HOT DISH: Gretchen Wilson Sells Her Britches

Reba Heads to Carnegie Hall and Diamond Rio's Continuing Charity Work

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

On New Year's Day 2004, I had no idea who Gretchen Wilson was -- and neither did many of you. Nine months later, like Dolly, Patsy, Loretta, Tammy, Tanya, Sara, Reba and Terri, Gretchen has become a one-name singer among country fans.

All someone has to say is "Gretchen," and you know. For instance, I asked Sally Smathers if her makeup artist sister, Candy, was working with Dolly at her showcase a week ago. "No," said Sally, "She's on the road with Gretchen." 'Nuff said. Point made.

She's redneck proud, "Pocahontas Proud," and my friend Dave swears Gretchen's new single, "When I Think About Cheatin'," is in a category with greats like Tammy and Patsy. That's saying a lot for Dave, a man who worshipped Tammy so much he bought an outfit of hers at an auction. Bragging on Gretchen is way up the Dave ladder.

Gretchen and Big & Rich are heading for their first series of shows as headliners on what they're calling the American Revolution tour. The opening act is James Otto, a Muzik Mafia accomplice, naturally. Giving credit where credit is due, it was John Rich of Big & Rich who sorta bullied his way into padlocked doors on Music Row and demanded, "Just listen to this girl sing."

I read where somebody got into Gretchen's britches -- the ones autographed by Hank Jr., Kid Rock and herself -- to the tune of $7,700 at an auction to fund Meningitis research. That's a pretty steep price to pay for a pair of jeans worn in an award-nominated video, even if it is "Redneck Woman," but it's going for a good cause: to help find a cure for sick kids. United Cerebral Palsy is auctioning off another pair.

I was not at all surprised to learn Gretchen traded in her old truck for another truck. Her new ride is a 2004 black-on-black ¾ ton Chevy turbo-diesel with four doors and a crew cab. It is huge. I am told that this amazing vehicle can pull up a stump.

Someone asked Gretchen, if she had tons of money, what kind of car would she want. "Don't want a car," she said, but finally offered, "Corvette." A true redneck woman.

Casting Announcement

In Twang Town, we are not deluged with casting announcements. Matter of fact, I think maybe we got one of our first this week, and we are awed and amazed but not surprised. Nothing our very own multi-talented Reba McEntire could do would surprise Music Row. McEntire and some dude unknown to me named Brian Stokes Mitchell are set to headline Carnegie Hall's gala benefit performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific on June 9, 2005, in the Isaac Stern Auditorium.

Big Deal

It's a big deal that Diamond Rio are one of the few groups who go into the studio and play all their own instruments. What you hear on your CD player is what you see and hear when they perform. The talented guys were surprised recently on the Opry stage when Steve Wariner presented them with the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award. The queen of country comedy, the late Minnie Pearl, was known for her giving spirit, and the award pays tribute to her by recognizing others for their charitable and community work. In the spirit of the great Minnie, the group's 13th annual golf tourney raised $155,000 on behalf of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tennessee. Their pal, NASCAR's Tony Stewart, donated items that raised $15,000 at auction. And that is a big deal. Diamond Rio's list of charity work is a mile long.

Big-Hearted Keith Urban

Keith Urban loves his 357 Customs Chopper, but he's gonna give it away to the highest bidder when he hosts the Max It Out for Meningitis fundraiser at Nashville's Rocketown on Jan. 22. Named for 4-year-old bacterial meningitis survivor Max Royka, the charity event will include an auction on eBay. A slew of good-hearted country music greats have donated auction items. The event will culminate with dinner and a concert. Thanks to big-hearted Keith, more funds will be available for meningitis research.

Side Dish

Eye saw the Oak Ridge Boys' Joe Bonsall at the Sapporo restaurant. Hey, a hillbilly can have a sushi supper if they want to.

Word I got from my friends at the Food Network in New York this week regarding Trace Adkins' second appearance on Emeril Live: "Trace was wonderful and sexy as hell. He was great. Always a pleasure to have him on." Stay tuned for an airdate for Trace's appearance.

A female not ashamed of country's roots and not afraid to sing the songs is Catherine Britt. Catherine, the real deal, is being compared to Loretta and Tammy by those of us who know and love country music. The almost 6-foot blonde beauty blew away the crowd at her showcase last week in Music Town. Don't you know our friends at radio are men enough to play the music of a 19-year-old who truly loves the music of Hank Williams and sings "I'll Fly Away" like she means it. Wait until you hear her CD. Wow.

