Predictably, the strongest backlash against the Dixie Chicks -- following singer Natalie Maines' critical comments last month about President Bush -- continues to come from conservative talk radio. Radio talk show host Mike Gallagher and his organization, Gallagher's Army, is putting together a Rally for the Troops concert for May 1st in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the same day the Dixie Chicks are planning to launch their U.S. tour for Home in neighboring Greenville.
Southern rock mainstay the Marshall Tucker Band (which hails from South Carolina and whose frontman Doug Gray is a Vietnam veteran) will headline the event, and teenage country singer Ty Nelson will also perform. According to Gallagher, tickets will run $35 to $45, with free admission and VIP seating to anyone who comes to the event with a Dixie Chicks' ticket. Gallagher's Army was started by the talk show host as a charity group to raise money for food and personal care items for American military personnel, and all proceeds from the event will go to military families.
"People are irritated, but I think it's incumbent upon me as organizer of this thing to keep it very positive," Gallagher says. "We're not going to stand up there and burn the Dixie Chicks in effigy. It was important to me to know that their concert was already sold out. No one's trying to hurt their ticket sales; I'm not trying to turn this into a witch hunt. I want to take a very negative reaction that millions of Americans felt and turn it into to something positive."
The controversy's roots lie in a March Dixie Chicks performance in London, where Maines told an audience, "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines issued two statements following the remark, one an attempt to clarify her comment, the second an apology.
"I think she had every right to say what she said," Gallagher says. "But I believe her apology was insincere. It was a good business decision to apologize. Most of us on our side think it's too little too late. I think it would be more genuine if they would take all the proceeds from their concert in South Carolina and give them to our cause. That would be a bold statement that shows their true support for the American military families and troops."
Gallagher says that if the South Carolina concert is a success, he may try to schedule similar performances in other cities where the Dixie Chicks are to perform. The plan will likely be a tall order, as the Chicks have lined up fifty-nine dates on the Top of the World Tour that extend into August. The group set an industry mark by selling out fifty-one of those dates on the first day of ticket sales.
As for the Maines, in addition to offering an apology to the president, she explained the impetus for her remark ("We are in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war") and offered her own support for U.S. troops ("As a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers' lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American.") The Chicks, who are still in Europe, had no comment on Gallagher's show, and the band's manager recently said that Maines had offered sufficient apology and justification. "Natalie can't win," manager Simon Renshaw told Radio and Records last week. "If she goes on the microphone and apologizes, they'll say she doesn't sound contrite enough."