Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks in Washington DC, 2000
Garth Brooks in Washington DC, 2000
Background information
Birth name Troyal Garth Brooks
Born February 7 1962 (1962-02-07) (age 57)
Origin Yukon, Oklahoma, USA
Genre(s) Country, Country rock
Occupation(s) singer-songwriter
Years active 1989-present
Label(s) Capitol Nashville
Big Machine/Pearl
Associated acts Trisha Yearwood, Chris Gaines, Ty England

Troyal Garth Brooks (born February 7, 1962) is an American country music singer-songwriter and the best-selling solo recording artist in US history. Successfully integrating rock elements into his recordings and live performances, Brooks dominated the country charts in the early 1990s and quickly crossed over into the mainstream pop arena, exposing country music to a larger audience.

Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, with over 70 hit singles and 15 charted albums to his credit and over 123 million albums sold in the United States alone. He was awarded the Academy of Country Music award for Entertainer of the Year in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, and the award for Top Male Vocalist for 1990 and 1991.


Throughout the 1990s, Brooks broke records for both sales and concert attendance. Troubled by conflicts between career and family, in 2001 he officially retired from recording and performing. However, he continued to sell millions of albums through an exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart and has sporadically released new singles. More recently, he has issued a successful collection of his hit singles from 1989 through to 2007.

As of 2007 Brooks surpassed Elvis Presley as the best-selling recording artist in history, second only to the Beatles overall.

Early life

Brooks was born on February 7, 1962, the youngest of six children, in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was raised in the small central Oklahoma town of Yukon. His father, Troyal Brooks, worked as a draftsman for an oil company, while his mother, Colleen Carroll, was a country singer on the Capitol Records label in the 1950s and a regular on the Red Foley Show. Brooks was interested in music as a child, often singing in casual family settings. However, his primary interest was athletics. In high school he played football and baseball and ran track. After graduation from high school, he attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater on a track scholarship as a javelin thrower. Despite discontinuing his participation in the sport, he graduated in 1984 with a degree in advertising.

Later that year, Brooks began his professional music career, singing and playing guitar in Oklahoma clubs and bars, particularly the Tumbleweed in Stillwater. After a failed trip to Nashville to gain a record contract in 1985, Brooks married Sandy Mahl of Owasso, Oklahoma the following year. The couple soon moved to Nashville, and Brooks was able to begin making contacts in the music industry. They later had three daughters: Taylor Mayne Pearl (b. 1992), August Anna (b. 1994), and Allie Colleen (b. 1996).


Country singers such as George Straight were an important influence on Brooks.

Brooks' eponymous first album, Garth Brooks, was released in 1989 and was a critical and chart success. It peaked at number two on the U.S. country album chart and reached number 13 on the Billboard 200 pop chart. Most of the album was traditional country, influenced in part by George Strait. The first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," was a country top ten hit. It was followed by his first country number one, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" and "Not Counting You," which reached number two. "The Dance" put him at number one again, and the song's poignant lyrics together with a popular music video gave Brooks his first push towards a broader audience. Written by his friend Tony Arata, Brooks has stated that of all the songs he has recorded, "The Dance" is his favorite.

His follow-up album, No Fences, was released in 1990 and spent an impressive 23 weeks as number one on the Billboard country-music chart. The album also reached number three on the pop chart, and eventually became Brooks' highest-selling album, with domestic sales of over 16 million records. The album contained Brooks signature song, the blue collar anthem "Friends in Low Places," as well as two other classics, the dramatic and controversial "The Thunder Rolls" and the ironic "Unanswered Prayers." Each of these songs, as well as the affectionate "Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House," reached number one on the country charts.

While Brooks' musical style placed him squarely within the boundaries of country music, he was strongly influenced by the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, especially the works of James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg, as well as by Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. The hard rock band KISS was also one of his earliest grade-school musical influences, and his shows often reflected this. In his highly successful live shows, Brooks used a wireless headset microphone to free himself to run about the stage, adding energy and arena rock theatrics to the normally staid country music approach to live concerts.

Brooks' third album, Ropin' the Wind, released in September 1991, had advance orders of four million copies and entered the pop album charts at number one, a first for a country act. It became his second-best selling album after No Fences. The success of this album further propelled the sales of his first two albums, enabling Brooks to become the first country artist with three albums in the top 20 on the pop charts in the same week.

After spending time in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots, Brooks co-wrote the gospel-country-rock hybrid "We Shall Be Free" to express his desire for tolerance. The song became the first single off his fourth album The Chase. The song met with resistance from country radio stations and audiences, and only reached number twelve on the country chart, his first song in three years to fail to make the top ten. However, it often received standing ovations when performed in concert, and went to number 22 on the Christian charts.

In 1993, Brooks persuaded Capitol Records not to ship his August 1993 album In Pieces to stores which sold used CDs, a practice which reduced royalties to artists and songwriters. This led to several anti-trust lawsuits against the record label and delays in shipping. Nevertheless, In Pieces was another instant number one success, selling a total of approximately ten million copies worldwide.

Despite his country musical style, Brooks cites the hard-rock band KISS as one of his early favorites and incorporated various rock concert efforts into his stage act.

