Top 40 Smash Near Misses — “Wide Open Spaces”

These posts are about the songs that just barely failed to cross the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.

dixie chicks 1998

There were many clearly identifiable results of Dixie Chicks making the personnel shift that brought in new lead vocalist Natalie Maines. Some are disputable, of course. Maybe the band still would have hit big with their 1998 major label debut, selling over twelve million copies and pushing four straight singles to the pinnacle of the country music chart. One thing is all but certain, though: Without Maines, they wouldn’t have recorded the song “Wide Open Spaces,” which was one of those chart-toppers and the album’s title cut.

Maines was recruited into the group when sisters Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel (the band’s guitarist and fiddle player, respectively) needed a new lead singer to replace Laura Lynch, who’d been with the group on their first three, independently-released albums. She brought with her a song suggested by her father, renowned pedal steel guitarist and seasoned country music producer Lloyd Maines. Around the same time his daughter joined her new outfit, the elder mains was presiding over an album by a band called the Groobess and her thought one of their songs, “Wide Open Spaces,” was nicely suited to Natalie’s vocal range. That the song is a sweet, sentimental number about a young woman striking out of her own surely contributed to the association in Lloyd’s mind. Dixie Chicks recorded the song, and their version wound up beating the Groobees’ original to the country music marketplace. Considering the songwriting residuals she got out of the deal, Groobees leader Susan Gibson likely didn’t mind one bit.

While Dixie Chicks were asserting their dominance on the country charts, the pop charts were tougher to crack. Two of the big country hits — “There’s Your Trouble” and “You Were Mine” — made cursory trips to the Billboard Top 40, each peaking in the thirties. “Wide Open Spaces” fell short of even that modest mark, ending its climb just short of the magic number that lands a song the hit designation.

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