Take a whiff of Sista Smiff and you'll come back for more, that's fo sho!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Grande Dame of Music Row

This is my maw in law. My husband's mother. My children's grandmother and a mother figure to a lot of people from struggling songwriters to young women to gay guys. Everybody is "honey" to her, unless, of course, you step out of her favor which, trust me, you don't want to be out of her favor.

Hazel is from Caswell County, NC. It is so far removed from the hustle and bustle of busy suburbia, it isn't even funny. She grew up on a tobacco (tuh-backa as they say in Caswell) farm. Her daddy was the local sheriff and all around bad ass. She tells stories of her dad getting mad when the kids played. He wanted them to work all the time and apparently, he didn't put up with much nonsense. Every picture I've ever seen of my grandfather-in-law, he looks stressed out and unhappy. He died at the age of 58 while sitting at the breakfast table from a massive stroke.

Her mother, who is still living and recently celebrated 92 years of living, married at 15 years old, and although she was not educated, has more common sense than anybody I know. She was also, before the effects of 92 years of living took their toll on her, one of the best southern cooks around.

Hazel took the broad step and moved to Nashville in 1968 to pursue a career as a songwriter, leaving behind a 15 year marriage. My father in law, who is ten years older than my mother in law and of a totally different mindset, did not support her dreams of doing something beyond Rockingham and Caswell Counties. He didn't think she had any talent as a songwriter or really, anything. In reality, The Older Mr. Smiff knew what he was dealing with with his wife and that she was a livewire. I think he was extremely threatened by her spunk, tenacity and git r done attitude. He begged her to come back home. He missed her cooking.

Hazel came to Nashville, with my then 8 year old husband in tow, later followed by her older son, and somehow, scarfed out a living for herself and her kids. She worked for Kinky Friedman, Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings, began writing a long running column in Country Music magazine and coining the phrase "Outlaw Music" to describe what her then employers were doing musically. Later on, she ran the office of Dr. Hook and the personal dealings of Ricky Skaggs and had some pretty good song cuts in between. She has continued writing for various publications and is on radio station WFMS in Indianapolis every morning.

Hazel learned a lot from her mother's kitchen and is quite the Southern culinary expert. She has spent the last 5 years making it her personal mission to make sure people know how to cook like our grandmas used to. She has cooked on Emeril Lagasse's show on the Food Network and appears on the Ellen DeGeneres Show a few times a year. She has a cookbook called "Cooking With Country Stars" and tonight (Thursday) she will be on QVC at 8:00 eastern hawking it. Although it would be great if you bought one (I have my kids inheritance to think of, ya know), you should be highly entertained.


Anonymous said...

Hazel is the best.

Anonymous said...

I saw Hazel last night on A&E. She was great!