British fans, however were disappointed that the album was released in the US before the UK. To support the album, Brooks embarked on a 1994 UK tour, selling out venues such as Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre and London's Wembley Arena. Brooks returned in 1996 for more sold-out concerts. Elsewhere in the world Brooks was also considered a star, and he enjoyed hit records and sell-out tours in Brazil, throughout Europe, the Far East, New Zealand, and Australia.

In 1994, Brooks paid homage to one of his musical influences when he appeared on the hard rock compilation Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, a collection of Kiss cover songs by popular artists from all genres.

One of the later peaks in Brooks' fame came on August 7, 1997, when he gave a free concert in New York City's Central Park, drawing hundreds of thousands of people in a city that many would say is far removed from the country music world. Estimates of the crowd size varied considerably, from 250,000 to 750,000 or even higher, primarily because many people were enjoying the show from outside its full-to-capacity primary venue.

'Chris Gaines'

In 1999 Brooks began to develop a movie in which Brooks would star entitled The Lamb. The plot revolved around a fictional, emotionally conflicted rock singer called Chris Gaines. To create publicity for the project, Brooks took on the identity of Gaines in the October 1999 album Garth Brooks in... The Life of Chris Gaines. Brooks' tireless promotion of the album and the film did not seem to stir much excitement and the failure of the Chris Gaines experiment became fairly evident weeks after the album was released. The album reached number two on the pop album chart, but expectations had been much higher, and retail stores began heavily discounting their oversupply of the albums.

The film project was put on indefinite hold in February 2001 and "Gaines" quickly faded into obscurity. Despite this disappointment, Brooks gained his first and only top 40 pop single in "Lost in You," from the Chris Gaines album.


Although his career still flourished, Brooks seemed frustrated by the stress of touring and the needs of his family. By 1992 he was already talking of retiring from performing and audiences occasionally noticed a lessening of energy in his performances.

In 1999, Brooks and his wife separated, announcing their plans to divorce on October 9, 2000. Two weeks later, on October 26, 2000, Brooks officially announced his retirement from recording and performing. Later that evening, Capitol Records saluted his achievement of selling 100 million albums in the US with a lavish party at Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Brooks's final album, Scarecrow, was released on November 13, 2001. The album did not match the sales levels of Brooks' heyday, but still sold comfortably well, reaching number one on both the pop and country charts. Although he staged a few performances for promotional purposes, Brooks stated that he would be retired from recording and performing at least until his youngest daughter, Allie, turned 18. Despite ceasing to record new material between 2002 and (most of) 2005, Brooks continued to chart with previously recorded material, including a top 30 placing for "Why Ain't I Running" in 2003.

Trisha Yearwood

In the mid-1990s, tabloid journals had reported that Brooks was having an affair with longtime friend and collaborator Trisha Yearwood. The two continually denied having had an affair, but following Brooks' divorce, however, they did begin dating. The couple wed on December 10, 2005, at their home in Oklahoma, the second marriage for Brooks and the third for Yearwood.

In August 2005 it was announced that Brooks had signed a deal with Wal-Mart, leasing them the rights to his back catalog of records following his split with Capitol. Three months later, Brooks and Wal-Mart issued The Limited Series, a six-CD box set containing past material and a Lost Sessions disc with 11 previously unreleased recordings. This set marked the first time in history that a musician had signed an exclusive music distribution deal with a single retailer. The set sold more than 500,000 copies on its issue date, proving that Brooks still had a large fan base. By the first week in December 2005 had sold over one million copies.

In early 2006, Wal-Mart issued The Lost Sessions as a single CD apart from the boxed set, with extra tracks including a top-25 duet with Yearwood, "Love Will Always Win." The couple was later nominated for a "Best Country Collaboration With Vocals" Grammy Award for the song.

On August 18, 2007, Brooks announced plans for a new boxed set called The Ultimate Hits. The new set featured two discs containing 30 hits, a DVD featuring some new music videos and three new songs, and a bonus track. The album's first single, "More Than a Memory," was released to radio on August 27, 2007, and debuted at number one on Billboard's country chart, the highest-debuting single in the chart's history.


Brooks has received two Grammy Awards, 16 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, five World Music Awards, ten People's Choice Awards, 24 Billboard Music Awards, two ASCAP Awards, and two Blockbuster Awards. He was named the 1990s Artist of the Decade by the American Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and the Recording Industry Association of America. In 1998, the RIAA announced that Garth Brooks was the best-selling solo artist of the twentieth century in America.[1]


  1. Under the association's revised calculation methods, Elvis Presley was later given this honor, making Brooks the number two solo artist, ranking third overall, as The Beatles have sold more albums than either Brooks or Presley. On November 5, 2007, Brooks was again ranked as the best-selling solo artist in history, surpassing Presley (but still number two after the Beatles) after audited sales of 123 million were announced.


  • Mitchell, Rick. Garth Brooks: One of a Kind, Workin' On a Full House. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN 978-0671796884
  • Morris, Ed. Garth Brooks: Platinum Cowboy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0312087883
  • O'Meilia, Matt. Garth Brooks: The Road Out of Santa Fe. Norma, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0806129075
  • Sgammato, Jo. American Thunder: The Garth Brooks Story. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999. ISBN 978-0345431073

External links

All links retrieved May 23, 2017.


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