BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Veteran country media personality Hazel Smith was in the spotlight as the subject of the inaugural Music Row Storytellers event on Monday (August 15).
The organizers chose well. The always amusing and always outspoken Hazel has “done it all.” She was a longtime columnist in Country Music magazine, hosted her own CMT television series Southern Fried Flicks, authored the 2001 cookbook Hazel’s Hot Dish, was a regular contributor to Country Weekly, won the 1999 CMA Media Achievement Award, curated country packages for K-Tel Records, created her own syndicated radio show and was a 2008 SOURCE honoree.
During her diverse career, she has been an office manager, personal assistant, publicist and/or director of operations for such personalities as Waylon Jennings, Ricky Skaggs, Dr. Hook, The Whites and Bill Monroe. The last-named wrote “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” about her.
Hazel is also a songwriter, herself, with more than 175 compositions registered with BMI. Among those who have recorded her works are Tammy Wynette and Dr. Hook. When she was the office manager at Tompall Glaser’s Hillbilly Central studio in the 1970s, she coined the term “Outlaw music” to describe the new country approach of such stars as Glaser, Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman and the like.
Hazel’s salute was staged at an event venue called Well Placed Smile, tucked away on Gleaves Street. It was a serene, white-and-beige space. I love find new places to party, don’t you?
Artists attending included Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Marlon Hargis of Exile, Kathy Chiavola and, naturally, Hazel’s sons Terry Smith of The Grascals and singer/songwriter Billy Boone Smith. Cheryl White was representing The Whites. Sister Sharon White and hubby Ricky Skaggs were celebrating their 35th anniversary on a working vacation in Ireland.
Dierks Bentley sent a video. Garth Brooks texted his congratulations from across town, where he was shooting promos for the CBS Sports SEC weekly football game series. His “Pure Adrenaline” will be the broadcasts’ theme song this fall.
“Hazel deserves a night that’s all about her, and we’re glad that you agree,” said host Maurice Miner to the crowd.
“I love how she took people in and loved them for who they were,” said Krauss. “People are drawn to the truth, and people are drawn to kindness, and that’s what she represents.”
Mike Dungan said to Hazel, “What you’ve meant to so many young artists in this business is that you are ‘Mama.’ Thank you for being that on behalf of all of these kids.”
“Opry” Dan Rogers and Opry member White also took turns moderating. Joe Galante sent in a heartfelt letter.
Basking in the greatness that is Hazel were Dave Cobb, David Ross, Mike Martinovich, Martha Moore, Fletcher Foster, Caitlin Crowell, Traci Todd, Shanna Strassberg, Heather McBee, Holly Gleason, Preshias Tomes Harris (who is involved in an exciting new series of reissue CDs), Shelia Shipley-Biddy, Doug & Linda Edell Howard, Debbie Linn, Taylor Clay, Wes Vause, Sherod Robertson, Cindy Hunt, Nancy Cardwell, John Zarling and Marghie Evans.
As they schmoozed, they sampled Nashville hot chicken on biscuits, macaroni & cheese balls, slaw on breaded baked eggplant, assorted cheeses, fruits, waffle-cone compotes and barbecue on flatbread with peaches, onions and arugula.
This was the kickoff of a planned annual Storyteller fundraiser for Music Health Alliance. The charity protects, directs and connects music professionals with healthcare, financial, insurance and medical solutions.
Founder Tatum Allsep told the crowd that the organization has achieved more than $12 million in healthcare cost reductions for its clients. “At the end of the year, when you’re trying to find a charity to give to, think of us,” she said.