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Zac Brown Band’s debut single, “Chicken Fried“, was originally recorded in 2003 and included on the Home Grown album, but later re-recorded and released to country radio in 2008. This song was also recorded by The Lost Trailers, whose 2006 recording was released as a single but withdrawn after Brown decided that he wanted to release it himself. Brown also co-wrote “Simple Life”, a song recorded by The Lost Trailers on their 2006 self-titled album.
In the third episode of HBO’s music documentary series Sonic Highways, Brown was a featured interviewee and explained why Lost Trailer’s version of “Chicken Fried” was pulled from the radio. Brown stated that after six years of touring that he was broke and sleeping in his tour van. In 2005 the Lost Trailers contacted Brown and expressed interest in recording “Chicken Fried”. Brown stated he agreed under the condition that the song would only be an album cut and not a single as he still had hopes of releasing the song as a radio single himself.
Both parties agreed and the Lost Trailers recorded the song. Some months later the Lost Trailers landed a deal with Sony Nashville, and when they submitted the tracks for their album, they included “Chicken Fried”. Joe Galante, then the Chairman of Sony Music Nashville, heard the tracks and chose “Chicken Fried” as the single that the label wanted to promote.
Brown described hearing his song on the radio: “The first time I hear ‘Chicken Fried’ on the radio and it wasn’t us singing it. It was a nightmare.” Brown then called his lawyer to have the song pulled from the radio immediately. Brown’s lawyer warned him that because of Galante’s power in the Nashville music scene that pulling the song could essentially have him blackballed in Nashville. Brown was insistent that his agreement with the Lost Trailers was violated, so his lawyer issued a cease and desist letter and the single was pulled from the radio.
A few months later The Zac Brown Band was booked to perform at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville and producer Keith Stegall came to watch their performance. Stegall and Brown had drinks later that night and Brown recalled Stegall stating, “I just had to meet the kid that told Joe Galante to fuck off!” Brown credits this incident and his meeting and collaboration with Stegall as the beginning of his success in the music business.
In October 2008, Atlantic Records acquired distribution of “Chicken Fried” after Live Nation Artists closed. The band’s album The Foundation was released under Atlantic Records’ newly re-established country division in association with the Home Grown/Bigger Picture label on November 18 of that year. “Chicken Fried” reached No. 1 on the country charts that same month, making them the first country band to reach No. 1 with a debut single since Heartland did so in 2006 with “I Loved Her First“.
In July 2012, Zac Brown Band debuted their new CD, Uncaged, which was well received. Billboard considered the album to be the best country album of 2012 as of its release.
On January 7, 2013, Zac Brown Band performed the National Anthem at the 2013 BCS National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Just two weeks later on January 20, 2013, the band performed the National Anthem during the NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
On January 1, 2014, Zac Brown Band performed the National Anthem during the NHL’s Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings & Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the Michigan Wolverines football team.
The Zac Brown Band announced on January 12, 2015, that it had finalized a four-way strategic partnership involving the Southern Ground Artists record label, Big Machine Label Group, Republic Records, and John Varvatos Records for the release of its fourth studio album. The terms of the deal state that the Zac Brown Band will work with Big Machine Label Group for marketing and distribution, while Southern Ground Artists will work on radio promotion, Republic will provide support in the area of non-country radio formats and international promotion, and Varvatos will oversee branding and styling.[21