Garth Brooks Biography - official from Garthbrooks.com
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The fastest-selling solo artist in music history, Garth Brooks sold in excess of 100 million albums in just ten years, now topping 105 million. His body of work propelled country music as a genre to the front pages of newspapers worldwide and the covers of magazines, to the point where Forbes declared on its cover, "Country Conquers Rock." And, he accomplished it without courting pop radio. Garth’s attitude was – let the pop audiences come to country.
Assessing his career, the UK’s Country Music International determined that, “Garth Brooks has taken country music further than any other performer. He has reached the widest possible audience, gained phenomenal success, yet still retained the basic ingredients of country music. There is no compromise.”
It has been said that through the 1990s Garth's only real competition was himself. He brought daring individualism and a love of music, ranging from working class blues and honky tonk to bluegrass and arena rock, to the musical table. And he had the talent to serve it up tastily. His easy-going, approachable charisma was matched only by his fearless willingness to take chances and step outside the lines. He has had an unprecedented run so far, and opened the doors for many more country artists to follow.
The Early Years
The youngest of six children, Garth was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 7, 1962. Four years later the Brooks family moved to Yukon, where his father Troyal, a former Marine, worked as a draftsman in the oil industry. His mother, the former Colleen Carroll, recorded for Capitol Records in the mid-1950s and performed with Red Foley on the Ozark Jubilee. But Colleen wasn’t Garth’s only musical inspiration around the house. His father played guitar, teaching Garth his first chords, while his sister Betsy “…could play anything with strings or keys.”
Musical influences at the Brooks home were wide ranging. Troyal and Colleen loved country artists like Merle Haggard and George Jones. Garth’s siblings had tastes that stretched from Janis Joplin and Townes Van Zandt to Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Boston and Journey. Garth listened to it all, especially drawn to singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.
The Brooks household was fertile ground for creativity and spontaneity backed by a steady sense of reality. Colleen, known as “the happy child” while she was growing up, fostered a confident, free-spiritedness in her children. “Mom wasn’t above telling little white lies to make her children feel good,” Garth has laughed. “Once when I messed up in football, she told me that the guy sitting next to her in the bleachers was yelling for the coach to send me back in. Later I found out she invented the story just to make me feel better.” Troyal was the realist in the family, mindful of the importance of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” in life. The combination of those character traits developed on Yukon Avenue proved invaluable to Garth’s professional life. He became a risk-taker, willing to put everything on the line to make a better recording, a more exciting performance. Yet he paid careful attention to his career, his business dealings and his employees.
In high school Garth was more interested in sports than music, playing football, baseball, track and field for the Yukon Millers. But by the time he started college at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he was beginning to pick and sing, jamming with friends in Iba Hall, the athletic dorm where he lived. Although he was attending college on a partial athletic scholarship (javelin), and majoring in advertising, Garth was becoming more and more interested in music as a career.
By 1983 Garth was playing gigs around Stillwater and picking up some extra money as a bouncer in local clubs. After graduating from OSU in December of 1984, he opted to make the move to Nashville. Colleen Brooks was not thrilled about his decision. “Mom had seen the bad side of the business, when management wasn’t professional,” Garth recalled. “She pretty much saw the ditches of music. So she prepared me for all that, which was great. I didn’t come in here with a sun-shiny face thinking everything was going to be rosy.”
The first trip to Nashville was anything but rosy, and Garth returned to Oklahoma within 23 hours. He continued playing the Oklahoma club circuit, married his college girlfriend, Sandy Mahl, in 1986, and returned to Music City the following year with renewed determination. Right away he began meeting and working with songwriters around town. One of them introduced him to ASCAP’s Bob Doyle, a respected song man known as a friend to writers. Bob was so impressed with the Oklahoman that he quit his job and took on management duties. And when talent agent Joe Harris heard Garth sing, he broke company policy and started booking the still-unsigned artist together with the band he’d put together, appropriately named Stillwater. Garth took the business seriously, playing any gig Joe Harris could book, and giving his all whether it was a crowd of 30 or 300.
