Oklahoma music megastar Garth Brooks has been selected for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Country Music Association announced this morning.
When the Owasso resident is inducted into the hallowed hall later this year in Nashville, Tenn., it will be the third hall of fame for him to join in two years. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011.
Brooks, 50, will be inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Modern Era Artist” category, for which an artist becomes eligible 20 years after first achieving national prominence. Artists remain eligible for that category for the next 25 years.
The hall’s 2012 induction class also will include celebrated female vocalist Connie Smith, who will be inducted in the “Veterans Era Artist” category, and respected session musician Hargus “Pig” Robbins, who will join in the “Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980″ category.
“There are great artists and talents, and then there are Connie, ‘Pig,’ and Garth,” said Steve Moore, CMA Chief Executive Officer, in today’s announcement. “Connie has been one of the most celebrated female voices in music for more than 45 years, setting a golden standard for the thousands of female vocalists who came after her. ‘Pig’ overcame adversity to become one of the most sought-after session musicians in the industry, contributing his considerable talents to classic songs that have been treasured by fans all over the world since the late ’50s.
“And, Garth led modern country music to unbelievable heights of commercial success and pop culture relevance after bursting onto the scene as part of the now-legendary ‘Class of 1989.’ These three artists are more than just performers … they are forces of nature who are deservedly entering the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Brooks will become the 10th Oklahoman to join the Country Music Hall of Fame, following Bob Wills (1968), Gene Autry (1969), Floyd Tillman (1984), Roger Miller (1995), Johnny Bond (1999), Vince Gill (2007), Roy Clark (2009), Reba McEntire and Jean Shepard (both 2011).
“I am astounded and honored to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Brooks said in the announcement. “At the same time, I can’t help but feel guilty going in when there are so many deserving artists that came before me who are yet to be inducted.”
Recently named “the Best Selling Artist of the SoundScan Era” by Billboard and the Nielsen Co., Troyal Garth Brooks was born Feb. 7, 1962 in Tulsa and raised in Yukon, the youngest of six children. His father, Troyal Raymond Brooks, was a former Marine who worked as a draftsman in the oil industry, and his mother was Colleen Carroll, was a country music performer who had recorded for Capitol Records in the 1950s and performed on the Ozark Jubilee with Red Foley.
Garth Brooks participated in sports throughout his youth, and played on his high school football and baseball teams. But music was always around him, as he learned his first guitar chords from his father while his mother taught him to sing and reach for his dreams. His parents introduced him to the music of Merle Haggard, George Jones and other classic country artists, while his older siblings exposed him to the sounds of Boston, Janis Joplin, Journey, KISS, Townes Van Zandt, and more rock and pop artists. He loved it all, but especially identified with singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg. George Strait also would become Brooks’ significant influence after he heard Strait’s first single, “Unwound,” on the radio in 1981.
Thanks to his prowess with the javelin, Brooks earned a partial athletic scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he majored in advertising. He began to play music seriously, first with friends in his dorm, and later as a performer in the clubs in Stillwater, where he also served as a bouncer. When he graduated from OSU in December 1984, he set his sights on pursuing his dreams in Nashville, Tenn.
That first trip to Nashville lasted less than 24 hours, when he realized Music City wasn’t waiting for him with open arms. He continued to hone his craft by performing in Oklahoma clubs, and married his college sweetheart, Sandy Mahl, in 1986. A year later, he returned to Nashville with a plan, and began meeting songwriters and musicians. Soon, he met ASCAP’s Bob Doyle, who was so impressed with Brooks’ songwriting and performance talent that he eventually would quit his job and become business partners with Brooks as a manager and publisher. Doyle introduced Brooks to Joe Harris, a veteran booking agent with Buddy Lee Attractions, who quickly became a strong supporter and broke company policy by booking concerts for Brooks even though he didn’t have a record deal. Doyle soon formed a partnership with publicist Pam Lewis to co-manage Brooks, which lasted until 1994 when Doyle/Lewis Management parted ways and Doyle continued as his sole manager.
