Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bill Mack’s Entertainment Beat: From Chicks to Hounds


Friday, July 23, 2010
by BILL MACK

The Dixie Chicks have been on hiatus since 2006. Now, sisters Emily and Martie have formed a new group called the "Court Yard Hounds."
The Dixie Chicks have been on hiatus since 2006. Now, sisters Emily and Martie have formed a new group called the "Court Yard Hounds."

Hey! There's a new sound in town!

Actually, it's a sound that's been around for decades. A few changes have been made in the group, including the name. Remember the Dixie Chicks? Sure you do. They were the trio who committed professional suicide when one of the bunch took a vocal poke at President George W. Bush back in 2003 while they were performing in England. This was when George W. and company decided to rip into Iraq and "search for weapons of mass destruction." Our country was sitting in a bed of political confusion when one of the chicks, Natalie Maines, stepped to the microphone in London and burped, "We are ashamed President George W. Bush is from Texas!" Had this occurred in Lubbock, Texas, there might have been some applause from the audience. But Natalie's timing was terrible. She was insulting our leader in a foreign country.

From that moment on, the Dixie Chicks represented a study in tuneful treason to the majority of their ex fans and most radio stations. A public apology would have bailed them out of the stupid situation, and they were given several chances to do so...including the Barbara Walters television program and other network shindigs. However, Natalie stuck by her big mouth, refusing to apologize, while Emily and Martie, two of the founders of the original bunch, stuck with Natalie's dumb decisions.

The Dixie Chicks have been on hiatus since 2006. Now, sisters Emily and Martie have formed a new group called the "Court Yard Hounds." Natalie Maines stated she wasn't ready to return to a recording studio. I doubt seriously that the sisters did any begging to get "Mouthy" Maines to remain as a part of the "Court Yard Hounds." Otherwise, why wouldn't they just remain The Dixie Chicks and continue being ignored as talent on radio and television?

I have this deep thought that the sisters want to get back into action as entertainers...minus Maines.

I've been familiar with the Dixie Chicks since they were peddling their talent on the street corners in downtown Dallas, collecting donations from appreciative passers-by in a "kitty" bucket set in front of them.

The Dixie Chicks group was officially founded in Dallas in 1989 by Laura Lynch on upright bass, guitarist Robin Lynn Macy, and the multi-instrumentalist sisters, Martie and Emily Erwin. They were a fantastic music group, spotlighting mostly "bluegrass" music and a mixture of country standards. I emceed several "bluegrass festivals" where the Dixie Chicks stole the show from veteran groups that had been in action on radio, records and television for decades. Of course, this didn't set well with the better known acts and some of them informed many of the festival producers that they refused to appear "if those 'Dixie Chicks' kids were set on the same program."

The word was out that the Dixie Chicks were a super sounding set, but no major record labels were knocking on the hen-house door. In 1990, the girls paid $5000 out of their own purses to produce an album under their own label. It was titled, "Thank Heavens for Dale Evans," named after cowboy movie star Roy Rogers' wife and co-star in many of his westerns, Dale Evans. Although the album wasn't a radio hit, the "Chicks" began building up a strong fan-base. They were opening stage appearances for such super stars as George Strait, Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. The Dixie Chicks were grabbing some important attention.

In 1992 another independent album, "Little Ol' Cowgirl," was produced. This one spotlighted a more contemporary "country" sound. It was around this time that Lloyd Maines, a steel-guitarist out of Lubbock, Texas, introduced the Dixie Chicks to his daughter, Natalie, an aspiring singer. Lloyd had played steel-guitar on both of their albums.

Not all of the band members were pleased with the new direction their music was taking. Robin Lynn Macy split with the Chicks in 1992 to devote herself to a more identifiable bluegrass sound. Thinking his daughter, Natalie, might replace Robin, Lloyd Maines presented Natalie's audition demo tape to the singing sisters, Martie and Emily. Her distinctive voice was a perfect replacement for the departed Robin. Meanwhile, Laura Lynch, thrust into the roll of sole lead singer on their third independent album, "Shouldn't a Told You That," in 1993, was unable to attract support from a major record label, while the girls were struggling to expand their fan base beyond Texas.

The Dixie Chicks finally hired Simon Renshaw as their manager. Undoubtedly, he was the perfect choice. Renshaw wasted no time in approaching various major record labels, finally signing the Chicks to a developmental deal with Sony Music Entertainment's Nashville division. The deal was finalized with Sony in the summer of 1995. It was at this time that the Dixie Chicks replaced Laura Lynch with Natalie Maines. Sisters Martie and Emily stated that Lynch had been considering leaving the band for over a year, becoming tired of touring and wanting to spend more time at home with her young daughter. Lynch, however, said she had no desire to retire from the Dixie Chicks. After all, she was one of the original founders. Laura said, "I cried every day for six months after I was released."

There are many who still believe the Dixie Chicks were at their best when Laura Lynch was pounding the big upright bass-fiddle and warbling the lead vocals with the harmony of Martie and Emily. After she left the group, regardless of the reason, the Chicks' organization wasn't the same. Not only was Lynch a tremendous singer, she also had that constant, friendly smile and mannerism while on stage. Her cute "cowboy" hat was a noted trademark. Although Natalie Maines handled her musical vocals in a professional manner, she seemed to find it difficult to control her unneeded verbal statements and somewhat idiotic mannerisms while on-stage with the hottest female singing group in the nation. It was a combination of her traits that eventually buried the now deceased "Dixie Chicks."

For certain, Miss Maines will not be howling with the "Court Yard Hounds."

Hear Bill Mack daily from 12:00 Noon until 4:00 p.m. (ET) on XM Satellite Radio. The program is replayed from 8:00 p.m. until Midnight (ET). Bill’s book, “Bill Mack’s Memories From The Trenches of Broadcasting” and recordings can be ordered via his website: www.billmackcountry.com.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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