Written by Tyler King, 2 March 2016
Recently, the band has received recent criticism for their abandonment of their traditional country style. Those critics are fans that were
“Chicken Fried” was the first song the Zac Brown Band recorded as a group and today is still one of their hottest hits. The song was first recorded in 2003 by front man Zac Brown, who wrote it himself, for their album in 2005 called Home Grown. The band re-recorded the song two years later and they released as the first song from their album called The Foundation.
The Zac Brown Band initially formed in 2002 consisting of Brown playing acoustic guitar and being the lead vocalist and Marcus Petruska playing drums as well as them also having a bass guitarist. The band now consists of eight members including Zac Brown himself, and multiple members that play a multitude of instruments that contribute to the different styles of music that they can play.
At the time that “Chicken Fried” was released, the song had more of a southern style, backwoods, sound to the song than other country songs at the time of the release. This was also one of the last years where most of the top songs on the country charts had an authentic sound to them and not the new, modern, pop country sound.
When the song was first released in 2005, you had artists like Rascal Flatts that were thought of originally as more of a boy band as they had come from a record label with Disney. In 2006, there was Carrie Underwood who didn’t come from the record labels finding but she had won American Idol and also that year you had Bon Jovi coming over from rock to do a song with Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles. 2007 was when pop started to really infiltrate country music as Taylor Swift had her first breakout song and then in 2008, she continued her rise in country music along with Darius Rucker coming over to country music from his rock days.
“Chicken Fried” was Zac Brown Band’s first single to chart on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and it peaked at number one on December 6, 2008. The song was on the US Hot Country Songs chart for 23 weeks and stayed at number one for two weeks. The song was also on the US Billboard Hot 100 during 2008 for 10 weeks while becoming number 20 on December 6, 2008. The song has since sold 4,671,000 copies in the United States reaching platinum status for times. The Zac Brown Band was the first country music group to reach number one with the debut single since Heartland’s 2006 number one hit “I Loved Her First”.
The song was co-written by Zac Brown and Wyatt Durrette in the early 2000’s. White was a bartender at a club that Zack used to play out in Atlanta called the Dixie Tavern. One night, Wyatt told Zac, “well, I kind of write music and write some songs.” The first time they wrote together, they wrote “Whatever It Is.” After writing that song, they both knew that they had something special. Wyatt had a piece called “Chicken Fried” that he’d written a long time ago. He then sang it to Zac and they both knew it could be a really good song. Together, they made a list of things that mattered to them and things that characterized the south. They put every single one of those things into the song.
After September 11, 2001, Brown decided to add the third verse to the song. Zac talked to theboot.com about the song “Chicken Fried”. At the time he was living with a Marine friend of his. He realized how fortunate we are as Americans to be free and travel and play music or whatever it is you do as an American that there’s a cost that other people have paid for us to be able to do those things and enjoy all the simple things. He said it was a reminder to himself and reminder everybody else to not take the little things for granted or the simple pleasures that really matter.
The song starts off with talking about food that is enjoyed by the south, “You know I like my chicken fried/ And cold beer on a Friday night” Those two things can also be synonymous with football tailgating. That’s why this song, according to Spotify, is one of their most popular tailgating songs. This song has many southern aspects to it along with being synonymous with tailgating. This song talks about some homemade southern delicacies and enjoying where you live, “Well I was raised up beneath the shade of a Georgia Pine/ And that’s home you know/ Sweet tea, pecan pie, and homemade wine and they talk about their house being “filled with love and it’s grown in the southern ground”.
The song was also recorded in 2006 by The Lost Trailers. They had asked for permission from Zac Brown and he was willing to let them record the song as long as they would not publish it as a single on the radio. The two parties agreed, but several months later The Lost Trailers landed a deal with Sony Nashville and when they submitted the tracks for their album they included “Chicken Fried”. Joe Galante, who was then the chairman of Sony Music Nashville, heard the song and he wanted that song to be the promoted single on their label. Brown then heard the song on the radio and he said it was a nightmare when he first heard it and it wasn’t his band singing it. Not too long after that the song was pulled from the radio as The Lost Trailers had violated their contract with the Zac Brown Band.
“Chicken Fried” is the song that put the Zac Brown Band on the map of country music. This was the beginning to fans recognizing them as a country band. Songs that they had after “Chicken Fried” that fans really attached to were “Toes”, “Highway 20 Ride”, and “Colder Weather”. Even though more of their recent music is not as country as they used to be, they’re still recognized as country because of the songs that help them become popular with the fans. They still have some country aspects to their music but it’s not the traditional sounding music they produced when they first came on the scene.
The Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” truly shows what being from the south is about and how deep your roots really run.
Conaway, Alanna, and Angela Stefano. “Story Behind the Song: Zac Brown Band, ‘Chicken Fried'” The Boot. N.p., 25 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
“Music: Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart.” Billboard. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
Ruggieri, Melissa. “Zac Brown Band Score Most Popular Tailgating Song with ‘Chicken Fried’ | Atlanta Music Scene with Melissa Ruggieri.” Atlanta Music Scene with Melissa Ruggieri. N.p., 2 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
Wynn, Ron. “Short Takes.” Short Takes. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.