Alan Jackson Almost Recorded the Zac Brown Band’s ‘Chicken Fried’
The story goes like this: Zac Brown played in Dixie Tavern, a club in Atlanta, Ga., quite frequently. He found out that the bartender, Wyatt Durrette, wrote music from time to time, and the two teamed up.
“The first time we ever sat down to write some songs, we wrote “Whatever It Is,”” Brown tells The Boot. “We knew we had something special.”
But then, some more magic happened.
“[Durrette] had a piece called “Chicken Fried” that he had written a long time ago. He sang it to me, and I thought it could be a really good song,” Brown says. “We made a list of things that mattered to us and then things that are characteristic of the South. We put every one of those things on that list in the song.”
“Chicken Fried” was especially meaningful to Brown because it was the anniversary of 9/11 — and the lyrics, to him, were so much more than paying ode to delicious, crispy-skinned poultry.
“It was right around September 11. I was living with a Marine friend of mine. I was realizing how fortunate we are to be free, travel and to play music or whatever it is that you do as an American that there is a cost that other people have paid for us to be able to do those things and enjoy all the simple things. That’s where the patriotic line of the song came from,” Brown explains. “Sometimes all of the little things get taken for granted, and you forget about them. They’re the most important things in life. It was a reminder to myself and a reminder to everybody else to not take the little things for granted, or the simple pleasures that really matter.”
Fellow Georgia group the Lost Trailers recorded “Chicken Fried” with the understanding that they would not use it as a single; however, it wound up becoming a single in 2006 … and Brown quickly brought an end to that, requesting that the song be withdrawn from radio. Jackson then showed interest in the track, but he eventually decided not to use it because he had released too many food songs in a row.
The country legend recalls telling his producer, “Man, I just had a song about cornbread and chicken, and I had a song about bologna. Every album I’ve got has these songs about food, so I just don’t think I want to do one about chicken fried right now.” However, Jackson says, “In retrospect, I should have done it.”
It all turned out for the best, though: In late 2008, “Chicken Fried” became ZBB’s first charting single, then their first No. 1 hit on Billboard‘s country charts, and propelled them into superstardom. As of April 2015, the song has sold nearly 4.5 million copies in the U.S.