1 in Las Vegas. Miranda, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw will perform live on the CBS telecast from the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

And Miranda made history last week with her "Over You" music video. She and Blake wrote the song about his brother who was killed in a car accident when Blake was a teenager. "Over You" debuted at the No. 3 spot on CMT's Top 20 Countdown, becoming the show's highest-debuting video ever.

Metallica to Get Churched

Metallica is not going to church, but Church is going to Metallica. The metal band invited several of their favorite artists to appear at their Orion Music and More festival set for June 23-24 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Eric is the token country act invited to perform at the event. There's a fairly long list of rock artists invited to the event. But, for the life of me, I cannot even read the names. I don't see anybody named Hank, Merle or Willie.

CMA Music Festival Update

Folks with famed names like Dierks Bentley, Brantley Gilbert, Alan Jackson, Scotty McCreery and Blake Shelton will join artists with other famed names like Jason Aldean, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and the Zac Brown Band.

All those talented people and many others will gather at Nashville's LP Field for the evening concert series at the CMA Music Festival set for June 7-10.

Any of you wonderful fans who choose to call it Fan Fair, just know it's OK with me. I still call it Fan Fair, but the important thing to remember is that it's all for you. I'll see you in June.

Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow Added to Johnny Cash Tribute Concert

Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow have been added to the stellar lineup for a Johnny Cash tribute concert taking place April 20 in Austin, Texas. They will join previously-announced stars and friends such as Kris Kristofferson, Chris Cornell, Ronnie Dunn, John Hiatt, Amy Lee, Shooter Jennings, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne and Jamey Johnson to celebrate the Man in Black's life and legacy.

The concert at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater is being billed as "We Walk the Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash." It's incredible that Kris and Willie, both members of the Highwaymen with Cash and Waylon Jennings, will be there to honor their departed friend.

Kenny Chesney's Busy Schedule

As Kenny Chesney springs into action, he has confirmed an appearance at ACM Presents: Lionel Richie and Friends -- In Concert, a CBS special to be taped in Las Vegas on April 2. It will air on April 13.

He's also scheduled to perform during a May 26 fundraiser for Plan!t Now -- yes, that's the way they spell it -- a nonprofit organization which assists in disaster preparedness. The event in the Bahamas is part of the Michael Douglas and Friends celebrity golf tournament co-hosted by actor Morgan Freeman.

Meanwhile, Kenny is gearing up for the Brothers of the Sun tour with best friend Tim McGraw. They've already sold more than 600,000 tickets for the stadium shows, and opening act Jake Owen is jumping up and down to get on the road with the two cool dudes.

By the way, Jake just got the good news that his hit single, "Alone With You," has been certified gold.

Casey James to Visit Ellen

Casey James has been writing songs and playing guitar since he was a kid. He began playing onstage in bars or anywhere they'd allow when he was growing up in Cool, Texas. Even when he was healing from a motorcycle accident, Casey wanted to be onstage.

It was his mom who pushed him to fly to Denver to audition for American Idol. He made the grade and was off to Hollywood, where he came in third for the season. The accomplishment resulted in a deal with 19 Recordings/BNA Records.

His self-titled album will be released Tuesday (March 20). The next day, he'll perform his very sexy single, "Let's Don't Call It a Night," on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

More News

The hills of Hollywood will be alive with the sounds of fiddles, steel guitar and banjos on June 22 when Reba McEntire performs at the Hollywood Bowl and is inducted into the famous venue's hall of fame.

Chris Young's last five songs all went No. 1: "Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)," "The Man I Want to Be," "Voices," "Tomorrow" and "You." Chris is thrilled that people hear his songs and then buy them.

Montgomery Gentry taped an episode of The Price Is Right to lead up to the ACM Awards on April 1. They'll be featured on Tuesday's (March 20) episode of the game show.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: [news id="1681245"]Cabbage and Apples.[/news]

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