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My Encounter with "The Chicks"
by Judson Cox
28 May 2003

In the mid-nineties I was at the annual Merle Watson festival in North Wilkesboro, NC.  On the bill was a band few people had ever heard of, The Dixie Chicks.  The next day, I found myself sharing a table with them.

The Chicks have been in the news quite a bit this recently. Following Natalie Maines pronouncement to a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," the Chicks not only stood by her statement, but posed semi-nude on a magazine cover to champion "free speech" in a logically challenging fashion. Country fans predictably expressed displeasure, flooding radio stations with demands that the Chicks be banned from their air waves. "We've had a huge listener reaction and movement against the statements," said Paul Williams of KPLX-FM in Dallas-Fort Worth, the nation's fifth largest radio market. In Kansas City, Mo., WDAF-AM set trash cans outside its offices for listeners to toss their Dixie Chicks CDs. Its Web site displayed more than 800 listener e-mails, most of them in support of the station's boycott. After more than 250 listeners called Friday to complain about Maines' comments, WTDR-FM in Talladega, Ala., dropped the Dixie Chicks.

Maines did offer a half hearted apology, "As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect." Yet, it was far from an expression of contrition when Maines appeared in an F.U.T.K. t-shirt at the CMA awards, as a blatant message to Toby Keith.  Keith has been, at best, a reluctant critic of the Chicks, often simply requesting that Maines give her radical politics a rest in favor of playing music.  It seems that Keith's proud patriotism and reluctance to back down in the face of Maines' shrill criticism is simply too irksome for the pudgy exhibitionist.  Many pundits believe Maines' comments stem from a sincere political ideology, while others attribute he rhetoric to a misguided business move; it may be either of these. However, my experience with the Dixie Chicks leads me to another conclusion.

As some of my readers know, I play country music. I play hard core honky tonk, western swing and bluegrass at any festival or bar that will have me. I don’t make much money at it, and I certainly don’t play many of the same venues as the Dixie Chicks. Although, in the mid-nineties our paths did cross. It was at the annual Merle Watson festival in North Wilkesboro, NC, where we met. I was there as an artist’s guest, enjoying hanging out with my heroes back stage. Guy Clark, Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Junior Brown, Doc Watson, and Natalie MacMaster were there, as well as many other country luminaries. Also on the bill was a band few people had ever heard of, The Dixie Chicks. There was a publicity buzz around the Chicks (the next big thing), so we all hung around the main stage to see if they were any good; they weren’t. Actually, they really stunk! They were awkward on stage, inept musicians, and poor singers. The majority of the crowd, and all of the musicians got up and left.

The next day, I found myself sharing a table with the Chicks. They were cute, and were trying hard to get my attention, so I ate lunch with them. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, believing that they were young and green, and would become better musicians as they gained experience. I was having a pretty nice time until they opened their mouths.

Think back for a moment, to high school. Do you remember the girl on the cheer-leading squad, who always hung with the popular kids, was bleached blonde and bubbly, and had not a thought in her head? She was the girl that everyone liked because she was fun to be around, but whom everyone made fun of. She carried a D average, at best, giggled constantly and loudly, and never shut up. She talked about pop singers, television shows, fashion, the popularity of her schoolmates, and beyond that knew nothing. She was the girl who thought we fought the British in World War Two to free us from the king. The Dixie Chicks were three of that girl!

I soon developed a pounding headache from listening to the Chicks snipe at each other about their make-up and hair, and giggle like Mickey Mouse. I gave them a polite excuse, and moved down the table. I could never have imagined that within a few short years they would be one of the most popular bands in the country. The fact that they were even called country made me sick.

Last year, I heard a few songs from the latest Dixie Chicks album on the radio. "Wow," I thought, " this is great!" The songs were pure country, the singing had a great depth of tone and the instrumentals were tight. You can’t fake musicianship in acoustic music, you either have the chops or you don’t. They had the chops. They didn’t sound anything like the Dixie Chicks I met only a few years before. I thought they had matured into talented musicians; then, they opened their mouths. Once again, I was reminded that these girls are just pretty little idiots.

Just like the ditsy cheer-leader from high school, the Dixie Chicks will say whatever they think is popular. My theory is that living in the loony left dominated music industry, where Sheryl Crow and Barbara Striesand are considered to be deep political thinkers, Natalie just thought her leftist diatribe was cool. Furthermore, she proved that the Chicks have not matured. She does not have the intelligence information that the President has, nor does she have the President’s responsibility. She is a musician and a singer and nothing more.

As illustrated in a story told by Johnny Gimble, fiddle player for the legendary Bob Wills, a musician does not have the same outlook as a leader or as most Americans. "When I was a little boy, my momma asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I wanted to be a fiddle player (musician). Son, she said, you can’t do both."

That said, I won’t be buying any Dixie Chicks cds, French wines or frois gras any time soon. I will buy Darryl Worley’s "Have You Forgotten." American wine is getting better all the time, and Australia and Spain produce much better varietals than the increasingly tapped out soil of Bordeaux. What’s more, domestic goose or duck liver is identical to any fancy French version. We need not miss our fair weather friends a bit. I do not wish to see my hard earned money go to support leftists or anti-Americanism of any stripe. To quote a real country singer, Merle Haggard, "When you’re running down this country, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me."

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