- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 18, 2011

AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) - Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said “there was zero hesitation” when her band was asked to perform at a concert with fellow country music stars to help raise money for victims of the recent wildfires in her home state of Texas.

She and her band mates joined George Strait, Willie Nelson and other musicians during a mega-concert Monday night that was expected to raise more than $500,000. A fire that started Sept. 4 in Central Texas’ Bastrop County destroyed at least 1,500 homes and killed two people, marking the most devastating of the numerous fires that have scorched about 6,000 square miles in Texas in the last year.

Maines told the crowd that she was worried that without homes, “you all might not look lovely.” But she told them they all looked fantastic.

“When they called us to do this show, there was zero hesitation,” she told the crowd. “You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl.”


Nelson recently spent time filming a movie in Bastrop and, in an interview before the concert, called the fires “tragic.” He said he has lost homes to fire and knows how devastating it can be.

“You never really get over it,” he said. “There’s nothing I can tell them to make it better except some of us have been there and done that and we survived it, and they will too. Be strong.”

The benefit was expected to raise more than $500,000, said Asleep at the Wheel front man Ray Benson, who helped book the performers. Benson said he seldom asks his friends for favors but thought this cause was important enough.

“This one was so compelling, I said `OK, let me call Willie and let me call Lyle (Lovett)’ and they both said yeah,” Benson said. “Willie actually cancelled a show to do it. Lyle also canceled an appearance.”

Benson said the music community felt a responsibility to help.

“I just think the scope of devastation was so great and so close to home,” he said. “The numbers in Bastrop were so overwhelming, how do you deal with something like that? And also you do feel … that we’re in a position to not sit on the sidelines and do something.”

The concert started with Christopher Cross. Eleven acts were scheduled to perform, and actor Kyle Chandler was helping to emcee.

Images of charred forests, skeletal remains of vehicles and homes were shown between sets at the Frank Erwin Center at the University of Texas at Austin campus. The concert was nearly full, but officials said they did not yet have numbers for the number of tickets sold.

Several attendees wore T-shirts representing local volunteer fire departments who battled the recent blazes.