Dixie Chicks are suffering anti-Bush backlash -- Natalie Maines' political comments have hurt record sales and spawned physical threats

By Brian Hiatt
Updated April 04, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Clariessa Kennedy: Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

For country fans, it seems ”sorry” isn’t good enough. Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines apologized late last month for bashing President Bush, but her band’s radio play and record sales continue to suffer.

The Chicks single ”Travelin’ Soldier,” recently No. 1 in country airplay, has dropped off the chart entirely, and its remaining spins slid 30 percent this week, according to Billboard country chart director Wade Jessen. Meanwhile, their album ”Home,” which sold 124,000 CDs two weeks ago to land at No. 4, moved 58 percent fewer copies this week and finished out of the top 10 at No. 16. (A publicist for the Chicks attributes the slipping sales to the lack of radio play rather than to any groundswell of fan anger.)

Even worse, the trio has begun receiving physical threats. ”We’ve gotten a lot of hate mail, a lot of threatening mail,” Martie Maguire reportedly told an Australian radio station over the weekend. ”Emily [Robison] had the front gate of her ranch smashed in. We have to have security when we get back to the States. It puts my well-being in jeopardy.”

As if that’s not bad enough, syndicated talk-radio host Mike Gallagher is attempting to disrupt the May 1 opening night of the Chicks’ sold-out tour in Greenville, S.C., by staging a competing concert, headlined by ’70s hitmakers the Marshall Tucker Band (remember them?). Chicks ticketholders who want to make a statement can attend the 3,000-seat venue for free. ”We’ve blocked out the best seats in the house for them,” Gallagher tells ”They’re gonna be given the red-carpet treatment, including a private VIP reception with the Marshall Tucker Band.”

Country DJ Lee Ann Taylor of Cat Country 106.7 in Harrisburg, Penn., says she expects ”a lot of empty seats” during the Chicks’ upcoming sold-out tour. But Taylor, whose station began playing the Chicks again after Maines’ apology, thinks that fans will eventually get over their pique. ”It’s not going to hurt them severely because people will forget,” she says. ”But it’s going to take a long, long time.”