The guys in country band Confederate Railroad are proud of their Southern roots.
But they've gotten some flak through the years for their name and logo, which features a steam locomotive flying Confederate flags, which some say are emblematic of white supremacy, racism and hatred.
Founder and lead singer Danny Shirley says a couple of their concerts were canceled in 2015, after a white supremacist shot and killed nine black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Photos came out of the convicted killer posing with a Confederate flag in the months before the tragedy.
Last month, two more tour dates were canceled: the Du Quoin State Fair in Illinois and the Ulster County Fair in New York's Hudson Valley. Neither the Illinois Department of Agriculture nor the Ulster County Agricultural Society confirmed the band's name or logo were the impetus for the individual cancellations.
The losses were disappointing, said Shirley, but the band is adamant in their refusal to change anything.
"Here in the South, when we were growing up, that flag was everywhere," said Shirley, from his home in Kennesaw, Ga. "That was just a symbol of loving that part of the country where we’re from. It had nothing to do with hate or race. You see a flag coming down the road on a truck, and you don’t think that guy hates people, he just loves the South. People are a lot more touchy now than they used to be."
Confederate Railroad will perform Saturday at Boot Barn Hall.
Boot Barn Hall Founder JW Roth has received seven or eight calls from people asking him to cancel this weekend's concert. He's told them all the same thing.
"The band is legendary," said Roth. "This logo has been around for 40 years. The flag to them stands for Southern heritage and not anything racist or anything hateful or anything else. They need to get over it, and if it's a problem they can’t get over, then don’t buy a ticket. But you'll miss a great show."
Shirley started writing songs in high school in the mid-'70s, when he'd sit in his bedroom, strum his guitar to an eight-track tape and let the country music ooze out. He was inspired by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. He went on to play solo gigs at nightclubs before getting signed to a record label as a solo artist and scoring five times on the country charts in the mid to late '80s. Confederate Railroad was born in 1987 and the band released their first self-titled album in 1992.
Their hits include "She Took it Like a Man, "Jesus and Mama," "Queen of Memphis, "She Never Cried" and "Trashy Women." Their most recent album, "Lucky to Be Alive," was released in 2016.
The guys didn't plan on making that last album, Shirley said. It came after country stars Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean told him they were big fans of his growing up, and he decided to write them some material. Those songs turned out so well that a record label friend of Shirley's suggested they make a new Confederate Railroad album.
"I’m not one of your typical Nashville songwriters," said Shirley. "They’re so quick-minded. It doesn’t work that way for me. I've got to get an idea, live with it for awhile, kick it around. I don’t have one of those genius Nashville songwriting minds."