It was by chance that Capitol Records’ A&R man Lynn Shults heard Garth sing “If Tomorrow Never Comes” at a writer showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. Although Capitol had once turned down Garth, Shults offered him a record deal on the spot. The label set up a meeting with producer Allen Reynolds (Don Williams, Crystal Gayle), and the two began the process of making an album.
Released on April 12, 1989, Garth Brooks contained four hit singles including "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "If Tomorrow Never Comes," "Not Counting You" and Garth's signature song, "The Dance." This debut recording went on to become the biggest-selling country album of the 1980s.
Garth’s live show got an early buzz on the tour circuit. On August 10, 1989, Garth and Stillwater played a show at Tulsa City Limits. John Wooley, music critic at the Tulsa World, wrote: “After seeing what he can do in concert, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Brooks, showman and talent that he is, is going to be country music’s next big thing.”
1990 to 1996
Garth took home the first of many industry awards when he was presented with the 1990 Country Music Association (CMA) Horizon Award and the Video of the Year Award for "The Dance." "The Dance" also won Song and Video of the Year at the 1991 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards. "If Tomorrow Never Comes," which he wrote, won Favorite Country Single at the 1991 American Music Awards, International Single of the Year from the London-based Country Music People, and Song of the Year from the Nashville Songwriters Association International. It was an auspicious beginning for an artist who said he was "scared to death" when he recorded his debut.
The success of “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” thrust Garth into new drawing power out on the concert trail. But although his asking price spiraled almost overnight, and he was clearly at headliner status, Garth fulfilled each and every date as agreed upon.
Garth's second release, 1990's groundbreaking No Fences, won Album of the Year from the CMA and ACM and became the biggest-selling country album at the time, and has been recently certified for sales in excess of 16 million. The album contained four No. 1 hits: "Friends in Low Places," "Unanswered Prayers," "Two of a Kind (Workin' On A Full House)," and "The Thunder Rolls." "Friends in Low Places" quickly became an anthem, winning Single of the Year from both the CMA and ACM. "The Thunder Rolls," which Garth wrote, won Video of the Year at the CMA Awards, and Favorite Country Single at the '92 American Music Awards, where No Fences was also named Favorite Country Album. The CMA and ACM named Garth Entertainer of the Year in '91, and Billboard named him #1 Pop and Country Artist, #1 Country Albums Artist and #1 Country Singles Artist.
In 1999 The Detroit Free Press listed No Fences as one of the “…definitive recorded moments of the decade.”
The overwhelming success of No Fences set the stage for 1991's Ropin' The Wind to become the first album in history to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. "Ropin' The Wind was like sitting in the draft position in a car race," Garth explained. "You're right behind the lead vehicle -- which was No Fences -- and there's a calm space created for you. In a race the two cars actually help each other, and I think that's what happened with Ropin' The Wind and No Fences."
Ropin' The Wind, which earned Garth a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1992 as well as CMA Album of the Year honors, had five hit singles: "Rodeo," "Shameless," "What She's Doing Now," "Papa Loved Mama" and "The River." By the end of 1991 Garth's overall record sales accounted for one fourth of country music's year-end sales. ASCAP awarded Garth its first Voice of Music Award and amid dozens of awards that followed, he again took home Entertainer of the Year honors from both the CMA and ACM in 1992. After Garth swept the 1992 Billboard awards, Entertainment Weekly's 1992 Reader's Poll named him FavoriteMale Singer, ahead of runners-up Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose.
Garth called 1992's studio album, The Chase, his most personal album to date, and it remains one of his favorites. "I opened myself completely on that album. It's the closest anybody has ever got to getting inside my head." Hit singles included "We Shall Be Free," "Somewhere Other Than the Night," "Learning to Live Again" and "That Summer."
The Chase became the second album in history to debut at No. 1 in Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and Country Albums chart. Garth and Stephanie Davis wrote "We Shall Be Free" as a result of Garth's being in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots. The song, a testimony to brotherhood and tolerance, inspired a video featuring cameo appearances by celebrities including: Michael Bolton, John Elway, Boomer Esiason, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Marlee Matlin, Reba McEntire, Warren Moon, Eddie Murphy, Martina Navratilova, General Colin Powell, and Elizabeth Taylor. In addition to the celebrity appearances, the video consisted of news footage depicting social, political and environmental problems, counteracted by scenes expressing hope in humanity's ability to cope with them. Garth debuted the video and performed the National Anthem live in Los Angeles at the 1993 Super Bowl to a television audience of over one billion people in over 87 countries.
