Friday, March 28, 2003: A Dixie Chicks squawk


Up until last week, my buddy Maurice Moore said, he wouldn't have known a Dixie Chick from a Dixie cup.

Last week, though, after country music stations across the nation -- including WQDR-FM in Raleigh -- blacklisted the Dixie Chicks because one of them spoke unflatteringly of President Bush, Maurice bought their latest CD.

"As a sign of support," he said when I asked why. Not support of what they said, but "because they ought to have the right to free speech. Isn't that what we're over there fighting for?"

Not exactly, Mo. I started to tell him we were actually over there fighting for oil -- or because George Bush is trying to keep our minds off the dreadful economy, but, hey, that's just one American's opinion.

Regardless of why our men and women are in Iraq fighting and dying, the hypocrisy of the stations that have snipped the Chickie-poos from their already narrow playlists is laughable.

Lisa McKay, WQDR program director, said in an interview in this paper that, before one Chick said she was "ashamed" that Bush hailed from Texas, the station was playing a Chicks song about once an hour.

I've got one question: Why, dadgummit?

The Chicks are OK, if you like your country music all prettied up and citified, but once an hour is too much to play anybody not named Conway Twitty or Hank Williams.

What galls is to hear station executives say they took the Chicks' music out of rotation in response to listeners' requests.

That's bull. Anyone who listens to local radio knows stations do nothing in response to listeners' requests. That's especially true of WQDR. If they did, they would have, by now, honored my requests and played something by Conway, Hank, George Jones or Charley Pride.

True, Hank and Conway are both dead, but being a living legend is no guarantee that a station that bills itself as playing "today's best country" will play your stuff: George Jones had a terrific album out a couple of years ago, and I never heard a single cut on QDR.

One thing I did hear on television was Charley Pride and Johnny Cash lamenting that they can't get anything new played on radio today. You reckon they badmouthed the president, too?

In all fairness to QDR, it could have possibly slipped in some real country while I was listening to something more enjoyable than "today's country" -- something like the screeching sound of fingernails being scraped across a blackboard.

Most of today's so-called country acts are, sadly, to borrow Hoyt Axton's classic description, "all hat and no horse."

Lewis Grizzard, the late columnist from the Atlanta Constitution, once disputed claims that Elvis was country by writing, "If Elvis is country, then my butt is a typewriter."

Likewise, if most of these pretty boys -- an inordinate number of whom seem to be named Tracy -- are country, then my own rather sizable one is a word processor.

Here's an idea that would automatically improve radio of all formats: If we could get Travis Tritt, Luther Vandross and a few other perennials to say something bad about Bush, maybe stations would stop playing them so much, too.