HOT DISH: Rascal Flatts' Success Spotlighted by CMA

City Leaders and Business Community Turn Out in Droves for Party

(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

While New Orleans observed Fat Tuesday in a city yet to be repaired, Music Town last week celebrated "Flatts Tuesday" at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. And what a turnout.

I've been in Nashville more years than I've got fingers and toes, and this is the first time I've ever known the city of music to directly honor country stars. Along with the Country Music Association, music industry leaders and members of the local business community, it was -- for sure -- a "Flatts Tuesday" complete with a Mardi Gras theme, a Cajun band and beads. All this for Rascal Flatts, the top-selling music act in all genres in 2006.

After the great and near great assembled, shook hands, patted backs and tossed back a few, CMA chief operating officer Tammy Genovese allowed, "An accomplishment like this calls for a celebration."

Rascal Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus said the group takes the art of making music seriously, but he also sounded off with a few bars of an Eagles hit, "Hotel California," and everybody who had watched or read about the recent Grammy Awards show got his joke.

Lyric Street Records president Randy Goodman, who is also president-elect of the CMA's board of directors, had plenty to say about the celebration and the group's accomplishments. They're Randy's act, after all, and he's earned the right to grin like a mule eating briars.

Vice Mayor Howard Gentry spoke on behalf of Mayor Bill Purcell and the Metro Council and said that if for country music, we could not stand so proud as a city. Amen! Gentry did not hold back and continued, "Since 2005, Rascal Flatts has donated $1.4 million to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, the largest donation in the hospital's history."

Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn added, "They've got hearts as big as this building."

ASCAP senior vice president Connie Bradley, a longtime friend and supporter of the group, said, "Becoming the bestselling artists of 2006 is an accomplishment the entire music community and the city of Nashville can celebrate."

Also in attendance were Lyric Street senior vice president of A&R Doug Howard, an early believer in the group, and their record producer, Dann Huff.

My Hillbilly Niece

I received an e-mail from my niece, Lisa, who'd celebrated her birthday -- and was she ever excited. Her friends at the courthouse where she works in Greensboro, N.C., gave her a birthday cake with Kenny Chesney's picture in the icing. Yes, she also e-mailed a photo of the cake. Of course, she has tickets for Kenny's Greensboro concert in April. She probably bought the first one!

A Misplaced Hillbilly in L.A.

I also got an e-mail from my L.A. friend, John Schulian, who calls himself a "misplaced hillbilly." He was writing to tell me about what he described as a "major music event" he'd attended. He went to see Neko Case, whom he described as an alt-country girl with a smoky voice. John added, "And you'll never guess who she had as special surprise guests: Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart and Billy Bob Thornton backing Porter Wagoner."

I could feel John's excitement as he continued, "Ol' Porter looked great in a spangled lavender Nudie suit, with that big silver pompadour. ... An unforgettable moment."

I couldn't help but answer John's e-mail with some old Neko Case news. While performing on the portico outside the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, she removed her blouse -- but not her bra -- and was removed from the premises.

Britney Spears may get away without wearing bloomers in L.A., but you cannot sing topless in Music City.

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My friend Tracy Lawrence is a real hillbilly. He used to be a little bit crazy, but he's grown up a lot and doesn't act up nearly as much. Like a lot of other great artists, Tracy found himself at a crossroads, so he followed the lead of pals like Tracy Byrd, Aaron Tippin and Charlie Daniels to start his own record label, Rocky Comfort. (Rocky Comfort is the original name of Foreman, Ark., the town where Tracy was raised.)

A couple of weeks ago, Big & Rich took part in the open house for the Army's new rehabilitation facility, the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. My guess is that the duo went on their own dime. See, this facility takes care of servicemen and women returning from harm's way, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan. The rehab facility, its staff and its equipment are second to none, and every cent is paid by caring individuals who love and appreciate the contributions made by the injured soldiers. The facility cost millions, but it was not funded by the government. (Too much red tape. It would have taken years to build the place.) It was funded by countless individuals, including Rosie O'Donnell, who attended the event. Thank God for those who give money. And thank God for our troops. Keep them safe and bring them home.

Backstage at the Grammy Awards, American Idol judge Randy Jackson did some bragging about the show's impact, including Carrie Underwood's two Grammy wins. "Kids validate what we do," he said.

Bucky Covington has a twin brother named Rocky who will be his drummer. Hey, maybe Rocky can help out with autographing if Bucky's hand gets sore. Always thinking.

Loretta Lynn will receive an honorary doctorate of music from Boston's Berklee College of Music in March. Berklee president Roger H. Brown will make the presentation during Lynn's appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.

Jason Aldean had a hot new album that was nearly lost when Treasure Isle Studio burned to the ground. Fortunately, Aldean's completed record was spared.

It seems like only yesterday when I saw the Louvin Brothers sing at Cherry Grove School in Caswell County, N.C. I was just a knee-high kid, not yet dry behind the ears, but I knew I was seeing greatness. Ira Louvin was killed in an automobile crash in 1965, but brother Charlie continued to perform as a solo act. The 80-year old Charlie has a new album of old songs that's been receiving rave reviews everywhere, but can rave reviews sell country music CDs?

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Potato Casserole.

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