As much as I've complained about female singers showing body parts, lo and behold, Kenny Chesney has hauled off and pulled up his shirt and pulled down his britches to show off his stomach for a photo in an upcoming coffee-table book titled Princess. Of all things, the book displays body parts celebs hold dear. The things people think up to do to make money: You show me yours, and I'll show you mine. Seriously, the book benefits the Starlight Foundation, an international organization dedicated to improving the lives of seriously ill children and their families. Photographer Melanie Dunnea, the gal that talked Kenny into posing for this project, was hired by People magazine to shoot Kenny for its sexiest man issue.

While we are on the subject of Kenny, he is set to appear on the Today Show on Nov. 22. Since host Katie Couric has split with her millionaire boyfriend, I wonder if Kenny can get within hugging distance of her? Kenny has admitted he thinks Katie is a cutie.

Author, singer, songwriter and my longtime friend Kinky Friedman swears he is running for governor of Texas in 2006. His platform: "Put the shine back in the Lonestar State." Kinky's newest book, a series of columns from Texas Monthly, is titled 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out. Kinky still does his typing on a non-electric typewriter. This is Kinky's 20th book. Dunno how he does it without a computer.

Kinky told Don Imus on Imus in the Morning he's undecided who he will support for president. He hangs out with George W. and Laura Bush at the White House, where he sleeps in the Lincoln bedroom, and is soon on his way to Arkansas in November to hang with friends Bill and Hillary Clinton at the opening of the ex-president's library. Is that called swinging both ways?

Referring to Imus made me think of an important correction that I can make right here. The late, great songwriter Harlan Howard, a man of great wit with a mind filled with unrecorded but often remembered sayings, is so sorely missed on the streets and in the bars of this hillbilly town. Following one of his divorces, Harlan remarked, "Hell, I'm gonna find a woman I don't like and buy her a house." Imagine my surprise when I read Harlan's statement in Reader's Digest credited to Rod Stewart! I've heard Imus quote Harlan's line many times on his early morning show on MSNBC. I reckon Rod Stewart must watch Imus, too.

Travis Tritt performed "Falcons Fever" at halftime of Atlanta Falcons/San Diego Chargers game. A dyed-in-the-wool Falcons fan, Tritt penned the song for his hometown team, and Atlanta radio is already playing it. The song will be played at the Georgia Dome during the pre-game and following touchdowns for the remainder of the 2004 season. Thought you'd like to know about another Falcons connection on Tritt's current CD, My Honky Tonk History. Falcons punter Chris Mohr co-wrote the song, "I See Me," with Nashville songwriter Casey Beathard, son of Falcon's senior advisor Bobby Beathard.

Dierks Bentley and Cross Canadian Ragweed kick off a co-headlining tour called High Times and Hangovers on Oct. 27. No drinking and driving, boys.

Tim McGraw is featured everywhere. He's in the November issue of Reader's Digest with a cute color pic of him and Faith, along with a very touching story about Tim's life and his dad's death. In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, there's a color photo of Tim and Faith at the L.A. premiere of Friday Night Lights. Tim, whose mom is Italian, was honored last week in Washington with a special achievement award from the National Italian American Foundation.

Brad Paisley kicks off his 2005 tour with his Mud in the Valley flood relief concert to benefit the folks back home in the Ohio Valley on Jan. 15 in Wheeling, W.Va. This is the second charity homecoming by the Glen Dale, W.Va., native. "Mud on the Tires" is Brad's current single and upcoming video from his platinum album of the same name. Guess who is in the video!

Willie Nelson is set to play the role of Uncle Jesse, Burt Reynolds will play Boss Hogg and Jessica Simpson is in the role of Daisy Duke in the upcoming Dukes of Hazzard movie. I hope they use Waylon Jennings theme song of "Good Ol' Boys."

I hear there will be another Nashville Star on the USA network, but Sony Records is not involved. Stay tuned.

On Friday (Oct. 29), stay tuned for the upcoming CMT Greatest Outlaws: The Dirty Dozen at 8 p.m. ET/PT followed by the CMT Outlaws concert.

When George Strait was told he had 51 hits on his CD titled 50 Number Ones, the cowboy drawled, "That's the kind of problem you want to have." Then he went on about how much he appreciates the fans' support that made his album title a lie and how good radio has been to him during his career. Can't help but love the great George Strait.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Corn Chowder.

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