Capitol Records A&R executive Lynn Shults heard Brooks sing “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (which Brooks co-wrote with Kent Blazy) at the famed Bluebird Café and offered the young performer a record deal that evening. Allen Reynolds was hired to produce the first album, creating a collaboration so strong that Reynolds would go on to produce all of Brooks’ albums.
His first album, “Garth Brooks,” was released on April 12, 1989, and the debut single, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” reached No. 8 on the Billboard Country Singles chart, followed by his first No. 1 hit, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” “Not Counting You” reached No. 2, leading the way for his second No. 1 song, which would quickly become his signature, “The Dance.” The album would become the top-selling country album of the ’80s, and was eventually certified ciamond for sales of more than 10 million copies. Its success led to Brooks winning both the CMA Horizon Award and the CMA Music Video of the Year Award (for “The Dance”) in 1990.
In the process, Brooks became a standout of country music’s soon-to-be fabled “Class of ’89,” in which newcomers Brooks, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson scored their first hits and went on to dominate the format in the early 1990s, increasing country music’s popularity and visibility like never before.
His second album, “No Fences, “arrived in 1990. The first single, “Friends in Low Places,” was released soon after the success of “The Dance,” and this back-to-back combination of hit songs propelled Brooks into super-stardom. The album, which topped the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, would feature four No. 1 hits: “Friends in Low Places” (which won the 1991 CMA Single of the Year), “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two of a Kind (Workin’ on a Full House),” and “The Thunder Rolls.” “No Fences” won the CMA Album of the Year Award in 1991, and has sold more than 17 million copies.
The album’s final single, “The Thunder Rolls,” spawned a controversial music video inspired by the song’s third verse (which Brooks performed in concert but did not record in the studio version) taking on domestic violence featuring Brooks as a cheating husband. The video was added to VH1′s playlist and was widely praised nationwide by shelters for domestic abuse victims for bringing attention to a serious problem, yet it was quickly banned by TNN and CMT. It won the CMA Music Video of the Year Award in 1991.
Brooks’ third album, “Ropin’ the Wind,” was released in 1991 and cemented his name in the history books when it became the first country music album ever to debut at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. It would later win the 1992 CMA Album of the Year Award, earn Brooks his first Grammy Award (1991 Best Country Vocal Performance, Male), and sell more than 14 million copies. Brooks’ accomplishment propelled the entire Country Music industry to new sales heights in the ’90s, forever proving that Country Music could sell albums on par with pop, rock, and other genres. Forbes Magazine did a cover story on Brooks, with the headline proclaiming “Country Conquers Rock.” No. 1 singles from the album included “What She’s Doing Now,” “The River,” and a cover version of Billy Joel’s “Shameless.”
By this point, Brooks had become widely known by fans, industry, and critics as both a master showman and top concert draw. His live performances featured both wild, energetic theatrics (including Brooks running around the stage with his band, climbing rope ladders, and more) and quiet, tender performances, while always creating an intense, intimate connection between the artist and his audience. He was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1991 (a feat he would repeat in 1992, 1997, and 1998, a record four wins that has only been matched by Kenny Chesney).
The Oklahoma native forever changed the way television viewers saw country music when “This is Garth Brooks” debuted on NBC in 1992. The hour-long concert special, filmed at Reunion Arena in Dallas, was the ninth most popular show of the week. The success of the special led to a sequel, “This is Garth Brooks Too” in 1994, which was filmed over the course of three sold-out shows at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. That special gave NBC its first time period win among adults 18-49 in nearly two years. In all, Brooks would deliver five highly-rated television specials for NBC in the ’90s.
Brooks released his most personal album, “The Chase,” in 1992. It also debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 and Billboard Top Country Albums charts and has sold more than nine million copies to date. The most-talked about single, written by Brooks and Stephanie Davis, was “We Shall Be Free,” a song promoting tolerance and brotherhood, inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles riots, that would later win a Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award in 1993. The acclaimed music video featured cameo appearances from a range of celebrities including McEntire, Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Grant, Eddie Murphy, Martina Navratilova, General Colin Powell, Elizabeth Taylor, and more offering messages of hope in-between news footage of problem situations from around the world. The video premiered before the 1993 Super Bowl where Brooks sang the National Anthem to a television audience of more than one billion viewers in 87 countries. That same year, Brooks released his first Christmas album, “Beyond the Season,” which has sold more than three million copies.
