Dixie Chicks Biography

This Country Trio Nas Never shied Away From Controversy

Fire Relief: The Concert For Central Texas - Austin, TX
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The Dixie Chicks are an all-girl country group made up of Natalie Maines and founding members and sisters Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Erwin Robison. They are one of the country's most successful and versatile crossover acts, having dabbled in pop and alternative country music.

The Dixie Chicks have won 13 Grammy Awards as of 2017, including five for their 2006 album Taking the Long Way. They've sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and they're the top-selling all-female band and the top-selling country group in the U.S. 

Beginnings

Sisters Martie and Emily Erwin grew up in Addison, Texas, just outside Dallas. They each showed a knack for stringed instruments at an early age, with Martie mastering the fiddle and Emily taking to the banjo. After graduating from high school, the sisters joined forces with upright bassist Laura Lynch and guitarist Robin Lynn Macy to form the Dixie Chicks. Their name was derived from the song "Dixie Chicken" by Little Feat.

At first, the group took on the classic cowgirl image, sporting rhinestone-studded apparel and playing traditional country and bluegrass music. They independently released their first studio album in 1990, Thank Heavens for Dale Evans. The album wasn't a bona fide success, but it was enough to help them start building a fan base. Their follow-up record in 1992, Little Ol' Cowgirl, leaned toward a more contemporary sound. The group enlisted the help of more musicians to help develop a richer, more modern album, but the change resulted in Macy's departure.

Lloyd Maines played steel guitar on both albums, and he gave the girls his daughter Natalie's demo tape. Her unique voice sounded like the perfect complement to the sisters' harmonies, but Laura Lynch stayed on lead vocals. The Dixie Chicks independently released their third album, Shouldn't a Told You That, in 1993.

Signing a girl group was a risky move that many major labels didn't want to make, and the record didn't drum up much attention. Their new manager helped them secure a deal with Sony's Monument imprint in 1995, but Lynch left soon after and was promptly replaced by Natalie Maines.

Breakthrough

The shift in group members wasn't the only thing that changed at that time. The group began wearing more contemporary clothing instead of hokey cowgirl outfits, and their sound was distinctly more modern. Armed for success, the trio issued their first major label debut in 1998, Wide Open Spaces.

No one could have predicted their success. "I Can Love You Better" became their first Top 10 country hit. "There's Your Trouble," "You Were Mine" and the title track all became No. 1 Billboard Country hit singles.

Wide Open Spaces went quadruple platinum within a year of its release. It became the bestselling group album in country music history. The Dixie Chicks won 1999 Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for "There's Your Trouble."

Success

Fly followed in 1999. It skyrocketed the trio to the top of the charts yet again thanks to the singles "Ready to Run" and "Goodbye Earl." The provocative lyrical content of "Goodbye Earl" and "Sin Wagon" proved that the trio wasn't bent on adhering to country music's decidedly conservative standards, and at first, their brashness boosted their success.

The Dixie Chicks were now full-fledged superstars. They appeared on VH1's Divas show in 2002 beside such names as Cher, Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, and Shakira. They issued their sixth album that year, Home, on their new Sony imprint Open Wide Records. It scored the trio two Top 10 pop hits: "Long Time Gone" and a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide."

The Controversy

The girls subsequently embarked on their Top of the World Tour and this marked a major turning point. During the tour's opening night performance in London, Maines spoke out against the Iraq War and said that the group was ashamed that President George W. Bush was from their home state. Fans were outraged and country radio boycotted their new album. 

Rick Rubin-produced Taking the Long Way earned a similar response in 2006, including protests and even death threats.

The song "Not Ready to Make Nice" is a direct response to the political controversy. The album earned five Grammys in 2007 and helped secure the group's place in country music, but it only sold 2 million copies. Although that's still an impressive number, it doesn't compare to the group's previous album sales. The Dixie Chicks virtually disappeared after the Grammy Awards. 

Hiatus

Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire formed a new band, the Court Yard Hounds, while the Dixie Chicks were on a temporary hiatus. They began cutting an album, but it and tour plans were put on hold when the Dixie Chicks announced a series of concerts with the Eagles and Keith Urban in 2010. 

In the midst of the Taking the Long Way frenzy, the trio recorded a live session for the VH1 Storytellers series. Their performance was finally released on DVD in 2011.

Today

The Dixie Chicks haven't released any studio albums since 2006's Taking the Long Way, but Playlist: The Very Best of the Dixie Chicks and Essential Dixie Chicks were both released in in 2010. They followed up with their Long Time Gone Tour in 2013 and 2014, then their DCX MMXVI World Tour in 2016. 

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