Back in 2003, in the midst of the massive backlash against the Dixie Chicks after frontwoman Natalie Maines famously spoke out against the U.S.'s then-impending invasion of Iraq, few members of the country music community came to their defense. The group was banned from radio, booed at that year's ACM Awards and embroiled in a very public feud with Toby Keith. Other country stars, including Tanya Tucker and Darryl Worley, also denounced Maines' viewpoint. In at least one instance, a steamroller was brought in to physically demolish their CDs.

Sixteen years after Maines' watershed comments, the memory of one of country music's most fiery political moments remains fresh in the minds of many of the genre's artists and fans. According to a new article in the Washington Post, the singer's father, steel guitar player Lloyd Maines, still remembers the scant few contemporaries who defended his daughter during this tumultuous period of her career.

During a recent webinar hosted by the Country Radio Seminar (CRS), singer Vince Gill recalls a conversation with Maines' father from a few years ago: "I've been meaning to tell you this for many, many years, but you and Rosanne [Cash] were the only two people that stuck up for my kid. And as a father, I just wanted to thank you," the elder Maines told Gill at the time.

While presenting the award for Entertainer of the Year at the 2003 ACMs, Gill responded to the boos that ensued after he read the Dixie Chicks' name among the list of nominees. "Stop it, stop it," he admonished the crowd. "You know who gets blessed when you forgive: You."

That same spring, Gill also spoke out in support of the Chicks at the CMT Flameworthy Awards. "There's political leaders that's said a lot worse things about George Bush than Natalie did. Nobody rips them for it, you know?" he said. "I kind of feel like she's been bashed enough."

Not long after, Gill clarified that he was simply defending Maines' right to free speech -- not agreeing with the sentiments of her comments. "It's pretty imperative that I communicate that I held the completely opposite view of Natalie Maines," he said, according to People. "The troops and the president don't have a bigger supporter than me."

To this day, Gill maintains his astonishment at how swiftly and resoundingly the Chicks were cut down by the music industry. "I found it pretty astounding that they kind of buried them for just making a probably not-so-polite comment," he says. "But all I said was, 'Man, I hear people say a lot worse things about [President Bush] every day up on Capitol Hill and nobody gets barbecued for that. Why are you going to take their career away from them?'"

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