Dixie Chicks Banjo, Fiddle, and Guitar

Country instruments with a rock and roll flair

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The Dixie Chicks — Martie Maguire, Emily Robison Strayer, and Natalie Maines — are one of the most critically and commercially successful country acts in history. These three instruments represent the signature sound of each performer.

Dallas-raised sisters, Martie and Emily Erwin, started the group in 1989, mixing bluegrass, swing, and classic country with tight harmonies and hot instrumental breaks. Ready for a change by the mid-1990s, they asked Natalie Maines to join the group. Blending Martie and Emily’s instrumental skills with Natalie’s country background and rock and roll attitude, the group soon released the album, Wide Open Spaces, which sold more than 11 million copies and became the best-selling album ever by a country group.

The Dixie Chicks went on to release more record-breaking albums, including Fly and Home. The Dixie Chicks have had a major impact on the music business, not only because of their critical and commercial success, but also because of their political outspokenness and their insistence on maintaining an unprecedented level of artistic control over their music. In many ways, the Dixie Chicks represent a new generation of performers who are rooted in traditional music and rural culture but who are urbane and sophisticated in their business dealings and in their ability to promote and market themselves and their music.

Fiddle player Martie Maguire played this fiddle on the Dixie Chicks' breakout album, Wide Open Spaces. "This fiddle is one of the first instruments I ever purchased on my own with [money earned] babysitting and working at the Braum’s Ice Cream store in Dallas," says Maguire. "It helped me win second place in the Walnut Valley National Fiddle Championships in Winfield, Kansas when I was 16 years old."

Martie's sister, Emily Robison Strayer began playing the violin at age seven and the banjo at age 10. This Gibson banjo is one of her favorites. "This Gibson Mastertone was a staple of my recording and touring banjos for a long time," Strayer says. "Jim Mills (of Kentucky Thunder, Ricky Skagg’s band) found it for me years ago. When I want a pure clean sounding bluegrass banjo, there is nothing better than this."

Lead singer Natalie Maines had this guitar custom made in 2003 by the Bolin Guitar House of JB. "I saw Keith Richards playing this guitar at a [Rolling] Stones show and knew I needed the exact same one to play on 'Sin Wagon,'" says Maines. "When my tech called the company they said that was a special color they made just for Keith and they would have to call and get his permission. He gave his permission and the 'Sin Wagon' was made."

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