But today, even books featuring lesser-known country names are doing well. "Country Music's Greatest Eats," a collaboration of Southern Living magazine and Country Music Television, sold 11,000 copies in 12 minutes on shopping channel QVC, says the book's publicist, Aimee Bianca. Though the book doesn't hit stores until May 6, Bianca says, it already has exhausted its initial 80,000 print run.
"If you think about music, but country music in particular, every single song has a story to tell," says Hunter Lewis, executive editor at Southern Living. "We always say about Southern recipes that every recipe tells a story: it's from somewhere, from someone, your mom, your grandmother taught you to do it... If you think about the way recipes are passed down and shared, and the way songs are written and passed down and shared, it's a very natural intersection."
Country stars also are pairing food and music in restaurants and festivals. Singer-songwriter Toby Keith owns a chain of restaurants named after his 2003 hit "I Love This Bar" that can be found in more than a dozen cities from Foxborough, Massachusetts, to Oxnard, California. Chart-topping artist Dierks Bentley opened Whiskey Row in Scottsdale, Arizona, featuring craft beer, organic ingredients and a 360-degree stage for music acts. In September, Nashville, Tennessee, will host its second annual Music City Food and Wine Festival. Created by Grammy Award-winning artists Caleb and Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon and chef Jonathan Waxman, a pioneer of American regional cuisine, the festival features national and regional chefs and music.
"We wanted a closely curated festival that featured national chefs to draw attention, but it was about the town of Nashville and about the regional area," Waxman says. "We're talking Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia... That area of the world has just grown up culinary-wise."