A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s The Oklahoman.
Garth Brooks named to Country Music Hall of Fame
One of the best-selling artists in modern music, the Owasso resident becomes the 10th Oklahoman to join the prestigious institution.
From Carrie Underwood and Christian Kane to Lee Brice and Casey Donahew, country music acts from across the geographic and stylistic spectrum have cited Oklahoma music megastar Garth Brooks as an inspiration
Now, the Tulsa native’s influence and achievements are earning him a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Kix Brooks announced the members of the hall’s 2012 inductee class at a private press event Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn. Garth 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.
“There’s a room that the best days in your career stand in,” Brooks said in an email Tuesday to The Oklahoman through his publicist. “This honor will stand beside being inducted into the (Grand Ole) Opry, playing the 100th anniversary of Cheyenne (Frontier Days) with Chris LeDoux and getting to be part of Oklahoma’s Centennial celebration.”
The hall’s 2012 class also includes 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” group. Induction ceremonies will take place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville later this year.
It will be the third time since last year that Brooks, who was raised in Yukon, has joined a hall of fame. In 2011, the Owasso resident was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“There are great artists and talents, and then there are Connie, ‘Pig,’ and Garth,” said Steve Moore, Country Music Association chief executive officer, in a statement. “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).
To date, Brooks has sold more than 128 million albums, and the Recording Industry Association of America declared him the “Male Solo Artist of the 20th Century.” After retiring in 2000, he emerged in 2009 and begain performing a limited series of solo acoustic shows at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas, which he still continues to do for a few weeks each year.
He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and ushered fellow Oklahoma native Underwood into the famed institution, was the first country artist to host “Saturday Night Live,” received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and performed during President Obama’s inaugural festivities.
An Oklahoma State University graduate, Brooks released his self-titled debut album in 1989, becoming a standout of country music’s soon-to-be fabled “Class of ’89.” He and fellow newcomers Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson not only scored their first hits that year, they also went on to dominate the format in the early 1990s, increasing country music’s popularity and visibility like never before.
“I’m from the old Garth Brooks school … which is no matter what seat you had, no matter if you were front stage, backstage, anything, I’m still the one that has the most fun,” Norman-bred singer/actor Christian Kane said last fall before a hometown show. “Garth Brooks said that early on, and I took that and put that under my wing. And that’s what we do, honestly, we just try to have the most fun that we can onstage, and I believe that bleeds out into the audience.”
Lee Brice co-wrote “More Than a Memory,” one of the few new songs Brooks has recorded since retiring from touring at the turn of the 21st century. Featured on Brooks’ 2007 box set “The Ultimate Hits,” the brokenhearted ballad became the first No. 1 debut in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
“It’s just really like a dream still, like it didn’t even happen, it’s so unbelievable to me. I just count my blessings,” Brice said in an interview last fall.
When he got the chance to record his first album, 2010′s “Love Like Crazy,” Brice was again inspired by Brooks.
“I’ve written with all of his big co-writers … and they all tell me that Garth is one of the best writers that they’ve ever written with, ever. But yet he was smart enough to go cut ‘The Dance’ and cut ‘Friends in Low Places,’ songs that he didn’t write, because they were hits and they were him and they were different. And if you can model yourself off anybody, why not Garth, you know?” he said.
Texas country singer-songwriter Casey Donahew is another up-and-comer who has been inspired by Brooks.
“I was always a big fan of songwriters and storytellers and always a big fan of the people who could get on a stage and really entertain a crowd and really put on a show and really connect with people. You know, I always was fascinated by the people who could combine both of those; you know, guys like Pat Green and before that, I thought Garth Brooks was probably the best at it,” said Donahew, who took to Twitter to share his excitement about meeting Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood Tuesday.
“That 90 minutes that we get to play music every night, that’s the motivation and that’s what keeps me out there going.”
Along with his hall of fame recognition, Brooks has won 11 Country Music Association Awards, 17 American Music Awards (including being named “Artist of the Decade for the ’90s”), two Grammy Awards, 12 People’s Choice Awards, and five 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).