CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The drummer from the country group Confederate Railroad says the controversy that got them dumped from a gig in Illinois is actually helping the band.
Our Chip Chapman interviewed band co-founder Mark Dufresne on Let’s Chatt.
Leader Danny Shirley and several band members are from the Sequatchie Valley.
They had several top country hits in the 1990s and have been touring on them ever since.
And that included a return show at the DuQuoin State Fair in Illinois in August.
But earlier this month, the administration of Illinois gov. J.B. Pritzker moved to kick them off the bill.
A spokesman later said that the administration refused to use state resources to “promote symbols of racism.” The question is whether it is just over the “Confederate” name or the flags that appear on some merchandise.
The issue was first brought up by a blogger in Illinois who questioned the name.
Officially, fair officials announced “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,” said Du Quoin State Fair Manager Josh Gross.
However, the administration eventually admitted it was their call.
Over the years, the group has downplayed the rebel flag on logos. But they still sell shirts with the flag in the background.
Fellow country artists like the Oak Ridge Boys and Charlie Daniels have come to their defense.
But Dufresne says all the controversy is actually backfiring.
He says the band got a new booking for the date in Illinois and their bookings are way up since the story broke (see interview.)
Fans have begun a boycott of the fair or the other artists scheduled to appear.
But Shirley is encouraging fans to got the the Restless Heart and Shenandoah shows, anyway.
He issued this statement on the banning and the boycott.
“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. 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.”