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dixie chicks

The Dixie Chicks are not just country music's version of the Spice Girls; in reality, the band is much more than three pretty faces. This Texas based success story is a showdown of hard work, dedication, and great musical skill.

The band is composed of Natalie Maines (lead vocals), Martie Maguire (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), and Emily Robison (dobro, banjo, guitar, vocals). Their story began in Dallas, Texas where Martie Erwin and her younger sister Emily grew up in a household filled with melody. Guided by their mother, a private-school teacher, these two sisters practiced and became proficient on a variety of stringed instruments while remaining in elementary school.

The two sisters formed the Blue Night Express, a teen bleuegrass band in 1984, and this was a mere beginning of their showbiz career. Their instrumental skill and vocal harmony enlightened Texas for five years before Martie and Emily, then 19 and 16 respectively, opted to disband from the troupe.

The name Dixie Chicks (a name borrowed from a song by the blues-rock band Little Feat) was christened only a few months after the Blue Night Express dissolved when the two sisters joined up with two friends to perform sidewalk performances in Dallas' business district.

Even though The Dixie Chicks decided to adopt big hair and a Dale Evans-style dress code, these cowgirls remain respected by their peers. The combination of good looks and pure musical talent gave way to stints like opening up for Garth Brooks, George Jones, and Emmylou Harris. In 1993, the impressive quartet performed at both the Grand Ole Opry and at President Clinton's Inaugural Ball.

Despite a strong following in the Dallas region, the Dixie Chicks released a trio of well-received independently produced albums. In 1992, the band experienced internal problems, and one of the band's two main singers left the group. In 1995, a second singer left the group.

By sheer luck, renowned steel guitar player Lloyd Maines had slipped a demo tape of his daughter singing to the bands' recording producer of independent releases. Like the Erwin sisters, Natalie Maines was brought up in the music world from childhood. She attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship that she earned with her vocal skills. In 1995, Maines successfully became the lead vocalist for the Dixie Chicks.

The group released their mainstream sound in 1998. Wide Open Spaces was an instant sensation, and "I Can Love You Better" became the group's first Top 10 single. The album went quadruple-platinum within a year of its release. From then on, the Dixie Chicks appeared on all the major television talk shows and their album became the best-selling ever by a country music group.

Their success was honored with a host of awards: Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Vocal Performance by a Group; Academy of Country Music Awards for Album of the Year, Top Vocal Group, and Top New Vocal Group; and an American Music Award for favorite New Country Artist. On top of that, the Country Music Association presented the Dixie Chicks with a Horizon Award, and the band was also named Vocal Group of The Year as well. More recently, the CMA nominated the group for Entertainer of the Year.

Their success continued when they were included in the 20th Lilith Fair, and their single "Ready To Run" appeared on the soundtrack of the film Runaway Bride. Fly soared to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts after selling almost 350,000 copies. Only Garth Brooks surpassed them for the highest sales in the first week.

In 2002, the Dixie Chicks enjoyed the fruits of pop success, with the release of their album, Home. Just when they were hitting the top of the music charts with singles like "Landslide" and "Travelin' Soldier," lead singer Natalie Maines proved that she does not support President Bush's decision to invade Iraq when she spoke at a British performance in March 2003. After boycotts, public backlash and apologies by the Dixie Chicks, their future success is questionable.

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