Controversy erupted over the 4th of July weekend after a fair in Illinois cancelled an appearance by Confederate Railroad, known for the hits "Queen of Memphis," "Trashy Women," "Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind" and more.
The country-rockers lost an Aug. 27 booking at a '90s Country Reloaded event in Du Quoin, Ill. after political website Capitol Fax questioned whether a band with "Confederate" in its name should be allowed to perform at a state-owned facility in "The Land of Lincoln." The controversy grew despite writer Rich Miller's admittance that of the band's best-known work, only "I Hate Rap" could be argued as racially-charged. Ultimately, the Illinois Department of Agriculture dropped the band from a bill still featuring Shenandoah and Restless Heart.
"While every artist has a right to expression, we believe this decision is in the best interest of serving all of the people in our state," says fair manager John Gross in a statement to WSIL-TV.
Several of Confederate Railroad's country music forerunners took to Twitter to voice their support, including Hall of Fame band leader and outspoken Conservative Charlie Daniels.
"This political correctness thing is totally out of control," Daniels wrote in tweet. "When a fair cancels the Confederate Railroad band because of their name its giving in to facism (sic), plain and simple and our freedom disappears piece by piece. Sick of it."
Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys shared his own outrage over the decision.
"I have played the Du Quoin Fair many times over the decades ... however, I must say that canceling Confederate Railroad JUST because their name is CONFEDERATE RAILROAD is a crock of crap!," he Tweeted. "These are good men singing good songs... God please help us all."
If cancellations at such events become a trend, it will drastically change how the band does business. Per its current tour schedule, the group relies heavily on summer appearances at state and county fairs in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest.
Danny Shirley of Confederate Railroad has released the following statement regarding the Illinois Department of Agriculture's decision to remove the band from the state fair lineup:
"As many of you know, we were scheduled to perform at the Illinois State Fair in Du Quoin, Illinois on August 27, along with our friends Restless Heart and Shenandoah," Shirley said in a press release. "We have since been removed from that show by the Illinois Department of Agriculture because of the name of our band. This was very disappointing as we have played this fair before and enjoyed it very much. The outpouring of support from Confederate Railroad fans, fans of other acts, and the public in general, has been both overwhelming and very much appreciated. I would also like to thank the actors, athletes and fellow country music artists who have spoken out in support. It has been brought to my attention that several people have asked both Restless Heart and Shenandoah to cancel their shows in protest of our cancellation. I have spoken to both acts and encouraged them to perform as scheduled. Live concerts are how we pay our bills and feed our families. I would never want to see another act lose a payday because of this. Please go out to hear these two great bands. As I have said many times onstage, I am by no means a saint but, I am a man of faith and I have faith that God will see us through this as well as whatever comes next! Thank you for your support."