It started mostly as a way for Tampa radio jock Cledus T. Judd to vent on how little attention was focused on deceased 2-year-old Caylee Anthony after her mother's acquittal on murder charges.
But Judd has seen interest in the ballad he wrote, She's Going Places (Caylee's Song), become supercharged by passions over the Casey Anthony trial. It's spawned more than 700,000 hits on various YouTube videos, attention from R&B singer Brian McKnight and a profanity-laced fight Thursday between local radio guys Orlando Davis and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
"I never dreamed in a lifetime that it would cause this entire community of people who do what I do to start this gang war in a 5-mile radius," said Judd (real name: Barry Poole), a co-host on the morning show at WQYK-FM (99.5) who could barely contain his anger over Clem's attacks.
The local controversy erupted as gossip website TMZ reported Casey Anthony may be seeking up to $1.5 million for her first media interview.
Judd, for his part, hopes to raise one dollar more to keep the memory of Caylee Anthony's tragic death alive.
"This was done as a labor of love," Judd said of the tune, fashioned from a song he originally co-wrote with Rascal Flatts singer Gary Levox for the hit country band, which was never used. Levox contributed a few lines to the rewrite, which was sung as a ballad by studio vocalist Shane Hines.
"Bubba made the comment, 'How can you love (Caylee); you didn't even know her?' " Judd added. "But this song is just my way of standing in front of the courthouse steps and saying 'Don't forget about this girl.' "
And the message is about to spread further.
McKnight recorded an R&B version of the song Wednesday and Thursday, after Davis sent him a copy of the tune. Davis, who serves as program director and morning host on rap-centered WLLD-FM (Wild 94.1), said McKnight's rendition should appear on iTunes within days, with proceeds from the song's 99-cent fee going to charity. (Both WQYK and WLLD are owned by CBS Radio).
On Thursday, Judd appeared on CNN's sister channel, HLN, to talk up the debut of the country version on iTunes and Amazon.com last week, promising that all his proceeds from the 99-cent price will go to the anti-child abuse advocacy group at Protect.org.
But Clem, who has criticized the song on his show for WHPT-FM (the Bone 102.5), also took aim at the charity behind the website Thursday, insisting the National Association to Protect Children spends too much money on salaries.
Citing figures from the group's 2009 tax returns, Clem's producer Brent Hatley noted it spent about $319,000 on salaries and benefits on revenue of $489,031. But that category also includes "program service expenses" which could involve lobbying and advocacy. (The charity posted a note on its website saying it does not redistribute money, but lobbies for laws and law enforcement resources).
The conflict exploded over the airwaves Thursday, as Davis confronted Clem over a call that aired on both morning shows.
"You do everything for attention … you're a hack," Davis told Clem, unleashing a string of insults accusing the rival host of unfairly criticizing Judd.
"First of all, you're a liar," Clem retorted. "Play the song on your air and let your listeners decide how … cheesy it is."
And while competing radio hosts often indulge on air rivalries with a wink and a nod, both Davis and Clem insisted their conflict is real.
"It's a huge sense that Bubba crossed a line," Davis said. "For them to lambaste a guy trying to help kids? It felt like it was taking away from the task at hand."
Clem had another view: "All I'm guilty of is thinking the song is pandering and cheesy, while questioning the charity."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.