Garth Brooks

Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award

Born Troyal Garth Brooks, 7 February 1962, Yukon, Oklahoma, USA. Brooks’ mother, country singer Colleen Carroll, appeared on the Ozark Jubilee and recorded for Capitol Records. Brooks won an athletic scholarship in Oklahoma and entertained in clubs at night. He preferred music and was soon playing full-time.

While having a club residency, he learned over 350 songs. Working as a bouncer in Stillwater, he broke up a fight and hence met his future wife, Sandy. When he first married, he reminisced about his high school sweetheart and wondered if he had made a mistake. A few years later, he met her, realized that they had both changed, and wrote the song “Unanswered Prayers”. Brooks signed with Capitol Records and was assigned to producer Allen Reynolds, known for his work with Don Williams.

His first album, Garth Brooks, had an old-time, western swing and country feel and included a revival of a Jim Reeves success (“I Know One”), a western saga (“Cowboy Bill”) and several new love songs (“The Dance”, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and his own “Not Counting You”). Brooks’ second album, No Fences, was even better, including his concert-stopping “Friends In Low Places”, and a revival of the Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue”, both written by Dwayne Blackwell. The album sold 10 million copies in the USA. Ropin’ The Wind sold four million copies in its first month of release and topped both the US pop and country charts (nine million sales by mid-1993). His cover version of Billy Joel’s “Shameless” was a US country number 1, as were his recordings of “The Thunder Rolls”, “Two Of A Kind” and “Working On A Full House”. Brooks chooses his songs carefully but he has yet to find the right duet song for himself and his mother. He says, “My mother has told me to take care of myself. In that way, I’ll be around in 10 or 15 years and I can pay back the people who have invested time in me.”

Brooks’ survival as a commercial force seemed in no doubt, but during 1992 rumours began to circulate that he was planning to quit the music business to concentrate on raising a family (his first daughter, named Taylor in honour of James Taylor, was born that spring). In the event, Brooks cancelled his touring engagements for the summer, but re-emerged before the end of the year with a Christmas record, Beyond The Season, and another album, The Chase. Within four months, that album had sold five million copies. Critics noted that Brooks was moving subtly away from the honky-tonk style of his debut towards a 70s-orientated soft rock sound. Brooks reached the UK pop chart in 1994 with “The Red Strokes”, one of the few US country singers to do so; this further reinforced the view that he was not just a US phenomenon. Fresh Horses was his first album to have simultaneous worldwide release, and a further international hit came with the sugar-drenched “She’s Every Woman”. In 1995, he was distracted by having his former managers suing each other. He took over his own business affairs with the help of his wife Sandy. Brooks has changed the whole perception of country music, making it fashionable. He is still ambitious and he is determined to initiate One World Flag when, one day of the year, the world flag would be flown in every country as a symbol of unity. Brooks was named Entertainer Of The Year at the 1997 Country Music Awards.

At the end of the year he released Sevens, which predictably debuted at number 1 in the Billboard pop and country charts with pre-orders of more than five million units. Double Live also topped the charts in the first week of December, breaking the one million mark for first week sales. His worldwide album sales reached 81 million in 1998, confirming him as the all-time biggest-selling solo artist in America.

Brooks shocked the country establishment in 1999 when he recorded an entire pop album under the pseudonym of Chris Gaines, a character in his forthcoming movie The Lamb. The attendant single, “Lost In You”, was a US Top 5 hit in September, but sales for the album were disappointing and a swift return to straightforward country songs ensued.