Garth became the 1992 NSAI Songwriter/Artis of the Year, won two more People's Choice Awards, as well as favorite performer awards from Playboy, Performance and Pollstar, to name but a few.
In 1992 Garth also released his first Christmas album, Beyond the Season. "I'd make this album [Beyond the Season] every day of my life if I could, because you're singing about what counts," Garth said at the time. Sales from the Christmas album raised over two million dollars for Feed the Children.
High-energy In Pieces became the third album to enter Billboard's Top 200 and Country Albums charts at No. 1 when it was released in 1993. The album produced five hits: "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," "American Honky Tonk Bar Association," "Standing Outside the Fire," "One Night A Day" and "Callin' Baton Rouge." The debut single, "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)," which Garth co-wrote, made Radio & Records history by entering the country singles charts at No. 25, with 222 stations adding the song out-of-the-box. For his cut of "Callin' Baton Rouge," Garth reunited New Grass Revival, the band that first recorded the song. Although "The Red Strokes" was a top-14 pop hit in the U.K., it was never released as a single in the United States, where the album cut climbed to the Top 40 on country music charts.
The following year saw Garth's international stature rise to stunning heights, and fans around the world anxiously awaited Garth's 1994 World Tour. Excitement started early in Ireland, where an estimated 130,000 Irish fans streamed into the downtown area in search of show tickets after it was announced that Garth would be playing The Point in that city in the spring of 1994. In less than two and one-half hours 34,000 tickets for the four shows were sold to those who had the proverbial luck of the Irish. Police finally had to disperse the crowd so the city's merchants could get back to business. The tour took Garth to 13 countries and played to over a quarter million fans outside of the U.S. In Barcelona the crowds paid him their highest compliment, screaming, "Torero! Torero!" Matador! Matador! In 1995 Garth received the Academy of Country Music's Jim Reeves Memorial Award, the first to have been presented in thirteen years. The award is only given when the Academy recognizes an artist who has uniquely enhanced the image of country music internationally.
The Garth Brooks Collection and The Hits were both released in 1994. The Garth Brooks Collection was compiled for McDonald's first music promotion, which benefited Ronald McDonald Children Charities (RMCC). The Hits was an 18-cut album of Garth Brooks' best-loved songs, available for a limited time only. The album was the biggest selling greatest hits package in country music history and the best-selling greatest hits package in any genre for the 1990s.
By 1995 Garth had made four NBC television specials, all of which were overwhelming ratings successes. The first special, This Is Garth Brooks, was filmed at Dallas' Reunion Arena in September 1991. When it aired in January 1992 it gave NBC its highest-rated Friday night in more than two years (17.3 rating/28 share), and was the No. 9 show in the Nielsen ratings for the week. The second airing of This Is Garth Brooks remained powerful, receiving a 6.9 rating and a 12 share. This Is Garth Brooks, Too! was filmed over the course of three sold-out shows at Texas Stadium in Irving in 1993, and when it aired in May 1994 that show gave NBC its first time period win among adults (18-49) since August 1992. When The Hits aired in January of 1995, it gave NBC its best adult rating in that time slot since January 19, 1994, with an 11.8 rating and an 18 share. The behind-the-scenes documentary, Tryin' To Rope The World, featured never-before-seen footage of Garth's first European/Australian tour in 1994, and received a 9.4 rating and a 15 share in the 18-49 demographics.
Garth's next studio album, Fresh Horses, was released on November 21, 1995. Refreshing and diverse, the project reflected the success of his road show, which covered the ground from the western side of country, to insightful relationship reflections, to full-tilt boogie country rock and roll. Singles included: "She's Every Woman," "The Beaches of Cheyenne," "It's Midnight Cinderella," "That Ol' Wind" and his version of the Aerosmith song "The Fever." The album also included "The Change," for which Garth made a powerfully moving video honoring the heroes and victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Eight of the ten songs on Fresh Horses were co-written by Garth.
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