Rascal Flatts caused a stir with their "I Melt" music video in 2003. The clip for the title track of the country trio's sophomore album features a shot of Joe Don Rooney's bare butt, which got the video banned from the Great American Country TV network and made headlines elsewhere.

The music video's nudity caused controversy within the band, too. Jay DeMarcus, in fact, now says he was ready to walk away from their rising career because of it.

"I stormed off of the set because I was very angry that we were gonna put nudity in our video. That is the truth," the singer — who is often more silly than serious in interviews — shared during a recent media event. "I almost quit the band that day because our manager ... did not tell me, and they sprung it on my at the shoot."

Even though it wasn't DeMarcus himself who'd have to strip down for the scene, the devout Christian was concerned about what the response would be. "I thought, 'My Lord, I'll never be able to go back to Lee University again or stick my head in a baptist church anywhere once this comes out,'" he recalls, later adding that he's pretty sure no one told him about the plan in advance "'cause I think they knew what my reaction was gonna be."

The finished video assuaged DeMarcus' fears: "It was tastefully done, and you could go, 'Oh, that's not as bad,'" he says. However, after some networks banned the clip, a version in which Rooney's bare butt was pixelated was put together — Rascal Flatts admit that made the scene seem a lot worse than it was.

All that buzz worked in the Flatts' favor, however: The Gary LeVox, Neil Thrasher and Wendell Mobley-penned "I Melt" became a major hit for the trio. They started getting booked for talk shows and moving to a new level in their career.

"The ball was starting to roll, and then, I mean, who would have known it would have taken ... Joe Don's butt to really blow that song out of the water?" LeVox muses, joking that Rooney's performance was "Emmy worthy."

"Yeah, it took Joe Don's butt to blow "I Melt" up ... and we've been kissing his butt ever since," he adds playfully.

Rascal Flatts are celebrating 20 years as a band in 2020. At the start of the year, they announced a farewell tour and their intentions to disband at the end of the year. The novel coronavirus pandemic put those tour plans on ice, but on Friday (Oct. 2), they'll release a greatest hits album featuring 13 of their No. 1 songs and seven other fan favorites.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app