Originally Published: Oct. 19, 2009, 4:04 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 31, 2009, 2:12 a.m.
REIDSVILLE, N.C. — City officials have banned future performances by a popular regional Country band after the group sang an anti-gay rendition of a classic Merle Haggard song at a local festival.
Reidsville officials hired Matt Boswell and the Hillbilly Blues Band to sing at their fall festival, held at Market Square in the city’s downtown area on Saturday, Oct. 10. Local news station WGSR 47 broadcast the event live.
In his rendition of Haggard’s “Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?”, Boswell sang, “Well you’ll never take my guns, and I’ll pray anywhere that I please./My daddy always told me, if you were able, and didn’t work then you don’t eat./All you Wall Street bankers, as far as I’m concerned, you can all go to Hell./And you can’t get married, you stupid gays and queers, so why don’t you go somewhere else?”
A viewer later emailed the station asking that anti-gay lyrics be stripped from future broadcasts.
Reidsville City Manager Kelly Almond told Q-Notes the language used by Boswell was “tasteless.”
“It was absolutely unacceptable and certainly unacceptable at a city-owned venue and city-sponsored event,” he said.
Almond also said the employees in charge of booking public events have been “instructed not to book [Boswell] again,” with similar thoughts echoed in an email to WGSR 47: “I can assure everyone involved that, if this language was used, this person, or anyone representing him, will not play another city event. Market Square, and indeed all city venues, are places meant to bring people together, not divide them. We certainly support tasteful, patriotic acts. We also have to respect everyone’s Free Speech rights. However, we don’t have to pay for it or include it in a city sponsored event, and we will not.”
Two city council members told Greensboro’s News & Record they support Almond’s decision.
“If he (Boswell) wants to stand on the street corner and say that, that’s one thing,” Councilman W. Clark Turner told the daily paper. “But to say it in a city-sponsored event — that is altogether a different thing.”
Councilwoman Joan Zdanski said she would have been even more upset if Almond had known about the situation and taken no action.
“If he became aware of that and didn’t do something, then I would say that would be a problem,” Councilwoman Joan Zdanski said.
Boswell is a frequent performer at several Piedmont-area event venues and clubs stretching from southwest Virginia to Greensboro, N.C. Q-Notes was unable to find contact information for Boswell and his agent did not return calls seeking comment.
The City of Reidsville is located north of Greensboro in Rockingham County and has less than 15,000 residents. The city does not include sexual orientation or gender-identity in its non-discrimination policy for city employees.
Boswell’s own lyrics begin at the 3:15 minute mark.