Rolling Stone featured Brooks on its cover in April 1993, a rare accomplishment for a country artist. In the Fall, he released In Pieces, which also debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Top 200 and Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The album featured several of his best known hits, including “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up),” “American Honky Tonk Bar Association,” “Standing Outside the Fire,” and “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and has sold more than 8 million copies.
Brooks hit the world stage in 1994 when he undertook a world tour that visited Australia, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The frenzy surrounding his eight sold-out concerts in Dublin had Irish newspapers comparing his popularity to that of the Pope.
That same year, he released “The Garth Brooks Collection,” a compilation of 10 album tracks selected from his prior albums that was sold by McDonald’s in their first music promotion. The project, which benefited Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities, sold more than 3 million copies. Later in 1994, he released “The Hits,” an 18-track greatest hits collection that sold more than 10 million copies and became both the best selling country music greatest hits album of all time and the best-selling greatest hits album from any genre in the ’90s.
In 1995, he released “Fresh Horses,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts, and sold more than seven million copies. Brooks co-wrote eight of the 10 songs on the album, including “She’s Every Woman,” “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” and “It’s Midnight Cinderella,” while his cover of Aerosmith’s “The Fever” became a highlight of his live show. The Oklahama-native also honored both the heroes and victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in his music video for “The Change.”
In March 1996, Brooks began a three-year concert tour, performing 350 shows in 100 cities, selling more than 5.3 million tickets, and repeatedly breaking venue attendance records set by the likes of Neil Diamond, the Grateful Dead, Elton John, Elvis Presley, and more. Later that year, he filmed “Garth Brooks: Storytellers” for VH1, the first country artist to be featured on the renowned singer-songwriter television series.
Brooks returned to Ireland in May 1997 and performed three shows in Dublin’s Croke Park. A record-breaking 120,000 tickets were sold for the shows, beating the previous record held by U2. The shows were filmed for a two-hour NBC television special that aired the next year, winning the night in ratings. On Aug. 7, 1997, “Garth – Live from Central Park” took over New York City, drawing the largest-ever concert crowd to the legendary park. The live broadcast on HBO was the network’s most-watched and highest-rated original program of the year, beating all broadcast competition in the time period as well as three of the four networks combined, and was the most watched special on cable television that year.
Also in 1997, Brooks released the album “Sevens,” which once again debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Billboard Top Country Albums charts. The album, which sold more than 10 million copies, featured his first duet with longtime friend and future wife Trisha Yearwood, “In Another’s Eyes,” which would win the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
Brooks hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” recorded for the movie “Hope Floats” in 1998. He also released “The Limited Series, “a boxed set containing his first six studio albums, each with a bonus track. The project, a limited edition production of only 2 million copies, became the first boxed set to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart since Soundscan began in 1991, and the first and only boxed set to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Later in the year, once his three-year tour had ended, Brooks released Double Live, a two-CD set that has sold more than 21 million copies and became the best-selling live album in music history.
In 1999, Brooks released his second Christmas album, “Garth Brooks and the Magic of Christmas.” The album sold more than one million copies to date and later served as the soundtrack for “Call Me Claus,” a 2001 television movie starring Whoopi Goldberg that Brooks co-executive produced through his Red Strokes Entertainment company. That same year, Brooks created his Teammates for Kids Foundation, partnering with celebrity athletes to raise money for children’s charities. He was inspired with the idea while participating in spring training with the San Diego Padres in 1998.
The year 2000 brought dramatic changes to Brooks’ life. In January, he announced that he was moving back to Oklahoma to focus on raising his three daughters, Taylor Mayne Pearl (born 1992), August Anna (born 1994), and Allie Colleen (born 1996). He officially retired from touring until after his youngest daughter graduated high school, but would still work on occasional projects. Later in the year, he and Sandy filed for divorce but remained active parenting partners for their daughters.
