It’s a pretty crass word for the posterior and it’s not something you would want to throw around in earshot of your grandma. But it’s now heard regularly on country stations across the nation — including Kicks and 94.9/The Bull.
North Georgia’s Zac Brown Band, which is blazing the charts with its sun-drenched beach song “Toes,” starts the song thusly:
I got my toes in the water/ ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world/ a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today/ Life is good today.
It’s now at No. 19 on the country charts, according to Mediabase 24/7. The band’s first two singles “Chicken Fried” and “Whatever It Is” both hit the top of the country charts earlier this year. And the band’s album “The Foundation” has been certified platinum, meaning one million copies shipped to stores.
Atlantic Records did provide stations a “radio edit” where the “ass” is cut out and the word “toes” is repeated.
Wyatt Durrette, one of the four co-writers of the song, wrote to me in an email: “I’m ok with the toes-toes thing. If people like the song, they are going to buy it and they end up with the real version. So while it’s not the greatest, it’s not the end of the world either.”
Scott Lindy, program director at the Bull, tested the song with the “ass” word included a few weeks back but feedback made him decide to stick with the G-rated version during the daytime when more kids are in earshot. One person said whenever the song started while he had young children in the car, he’d switch the station immediately. This is not something any program director wants to hear.
Lindy said he does have a song on the playlist using the word “ass”: “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by Toby Keith. But given the context of that usage, he has never heard a single complaint:
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you’ll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
‘Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass
It’s the American way
Kicks has chosen to air the “ass” version of “Toes” all the time. I’ve left messages with the program director and his boss for comment and will update when I get them.
Kevin Daniels, operations manager at South 107.1, which covers northwest Georgia, said he remembers having a conversation with Zac, who told him he did not want an edited version on radio, that he’d rather it not be played at all. In fact, Daniels has not heard about a specific radio edit from the label.
“I was hesitant at first to play the song,” he said. But so far, so good. He has not gotten any bad feedback from his audience about it. In fact, he’s gotten some compliments from folks who are happy he is playing it without any changes. Right now, the station has “Toes” in medium rotation of three spins a day. “I like the song and the audience seems to also,” he noted.
Jaye Albright, a country station consultant out of Seattle for Albright and O’Malley, said he has heard more complaints from Zac Brown fans who object to the censorship.
“When radio starts to edit or tamper with a song, there’s a little bit of artistic protection from some listeners,” he said. “They’d rather hear it the way the artist intended.”
Plus, some programmers in more conservative areas are more wary of the use of the phrase “roll a big fat one,” implying the smoking of an illicit substance, over the “ass” line. Some stations are blurring that line out or simply not playing the song at all.
“This might be costing the song some airplay,” Albright said. (He does not consult any stations in Atlanta.)
The Oxygen Network has been using the word liberally, too, thanks to its show “Dance Your Ass Off,” which combines “Biggest Loser’ with “So You Think You Can Dance.” In print advertising, as a precaution, the network has referred to it as a** and omitted the “ass” word verbally.
The Zac Brown Band are playing a Verizon Wireless-sponsored free concert at Wild Bill’s Friday in advance of the Pep Boys 500 auto race. Folks who signed up online will be able to get in. I don’t think you can just show up.
They are also planning to headline a benefit concert for the fire-damaged Georgia Theatre in Athens at the Fox Theatre in Midtown. Details forthcoming.