Radio play ebbs for Dixie Chicks in Maine

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The Dixie Chicks may be one of the best-selling female music groups in history, but don’t turn to local country stations looking for their latest song.

By radio standards, the politically charged trio is about as popular as mud.

“Until the controversy goes away, until people are willing to forgive or whatever,” said Stan Manning, programming director for 99.9 The Wolf, “this song here, I really doubt it will ever become anything.”

After a month of low-grade play, The Wolf pulled the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice” from its playlist Thursday. Norway’s WOXO 92.7 did the same after a couple of weeks of play.

At 101.9 WPOR, one of the highest-rated stations in the state, Program Director Harry Nelson refused to say whether he plays or has ever played the song. He wouldn’t even come to the phone.

“He would rather not be in the middle of the entire Dixie Chicks’ mess,” said spokeswoman Megan Littlefield.

The Grammy Award-winning Dixie Chicks drew the ire of thousands of country music fans in 2003 after singer Natalie Maines made a negative remark about President Bush during a London concert.

“Just so you know,” she said, “we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

The comment prompted death threats and quickly stalled the group’s career. Dealing with listener backlash, some American radio stations refused to play the Chicks’ songs.

But three years later, Maine stations decided to try again when the Dixie Chicks released the song “Not Ready to Make Nice” in advance of their newest album “Taking the Long Way.”

“I thought it had blown over,” said Manning at The Wolf.

“Not Ready to Make Nice” is an unapologetic addresses of the 2003 controversy. He put the song in light rotation, playing it a couple of times a day. Manning, like other station managers, decided to see how it would fare on the national Top 40 charts.

It didn’t do well.

According to Billboard.com, “Not Ready to Make Nice” peaked at number 36 on the country charts. It did much better on the pop charts, peaking at 23, but then quickly fell off.

“It dropped like a rock,” said Jay Phillips, operations manager at WOXO.

Because few stations were playing it, the song didn’t climb high on the charts. And because the song didn’t climb high on the charts, fewer stations kept playing it.

Phillips dropped it from WOXO after a couple of weeks.

Manning waited a little longer. He got a few angry phone calls from people who didn’t think the station should be playing it. On the station’s Web site, he asked listeners what they thought he should do.

Half wanted the song gone. Half wanted it to stay.

On Thursday, after national ratings continued to slide, Manning pulled the song.

“At this point, it won’t play at all on The Wolf,” he said.

Although listeners may have trouble finding “Not Ready to Make Nice” on the radio, they haven’t had trouble finding it in stores. Bull Moose Music in Lewiston sold 33 copies of the Dixie Chicks’ new album in four days. The store expects to sales to pick up even more after the group promotes it.

Manning, ironically, predicts the same.

“They may not get a lot of air play,” he said. “But they’ll probably sell a ton of albums.”


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