Personalities | Garth Brooks | New Country & The Neo-Traditionalists

Country music gained a new face when the Garth Brooks phenomenon swept the stage in the 1990s. Such a huge marketing venture took place that his name virtually became synonymous with country music and the pop crossover style.

Yet Brooks’ career had started in unspectacular style in 1989, when his Garth Brooks album shipped only 20,000 copies. Such was the momentum gathered in the following years that the album went on to sell over nine million copies.

Brooks Fever

The wheels were only being greased in 1989, and Brooks’ career was about to blossom in a way that was previously unknown in any musical field. Produced by country veteran Allen Reynolds (whose clients have included Don Williams and Crystal Gayle), his debut album delivered the No. 1 hit single ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’. But a huge transformation was about to take place, through the 16-million selling No Fences (1990), Ropin’ The Wind (1991, 14 million), The Chase (1992, eight million) and In Pieces (1993, eight million), for the business graduate born on 7 February 1962, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mother, Colleen Carroll, had recorded for Capitol Records during the 1950s, but Brooks’ albums would debut at No. 1 on both the pop and country charts. Brooks fever swept the USA.

His 2001 album, Scarecrow, was his seventh to top the US pop chart, and his ninth to top the country charts. The record books have been rewritten time and again by Brooks, who, through his high-energy shows matched his 113 million album sales in the USA, with record-breaking live shows not only across America, but also in Europe. This massive success contrasts greatly with his first taste of Nashville in 1985 – he had left town after 24 hours. No one would have believed he would soon be selling out venues like the Hollywood Bowl on 22 July 1994, in just over 20 minutes, or selling 896,932 copies of Sevens during its first week on release in November 1997. Effortlessly outselling top pop acts – both new and old – this saw Brooks equal Elton John’s feat of having three albums simultaneously appear on the Billboard Top 200 chart in 1998 – Sevens, The Limited Series (a six-CD album set) and Double Live.

A Record-Breaking Act

On 7 August 1997, Brooks drew the largest-ever crowd for his concert in New York’s Central Park, alongside an equally massive television audience, and his star remained in the ascendant throughout the decade. Huge crowds flocked wherever he went; his eight sell-out dates in Dublin, Ireland, were the subject of a two-hour television special, Garth Brooks: Ireland And Back (along with footage shot in Los Angeles featuring songs from Sevens). This attracted 15.7 million viewers, topping that night’s ratings Stateside.

Brooks has seen great success on the country singles charts as ‘The Dance’ (1990) and 1991’s dramatic, emotion-torn ‘The Thunder Rolls’ had him act out his part to the full. These songs, alongside ‘Friends In Low Places’ (1990)...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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