Are you ready for the battle of blonds, the melee of mullets, the scrum of, well, whatever the heck is on George Jones' head? This year's all-star music lineup at the Florida Strawberry Festival is all about highflying, highlighted, highly priced hair. - Per usual, organizers of the Strawberry Fest, which begins today and runs through March 8, have proved crafty at luring the biggest country acts to Plant City. -But more than that, they inadvertently themed this year's entertainment: Only super 'dos allowed! For instance, by the time the fruit-based extravaganza is finished, no less than seven overtly blond bombshells will have entertained the hundreds of thousands descending upon good ol' Plant City. -The buzziest blond? On March 8, Jessica Simpson will close the fest. At the same time, coincidentally enough, another blond will be in Tampa: Britney Spears, at the St. Pete Times Forum. Fight! Fight! Fight! -But forget about Brit-Brit for now. We liked her better when she was bald anyway. We're talking the Strawberry Festival, where it's all about rocking your mullet or riding your swoop or . . . seriously, what IS going on with George Jones' high heap o' hair? -Herewith, your well-coiffed musical lineup:
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Kellie Pickler (Friday): A long time ago, when I was young and mean and didn't chew my food properly, I used to call her "Huckleberry Blond." Ha! Ha! But a funny thing happened on the way to Snarkville: I realized I was WRONG. Pickler turned out to be one of the better American Idol alums. Her songs are country-cute, but they're catchy, too. Forgive me?
Taylor Swift (Sunday): Swift, 19, is the hottest thing in popular music. It's not even close. Her 2008 album Fearless was the biggest seller of last year - and the top seller in 2009, too. Current hits White Horse and Love Story have crazy-huge download numbers. Reserve seats sold out in a hurry, but check the note above: You still might have a shot at seeing her.
Brenda Lee (Wednesday):I'm sorry, so sorry, that I was such a fooooool . . . The Strawberry Fest always makes sure to respect its legends, and Brenda Lee is certainly one of those. Her show is at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, but you watch: She'll have a big crowd.
Jessica Simpson (March 8): Jess took guff lately for looking chunky-but-funky in unfortunate denim. But the pop-star-turned-Nashville-nymph has turned her tabloid nightmare into a fan base that has just now realized she has become a country singer. Plus who needs teeny Daisy Dukes when your curves can rock a red dress like this?
Other blonds: Helen Cornelius with Jim Ed Brown (Monday); Connie Smith with the mulleted Marty Stuart (Tuesday); Lorrie Morgan (March 5).
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Jake Owen (Saturday):Vero Beach's Owen looks so much like Keith Urban - including that skeezy ape drape - we're thinking he could totally get to second base with Nicole Kidman before she realized shenanigans were afoot.
Travis Tritt (Tuesday): One of my favorite mullets of all time, the hell-raising Tritt is an old-school outlaw, shoot first, ask questions later. He doesn't sell as well as he did in the '90s (I blame Nashville), but he's still a lot of feisty fun and T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Jeff Foxworthy (March 6):He may look all shorn and Supercuts on his hit show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, but when Foxworthy was rocking his trailer park bit, the comedian sported a seriousGeorgia waterfall. You might be a redneck if you can tuck your hair in the back pocket of your Wranglers.
Other mullets: Marty Stuart (March 5); Nitty Gritty Dirty Band (Friday).
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George Jones (today):Like Donald Trump or Yaphet Kotto, George Jones has had the same architecturally unsound coif since birth. Seriously, it's like a Frank Lloyd Wright creation. Falling Possum! It has bamboozled scientists for years, and yet without it, No-Show Jones and his Grand Tour wouldn't be the same. Don't miss this one.
Randy Travis (Monday):The so-low bass delivery of Randy Travis is in stark comparison to his remarkably buoyant swoop. Even better than his hair is new album Around the Bend, which includes a fine cover of Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.
Other swoops: Ronnie McDowell (March 6).
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Kool & the Gang (March 7):We love the idea of the Celebration crew playing the Strawberry Fest. It'll be fun watching Ma and Pa get down to Jungle Boogie.
Rodney Atkins (Sunday): The pop-country singer has no right, no right at all, wearing his trademark grimy ball cap to such a Valhalla of awesome hair. Set your locks free, Rod!
The mystery 'dos
Ray Stevens (Wednesday): The country punster turned 70 this year - and yet Mr. Everything Is Beautiful looks just like he did swinging around in a loincloth for 1969's Gitarzan or gettin' nekkid for The Streak. We're suspicious, but singing along.
Mel Tillis (March 5): The world's most beloved stutterer, born in Tampa no less, turned 76 this year - and yet Mr. Coca-Cola Cowboy looks just as he did cuddling orangutans in Every Which Way But Loose. We're suspicious, but smiling along.
Other mystery 'dos: Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers (tonight); Mark Lowry (March 7); Trent Tomlinson (March 8).
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.