Granger Smith—who you may know better as country music funny man Earl Dibbles Jr.—is in hot water with some of his former compatriots in the Texas music scene after referring to the regional movement as “the minor leagues.” The Texas scene has many of its own music stars, radio stations, festivals, extends beyond the Texas border in fan base and influence, and has been recognized for many years as an alternative to the mainstream with music that generally carries more substance, and that focuses more on community than caring about superstardom.
The comment from Granger Smith came in a recent interview involving multiple reporters that was posted on The Boot Wednesday (7-13). Granger’s words were smoldering for numerous days until it spilled over Saturday, with Texas artist Wade Bowen and others taking exception to Granger’s comments publicly.
The article in The Boot was a puff piece promoting Granger Smith as a hard worker who also remains devoted to his family. Persistence is what he credits for helping him make the transition from a Texas artist signed to an independent label, to being signed by the Jason Alden-anchored Broken Bow label in Nashville. Granger appeared to be gracious to the Texas scene for his success, but it’s how he couched his words that appeared to open up wounds with old compatriots, while opening Granger up to the common criticism that he used Texas music as a stepping stone, and sold out to find his recent mainstream success.
“I’m very, very, very blessed to have had the Texas music scene as a testing ground,” Smith said. “I had singles—on-the-radio singles—-I had a radio tour a couple times … [We] had been running in the minor leagues; that’s really what it is.”
It was not just the “minor leagues” comment by Granger, but the affirmation, “that’s really what it is” that drew ire from many. Wade Bowen responded on Instagram, “Love my life! Cheers to the minor leagues!! @earldibblesjr @grangersmith.”
Other Texas artists responded, including Charlie Stout who tweeted, “Lyrics: a mere obstacle on the road to ‘success,'” and Geoffrey Hill, the guitarist for the Randy Rogers Band said, “When thou standeth upon the mountain top, be mindful of where thou pisseth.”
Also, an artist manager and publicist from Los Angeles named Hayden Adcock decided he needed to enter the fray, saying, “Hey Wade Bowen, why don’t you grow up? You’re pathetic,” before attacking other artists in the Texas scene for their comments supportive of Wade’s stance. Granger Smith’s drummer has also posted a long-winded response to Wade’s post.
Though Texas music undoubtedly presents a lower ceiling for many of its artists compared to the mainstream, it also presents a more sustainable and elevated floor due to the rabid support and loyalty of fans. Texas music artists also enjoy much more artistic freedom with their music, and many, including Wade Bowen, have put together incredibly successful careers built around holding to their own standards, and sustainability above overnight success. Granger Smith, and later Earl Dibbles Jr., always were a tough fit in Texas country and he tended to ruffle feathers, especially after it became obvious his ambitions lay outside of the scene, and his music began to veer more towards a mainstream sound.
The ultimate question is what an artist wants out of their career. Granger Smith was doing just fine in Texas, but you can always have a bigger truck, and bigger house, and more money. Everybody knows Granger Smith sold out by cutting terrible Bro-Country songs to get his major label deal. Granger knows that more than anybody. Whether choosing instead to be happy with your station in music, and holding onto your artistic integrity constitutes “the minor leagues” is open to interpretation. To many, holding onto yourself is pretty major, while doing whatever you can to get ahead is pretty Busch league.
The size of the crowds and the paycheck have nothing to do with the measure of a musician.
Besides, if you’re famous in Texas, what else matters?