I first heard of the Dixie Chicks in 1997 or so. They were still not very well known, but they were just starting on the road to success.
Before that, sisters Martie and Emily Erwin, along with two other women, formed the band back in 1989, performing mostly bluegrass and country songs. But commercial success was not in the cards back then, although they did get some good reviews in the Washington Post, among other publications. In 1995, though, Sony signed the group to development deal and lead singer Laura Lynch was replaced by Natalie Maines. And the road to the big time was being paved.
I can't remember how or where I first heard of the Dixie Chicks, but I remember this: Sometime in 1997, The Federation of American Hospitals, a trade / lobbying group for hospitals for which I was then the incoming chairman, was booking a show for its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., for March 1998. The staff person at the Federation asked me if I knew the Dixie Chicks and if it was okay to book them. I was amazed that we could get them for our trade show and annual meeting, and I gave a big thumbs up.
At the time, several Dixie Chicks singles were moving up the charts, including There's Your Trouble, which is still one of my favorite songs. By the time March 1998 rolled around, the Dixie Chicks were a pretty big time country / pop group. But they had made a commitment to do a show for the Federation of American Hospitals in a hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C., and they kept their commitment.
So, on the evening of the show (after some seriously serious meetings earlier in the day), I strolled down to the sound check, listened to the group run through a bunch of songs and said hello to the band. And then a hour or so later, I was on the stage with the band, introducing them to a packed house. A little bit surreal, yes, but very cool. And the band's show was awesome. They played for over an hour, doing most of the songs on their debut Sony album, Wide Open Spaces. And then many of us chatted with them backstage after the show. And at least one of us had a picture taken with Marti, Emily and Natalie.
Since then I've seen the Dixie Chicks two other times, including once at a big, sold out arena show here in Philadelphia with younger fans, Molly, Emily and Casey. And they were great both times. Fabulous. And, notably, oldest daughter Molly, who became a big Dixie Chicks fan, did a version of the Dixie Chick's Cowboy Take Me Away with her high school a cappella group. (If there was a version of the a cappella group doing Cowboy Take Me Away available on YouTube or anywhere online, I'd absolutely feature that great song.)
In 2003, the Dixie Chicks found themselves in hot water when Natalie introduced Travelin' Soldier (a song written by Bruce Robison, who is the husband of Kelly Willis and former brother-in-law of Dixie Chick, Emily) by saying, "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." Chaos in the country music world ensued. And the Dixie Chicks were ostracized from the mainstream country music world. But history has proven that the Dixie Chicks were right, and band's follow up song in 2006, Not Ready to Make Nice, raised the stakes a bit higher.
The band kind of went on hiatus from 2008 to 2014, although they did perform together from time-to-time during those years. And also during that time, Marti and Emily toured as a duo, calling themselves The Courtyard Hounds. I saw them do an awesome show at a WXPN free-at-noon in 2013 or so.
If the Dixie Chicks come back here to Philadelphia, I'll be there. They are one of our great Americana bands. But, in the meantime, let's hear the Dixie Chicks doing There's Your Trouble, pretty much looking and sounding like they did at the Washington, D.C. show in 1998. And here is another version of There's Your Trouble from 2003 during the peak of their commercial success.