Once upon a time there were four beautiful young ladies. They lived and traveled in the Dallas, Texas area, hoping to play and sing their way into the national spotlight.
Why not? Garth Brooks had just done it. His original practice was to go around to various radio stations, pop in and chat with the DJs … getting on-air time during the choice morning drive-to-work hours. One thing led to another, local concerts took place, and before long it was “hello, Bob Hope.”
Why not these four young ladies? They were super musicians and had a vocal blend that would make you swear they were sisters (well, ahem, two of them were). Their style was unique - not deep country (my favorite), and not pure folk. Their instrumental sound was reminiscent of bluegrass.
Needless to say they were the talk of the town. Our Public Radio station (KERA), which featured a genre of indie productions and unique styles, played their music regularly.
And, as with Mr. Brooks, the Chicks began playing different venues in the “metroplex” (a local term for the Dallas/Forth Worth area). I had the privilege of attending some of those concerts. The surroundings were intimate, but the performances as if to thousands.
What struck me was the down-home western look of their outfits … the truly cowgirl style. At the first show that I attended, they had a tape for sale, “Thank Heavens for Dale Evans.”
I grew up during the last years in which you could hear “The Lone Ranger” on radio. We could watch Roy Rogers, Hoppalong Cassidy, and more on Saturdays with our black and white TV.
Having that background, and knowing Dale Evans to be a woman of faith, I grabbed at the chance to purchase the tape.
During one of their breaks, the group sat by themselves at a table. I peeked over at them, and waved the new cassette.
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They motioned me over and chatted, like they were my relatives in West Virginia. They asked me how I was, and exchanged small talk, and then I requested their autographs. Each one signed the back of the cassette’s J-card, and one even added a lipstick kiss to remember them by.
At another concert, I took a date. At the time, Art Greenhaw and I were working together, and he requested I give the group one of his new Light Crust Doughboy CDs.
The Chicks had just returned from Europe, and were in fine form on stage. They showed nary a trace of fatigue, both in their vocals and instrumentals, as well as in their choreography. Once again the outfits were very western, and reminded me a little of square dancers.
During the break, they each stood in a lobby-type area, separated along the edges of the crowd. I gulped, walked up to a very tall blonde, and nervously offered Art’s CD. She stood there as if she were the most ordinary person in the world, and gave me her thanks.
After the show, my date started a conversation with the group member who was a brunette. They talked like girlfriends from high school for the longest while, and both approached “the trailer.” There my date received some printed materials, and the conversation continued.
I, of course was stunned. Here was this major group (in my opinion) giving us their time of day.
Garrison Keilor was, of course, the host of A Prairie Home Companion, the weekly public radio show which, for me, put the fun back into radio as an entertainment medium. I started listening in the 80s, back in the days of Kate Wolf, before her unfortunate and untimely passing. I lived in Tulsa then, had a new stereo system, and enjoyed the magnificent sound quality of the FM broadcast. At least once a year you could then look forward to an appearance by Emmy Lou Harris.
Well, now we were in the 90s in which Garrison liked to do an annual show from Dallas. He particularly liked KERA’s approach to music. I looked forward to that show each year.
And then, it happened. Garrison invited the Dixie Chicks to perform on one of his Dallas shows, and they received, to the best of my knowledge, their first national audience. I can still hear Mr. Keilor’s booming bass voice as he announced, “ladies and gentlemen, the Dixie Chicks!”
After that program, things became quiet for this group, as far as any national attention of which I was aware. In the meantime, LeAnn Rimes “broke through.” She circulated among the heavy-duty talk shows, including Oprah Winfrey, and became historical in her rise to celebrity status (as is pretty well known, LeAnn started here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, mainly via the local Opry circuit).
It wasn’t long after LeAnn’s rise that I heard about the Chicks being on Oprah’s show. One thing led to another, as they say.
However, they were different. They were only three members strong, and one of the three was new. The western garb had left. Their style of dress was more modern, and their look more in sync with pop culture.
But, oh, their clear and wonderful harmony was still the same!
Out of all of the award shows, and special appearances, by the Chicks, I have two that are my favorite: their appearance at the 2002 Winter Olympics, which demonstrated (finally) their amazing instrumental caliber. And the Saturday Night Live appearance in which they sang a cappella. At this particular performance, it seemed like maybe they had returned to their western roots.
But then came the brouhaha about something said in England. This fan was dumbfounded. How, and why, would they turn against their own past? It is my opinion that they were caught up “in the moment” of war-related passion, and simply wished for peace. As do all of us, they wanted hostilities to end as quickly as possible.
In her apology, Natalie was respectful toward our then President, and stated very simply, and without a critical tone, her concern about whether war, though valid, was the only option. Her regard for the President indicated, to this reader, that, in the end, and upon reflection, she trusted his judgment.
Unfortunately, her apology made no dent in a lot of people's minds. The Chicks were, apparently, forced into another genre of music. They've now joined a group which asks us to vote for someone other than the current administration.
Would this political move on their part have happened if Natalie's apology was accepted, and forgiveness ensued? It seems to this observer that, if there were no genuine change in thinking, the apology never would have occurred.
I’ve long hoped that, someday, the two formerly original members could rejoin the group for a concert. I miss them. I miss the flavor they rendered to this wonderful collection of talent.
Once upon a time the Dixie Chicks were more than proud of their heritage. They were willing to align themselves with a woman of faith … a woman who stood resolute against any challenges to be other than what she was … a beautiful, talented, and gracious cowgirl who used her celebrity to promote wisdom and kind-heartedness.
Once upon a time the Dixie Chicks were that proud of their origins. I have to believe that, way down deep, in the solace of their souls, their pride is still the same.