The 8 Biggest Feuds In Country Music
Country music may not come with the associative behavior of sex and drugs, as does its musical brother, rock ‘n’ roll, but it has no shortage of controversies and personality conflicts. From country music legends, to contemporary country artists who jab verbal pokers via social media, country musicians know how to throw down with the best of them. Here are eight of the biggest feuds in the world of country music, which range back 40-plus years. We’re talkin’ backstage fights, and lifelong bad blood.
8. Travis Tritt vs. Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray Cyrus had one of the biggest hits in this history of country music. It was called “Achy Breaky Heart,” and it is as annoying as one might guess. The lyrics were trite, and the song was designed for fun, and boozin’. Some of the bigger names in the industry didn’t quite care for his song. This included Travis Tritt, who referred to Billy’s song as “frivolous,” and suggested it was not music that would do anything to advance country artists in the right direction. When Billy Ray accepted his Country Music Award for Single of The Year, he flipped the script, and told anyone who didn’t care for the song, “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares,” which are the lyrics, and title to Travis Tritt’s most popular song. In the long run, the two laughed about it, and have gone back to being buds.
7. Blake Shelton v. Ray Price
Digging into the 21st century, here’s a little misunderstanding between two generations of popular country. In an interview, Blake Shelton was talking about the contemporary era of country music, and how necessary it was to keep pushing the envelope. In it, he proclaimed that nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music — or something thereabouts. This struck a nerve with Ray Price, country legend, who wagged an old finger at Blake. Ray has since passed away, but he and Blake made nice after Blake explained his position, and suggested that the industry would be nowhere without the legends who had come before. Still, this is another case of Blake opening his mouth and inserting his foot. Regarding better melodic music, and stories that are not about good-timin’, maybe people should be listening to their grandpa’s music.
6. Brad Paisley v. Richard Marx
Wait. Isn’t Richard Marx a pop music guy? Yeah. He was. But more than anything, Richard is a songwriter, and he has written several jams for artists in the country genre. In 2001, Brad Paisley made a comment about pop music being more about production and quantity than it was about quality. Country music was more about writing great songs. Richard Marx heard or read this, and responded with a verbal slap. “Pop songwriters don’t take the craft of songwriting as seriously as [Paisley] does? Tell that to Paul McCartney.” Paisley shook his head, and restated his position, calling to mind contemporary pop hits like Britney Spears “Baby One More Time.” Be nice fellas, you’re both right. Both genres can suck, and both can be great. Stop applying absolutes and extremes.
5. Zac Brown v. Luke Bryan
In the here and now, Zac Brown and Luke Bryan had a “feud” that was more of media hype than it was any bad blood. Still, Zac Brown did offer a pretty cold diss of Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night,” suggesting that he was not a fan of these types of songs. Something Travis Tritt might refer to as “frivolous.” Nonetheless, he also made it known that he was a fan of Luke Bryan… he just didn’t like this particular song. Here’s a case of a country artist taking themselves way too seriously, and throwing a peer under the bus in the process. At the following CMAs, Brad Paisley made a joke about the two, and Luke Bryan stood up, found Zac Brown, and the two hugged it out. It was a comedic moment, but there was that split second where you thought Bryan might shank Brown.
4. Faron Young v. George Jones
Goin’ straight old school with this selection. You won’t find a lot on the feud between the legendary George Jones and Faron Young. These men did not like each other. Sadly, there was no Internet to chronicle their antics. It took the telling of Merle Haggard, in an interview with Rolling Stone a few years ago. According to Merle, George Jones and Faron Young would do physical battle when they crossed paths. They were like magnets. Or, maybe more like rival siblings. Regardless, they tussled more than once. According to Merle, he remembers pulling the two of them apart some four times. And some of these wrestling matches took place backstage. Where the heck is the biopic for George Jones? This is something we all need to see! Did they ever make nice? Nope. Not really.
3. Garth Brooks v. Waylon Jennings
For some reason, Waylon Jennings did not like Garth Brooks. Looking at it from a psychological perspective, it was likely a bout of jealousy the legendary Jennings was struggling with. He referred to Garth as an overrated artist, and suggested his “plastic” was what was wrong with the genre — that Garth was taking it in the wrong direction. It’s unfortunate, because Garth Brooks took the genre to a new audience, and helped introduce pop music fans to legends like Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash through genre association. It was another generational misunderstanding, and Garth chose to take the high road. He never had the opportunity to speak to Waylon about the disdain, or address it while Waylon was still living. Garth has maintained that he never took it personally.
2. Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines v. Toby Keith
This was as silly as something could get, and it was one of the first Internet publicized confrontations in the country music genre. After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there was an overwhelming wave of patriotism in The United States of America, and Toby Keith responded by writing a song entitled, “Courtesy Of The Red, White and Blue.” Sadly, it gave birth to the nation known as ‘Merica. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks took exception, and suggested the lyrics were ignorant — that putting a boot in an a** is not the American way. Toby caught wind, and told Natalie that her lyrics were awful, and created a concert backdrop depicting her with Saddam Hussein. Natalie began wearing a shirt with the initials FUTK a play on the then popular FCUK (French Connection). Eventually the two made nice.
1. Porter Wagoner v. Dolly Parton
Porter Wagoner was a good ole fella from West Plains, Missouri, who could write some stellar country tunes, and Dolly Parton was a sweet and innocent girl from the hills of Tennessee, and had a voice like no other. The two became an incredibly popular country duo, but eventually, Dolly needed to go her own way. Her talent was simply supreme to Porter’s, and the two couldn’t get along because of it. Unfortunately, there was bad blood when they parted ways, and Porter sued Dolly for breach of contract to the tune of $3 million in 1979. Dolly went on to write her biggest hit, “I Will Always Love You” — which also became Whitney Houston’s biggest hit — about Porter after their fallout. Dolly and Porter eventually came to terms, and reunited to sing together in the late 1980s. Dolly was by Porter’s bedside when he passed in 2007.