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Granger Smith doesn’t technically chew tobacco, but he knows how to put a good dip in. For the encore of every live show, he throws on a pair of his high-school overalls and a trucker hat, cracks open an ice-cold silver bullet, packs a dip into his lip and returns to the stage as someone else: Earl Dibbles Jr. The alter ego was just something funny he came up with, an idea spurred by boredom one day four years ago at his parents’ ranch. But country fans proved hungry for the character’s country-boy hilarity. They wanted more.
Smith took the American flag and ran with it. In fact, the singer has not-so-quietly built an empire around Earl in the form of Yee Yee Nation, a following of gun-toting, truck-driving, boot-wearing, muddy and proud rednecks. The brand has grown to include original songs by Earl Dibbles Jr., music videos, merch and even a Yee Yee Energy drink in a camo can, which will hit shelves this year.
The shows sell out in minutes. Once at the stage, fans sporting similar overalls and white tank tops shout “Yee Yee!” in anticipation. Cell phones fly up at the sound of a shotgun being loaded: the audio cue for Earl’s big entrance. The setup is so boldly different than what else is out there, it’s no wonder Smith is on the fast-track to superstardom. Sure, his alter ego was born on the fly, but it wasn’t a fluke. The Texas A&M graduate and former Corps of Cadets member has always been business smart, and the redneck patois is just another strategy. Creating Earl Dibbles Jr. was a way to set Smith apart. It worked.
“Granger always says, ‘Everybody has talent in this business, it’s just about finding the backdoor to go in if everyone is going in the front door,’” says Tyler Smith, Granger’s manager and younger brother by four years. “We’ve always strived to do things differently. If this person was doing this, we’re doing the exact opposite until something sticks.”
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