Cooking with Country Stars

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Cooking with Country Stars

Thumbnail image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

By Kathy A. Megyeri 

In “1986 Class Cooking with Country Music Stars” by Elizabeth and Paul Kingsbury, Kathleen Shaw and Anne Speir, the superb collection of 200 recipes began as a fundraiser for preserving country music history.  Each recipe submitted by a country music star has an essay about its origin and an 80s photo of the star attached, particularly poignant now that we’ve lost so many of them.

Image from Biblio.com

The book is certainly a nostalgic keepsake but it certainly isn’t for fancy dinner parties showcasing haute cuisine. It’s more for picnic and relaxing dinners on the patio while listening to the stars’ music and is even more fun if you list the dish you’ve cooked along with the star’s tune titles.  Even the disclaimer on the book’s title page warns you that the publishers and editors accept no responsibility for recipes that seem to be “unsatisfactory” which might be a warning that you, the reader, may have to pick and choose and take your chances, but most of the recipes will remind you of those your mom and grandmother cooked. 

George Strait’s King Ranch Chicken. Image from American Cowboy

You’ll love cooking George Strait’s King Ranch chicken, Tammy Wynette’s eggplant a la Tammy with nutmeg, Tanya Tucker’s Italian cream cake and chicken fried steak, Dolly Parton’s coleslaw with pickle juice, her banana pudding and her cowboy beans that are served at Dollywood, and George Strait’s carne guisada.

But you might want to skip Minnie Pearl’s cheese-stuffed pickles, Tammy Wynette’s cream tuna with canned LeSeur peas, Barbara Mandrell’s low-calorie Chinese pepper steak and Reba McEntire’s poke salad that requires pokeweed which grows wild in the south and is poisonous if not prepared correctly. But even if your audience isn’t overwhelmed with the taste of some dishes, country music fans of yours will love your effort at combining food, music and nostalgia. 

For me personally, Conway Twitty’s Twitty Burgers with pineapple is the book’s highlight, mostly for the back story of how this impacted the legal and accounting professions more than anything else because it became a landmark case still cited today. Twitty was born in 1933 in Mississippi and had 44 number one singles in his career before passing suddenly in 1993. He was one of the most successful artists in country music, but it was one of his most colossal failures that went on to set an important precedent in the American tax code. It’s a landmark case that’s still taught in law schools and accounting classes called Jenkins vs. Commissioner.

Image from ConwayTwitty.com

Twitty’s real name was Harold Lloyd Jenkins. “Commissioner” refers to the head of the Internal Revenue Service. The Twitty Burger originated in 1968 and was set to become a national franchise so it had name investors like Merle Haggard, Harlen Howard and Sonny James on board. What was unique about the Twitty Burger was that the graham cracker-encrusted pineapple in each sandwich gave it a special flavor.

Conway raised $1 million from his friends and others as investment capital for the franchise, but the venture failed and closed in 1971 after Conway wrote, “What I know about is how to make records and how to sing songs, and I’m not too good at anything else, and Twitty Burger is a prime example.” 

Conway and Twitty Burger wrote off repayments to his investors on his 1973 and 1974 income taxes to the tune of $92,892 in 1973 and $3,600 more in 1974. The IRS found that these business expenses had to do with Twitty Burgers but were declared under his music earnings.  When Twitty Burger went bust, Conway paid his investors back and the $96,000 he wrote off in 1973-1974 was part of those repayments. Conway knew that if he didn’t repay those debts, his country music career would suffer, so that’s why the lawyers argued that it should be permissible to write it off for entertainment earnings. 

Image from Roadside America

However, the IRS argued that the losses had nothing to do with country music so the case went to court in 1982.  Conway argued, “It was the morally right thing to do.  They put their money in Conway Twitty and Conway Twitty did it all wrong—that’s why I paid them back.”  Best of all, Twitty won, and in 1983, the U.S. Tax Court determined that the personal image of country music artists are vital to their careers and Conway was in the right to declare the losses to protect his personal reputation. William Whatley, Conway’s lawyer, said, “We’re fighting over $100,000.  Conway could make that much money in the first three minutes of a concert.  It’s the principal that counts.” 

This case had far more ramifications for tax law.  It is still relevant today because entertainers can declare business expenses on their taxes and their reputations factor into that decision.  Ironically, the court, after deciding in favor of Conway, rendered their decision partly in a song called, “Ode to Conway Twitty.” 

Twitty Burger went belly up 

But Conway remained true 

 He repaid his investors, one and all 

It was the moral thing to do.   

His fans would have like it 

It could have hurt his fame. 

Had any investors sued him 

Like Merle Haggard or Sonny James 

When it was time to file taxes 

Conway thought what he would do. 

Was deduct those payments as a business expense 

Under section one-sixty-two. 

In order to allow these deductions 

Goes the argument of the Commissioner 

The payments must be ordinary and necessary 

To a business of the petitioner. 

Had Conway not repaid the investors 

His career would have been under a cloud, 

Under the unique facts of this case 

Held:  The deductions are allowed. 

In 1984, when the IRS didn’t appeal the court’s decision, its response was just as clever: 

Harold Jenkins and Conway Twitty 

They are both the same 

But one was born 

The other achieved fame. 

The man is talented 

And has many a friend 

They opened a restaurant 

His name he did lend. 

They are two different things 

Making burgers and songs 

The business went sour 

It didn’t take long. 

He repaid his friends 

Why did he act? 

Was it business or friendship? 

Which is fact? 

Business, the court held 

It’s deductible they feel 

We disagree with the answer 

But, let’s not appeal. 

Cook the Twitty Burger

To honor him, here’s the recipe for one serving of a Twitty Burger: 

  • 4 oz. patty of ground sirloin 
  • 1 large pineapple ring 
  • Graham cracker crumbs 
  • shortening 
  • 2 slices of bacon fried crisp 
  • 1 (5”) hamburger bun 
  • Mayonnaise 
  1. Cook the patty of ground sirloin to your liking. 
  2. Batter the pineapple with graham cracker crumbs and deep fry. 
  3. Spread mayonnaise on both sides of a bun. 
  4. Put together: bun, patty, bacon and pineapple ring for a Twitty Burger. 

Play the musical hits of “Hello Darlin’,” “Slow Hand,” “It’s Only Make Believe,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” and “I’d love to Lay You Down.”  It’s a meal, music, and legal case you’ll never forget. 

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