Brooks released “Scarecrow” in 2001, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and Billboard Top Country Album charts. The album sold more than 5 million copies, and featured a duet with his hero George Jones on “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?).” To promote the album, Brooks did a series of three live concert television specials in November for CBS known as “Garth Brooks: Coast to Coast Live.” This was the last album Brooks would record for Capitol Records. Due to his renegotiated contract with Capitol in the mid-’90s, Brooks had full ownership of his recordings – a rare accomplishment for any performer and even more rare for a country artist. When he left Capitol, he took his masters with him.
In 2005, Brooks became the first artist to partner exclusively with Wal-Mart when he released “The Lost Sessions.” The project featured previously unreleased material recorded during 1995-2000, as well as a new song, “Good Ride Cowboy,” that paid tribute to Brooks’ hero and friend, Chris LeDoux, who had recently passed away. Later that year, Brooks performed the song live from Times Square as part of the CMA Awards’ historic broadcast from New York City. The album, which sold more than 2 million copies, was also part of a second boxed set that Brooks released through Wal-Mart that included “Sevens,” “Scarecrow,” and a new DVD featuring concert footage, interviews, and more. “The Lost Sessions” also featured “Love Will Always Win,” a duet with Yearwood, whom Brooks married in a quiet ceremony in Oklahoma later that year.
Two years later in 2007, Brooks released “The Ultimate Hits” on Big Machine Records, a 34-song, two-CD package that also included a DVD containing his music videos. The first single, “More Than a Memory,” made history by debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart. That year, he also performed nine sold-out shows in the new Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. All 159,779 tickets were sold in 1 hour and 58 minutes, which tied his personal record of selling the highest number of tickets in any North American city. The final night’s concert was broadcast to more than 300 movie theaters across the nation.
In January of 2008, Brooks performed five sold-out shows during only two days at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to benefit the Southern California 2008 Fire Intervention Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.), which provided aid to victims and first responders of the Los Angeles and San Diego wildfires as well as financial assistance to California firefighting departments and organizations. All 83,000 tickets were sold in less than an hour. CBS broadcast one hour of the first concert live as “Garth Brooks: Live in LA!”
President-elect Barack Obama requested Brooks perform at his inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in January 2009. More than 300,000 attendees lined the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument while Brooks performed. Later that year, Brooks began performing a limited series of solo acoustic shows at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, which he still continues to do for a few weeks each year.
In 2010, Brooks performed nine sold-out shows in six days in front of more than 145,000 fans at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to raise funds for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to allocate to victims of the devastating floods that ravaged Middle Tennessee earlier in the year. The concerts raised $5 million dollars while also setting a new record in Tennessee for ticket sales by a single performer, nearly doubling the previous record set by Michael Jackson who had sold 72,000 tickets for a stadium show in Knoxville. ABC’s “World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer” named him “Person of the Week” for his efforts during the flood relief concerts.
To date, Brooks has sold more than 128 million albums, and the RIAA declared him the “Male Solo Artist of the 20th Century.” He has won 11 CMA Awards, 17 American Music Awards (including being named “Artist of the Decade for the ’90s”), two Grammy Awards, 12 People’s Choice Awards, and 5 World Music Awards, among many other honors. ASCAP has presented him with several of their most prestigious honors, including the Voice of Music Award (presented to artists whose music gives voice to the spirit of a generation), Founders Award (given to songwriters and composers who have made pioneering contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators), and the Golden Note Award (for his outstanding contributions to American music as a performer and songwriter). He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, was the first country music artist to host “Saturday Night Live,” and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Induction ceremonies for Brooks, Robbins and Smith will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum later this year. Since 2007, the museum’s Medallion Ceremony, an annual reunion of the Hall of Fame membership, has served as the official rite of induction for new members.
This will be Brooks’ second year to perform at the Medallion Ceremony. Last year, he performed “Whoever’s in New England” in honor of fellow Oklahoma native and 2011 inductee Reba McEntire.