Thanks to a few sneaky and tenacious Country Fans you can find a few live YouTube videos of Garth Brooks in concert although they are rare. Why doesn’t Garth understand we just want to relive the thrill of his live performances?

Two things I disagree with Garth on: 1. Dogs not allowed in the house and 2. Garth Brooks’ live performances not allowed on YouTube. Come on Garth, you said many times you’ve made more money than your Grandchildren can spend so what’s the deal? Does he think the fans won’t come to anymore Garth Brooks spectacles if they can easily access him all the time on YouTube, Vevo or a dozen different sites? My guess is the fans will still buy concert tickets to see Garth Brooks.

So in the meantime, for all you Country Fans who loved this entertainer in the 90s and agree Country radio is not the same without him, right here and now we pay homage to YouTube user asymvivastos0, whoever you are, for lifting a piece of the special Garth Live From Central Park and putting in on the internet – enjoy!

Update 8/29/2012: Naturally, that video was pulled from YouTube just days ago so you’ll have to purchase the HBO special. Too bad, the response we got from those who viewed it was pure joy. However, www.watchmojo.com put together a nice compilation video of Garth’s career on YouTube and included a few small clips of some of his live performances and Daily Motion has a clip of “Friends in Low Places,” which we have embeded for you. So that should satisfy your “Garth Brooks” tooth. Anything that continues our love for this music is my goal. It’s a shame or “Shamless”, that Garth won’t allow at least one live performance to be shared and viewed by the millions of fans who adore him. I suppose Garth has his reasons and if you asked him what those are he’d sit you down and sell you on why it’s important for him to protect his intellectual property from the evils of video sharing and you’d buy it; because the magic of Garth Brooks has always been his conviction in his beliefs, be it the spoken word or song. Yet this platform of being conspicuous by one’s absence, in order to grow fonder the hearts of his fans, could produce – “Garth who?”

When I left Nashville in 1997 to go back on-the-air I wound up doing mornings in Hershey, Pennsylvania for WKRZ but the program director informed me he had quit three days after he hired me; that put my job in jeopardy. I had to move myself and four dogs from Nashville, Tennessee to this small town, rented a house and exhausted my finances. It was customary at many stations to clean house when a new PD came in so I feared I would be let go. Anxious about the possibility of being homeless and jobless with four dogs, I sought out the operations manager who then offered me a midday position at their sister station in Allentown, Pennsylvania called Cat Country 96. I never should have taken that job but I had been put in a desperate situation and that move would turn out to be an even bigger mistake; I walked away from Country radio because of it. That entire story will come later. Cat Country 96 was interested in my interviews and my ability to obtain interviews but luckily I didn’t showcase them on-the-air in Allentown. I decided instead to write a book about my career in Country music radio and as the ABC Radio Network’s Nashville reporter. I titled my book “The World According to Garth.” For those of you old enough to remember, this is a play on the title of the movie starring Robin Williams, The World According to Garp. I used a publicity shot of Garth for the cover and sent it to his management office asking for a forward by Garth Brooks, who knew me by name and was always so generous with his time. Garth and his staff always included the ABC Radio Networks in on many of his events and made sure we had tickets to see his world tour in Atlanta, Georgia when he broke Elvis’ record for tickets sold. I thought for sure Garth would do this for me, not a problem, right? Wrong! I got a very nice letter from Rusty Jones with Garth’s camp, instructing me to remove this photo at once. The Memo stated “They view this publication as an exploitation of Garth Brooks’ name and likeness without compensation for the artist.“ They thought my book was “an unauthorized biography of Garth Brooks.” Wrong! They just didn’t read the cover carefully but it turned out fine. Nashville Photographers Alan L. Mayor and Beth Gwinn licensed me several photos of Garth as well as Martina McBride, George Strait, Reba, Alan Jackson and many others for the book project and I had two agents very interested in representing me back in 2002. Life has a funny way of putting the brakes on our hopes and dreams and for a good reason. I shelved this book project until March of this year (2012) when my husband urged me to finish the project. He said “…why don’t you do a website and blog about your story instead of writing a book.” What a great idea and that very night I had the website’s concept all figured out, domain name, page titles, how it would look but more importantly, what I could do for Country Fans who love this music. So, no hard feelings Mr. Jones, I’ll just continue to tell my story.

In 1989 we were playing a new song on the radio at KWDJ (Riverside, California) called “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” by a very young and unknown Garth Brooks. The Norco cowboy community was bombarding my phone lines and insisting we get the singer on the radio for an interview, and why were we not playing any of his music, they demanded! These guys weren’t talk about Garth Brooks, they wanted to hear Chris LeDoux. This underground rodeo cowboy singer was the muse for the debut single Garth co-wrote with Randy Taylor and I was not about to disobey a direct order from my listeners. Within days I found LeDoux’s father – those days phone numbers were still listed – and soon I had this friendly, outgoing and bad-ass Country rocker on my midday show talking about his music. His father had to send us an album to play during our interview that’s how underground this man was.

If George Strait and George Jones had their influence on Garth Brooks and his music, then it was Chris LeDoux who shaped Garth as “The Performer!” Real cowboys know what were talking about here, LeDoux liked to rock the cowboy crowd and he liked to play his music loud. I left for Nashville in 1990 and just missed the concert performance that Garth and Chris put on at the Cocky Bull in Victorville, California. KWDJ was the most popular Country Radio station in the Inland Empire and emceed the show. This humble beginning of Garth’s is so famous, as you will read from Wikipedia’s website below, but there is nothing said about the loyalty of those Norco, California cowboys who called radio stations like ours and demanded attention be paid to LeDoux and his music, but Garth knew better:

“The fact that Chris LeDoux was mentioned in this song naturally introduced him to a wider audience. Chris set out to meet Garth: “We finally met about eight months after that song had come out. A promoter put us together on the same bill. At the Cocky Bull in Victorville, California. And Garth for some reason insisted on opening for me, but it was great. One of the things that impressed me about him, The first thing he said to me, “You know Chris using your name in that song, you wouldn’t believe how that’s helped my career.” We hit it off pretty good.” Brooks, who was a major fan of LeDoux’s, convinced Capital Records to give him a record contract…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Much_Too_Young_(To_Feel_This_Damn_Old)

Loyal fans of LeDoux’s know that his recorded music was tamed by Nashville in later years but his live performances remained true to what Chris LeDoux was all about. My very last interview with Garth Brooks was on Chris LeDoux’s tour bus during the 1996 video shoot for “Five Dollar Fine.” It was my last interview with LeDoux as well. Chris LeDoux passed away in November of 2004 from cancer. He was the most sincere and good-natured human being I’ve ever talked to. He was a serious cowboy and not a Country music celebrity. I’ll share this entire interview with you later right here at BacktoCountry.com.

In 1993, I was working weekends on-air at WSIX in Nashville when a reporter’s job landed in my lap. The ABC Radio Networks had just kicked off a new service of entertainment newscasts for their monster list of Country Music radio affiliates. Dan Gordon, from the Tennessee Radio Networks, headed up the operation and he was in need of a Country Music reporter. I had to arrange a trial interview to convince him that I indeed knew my “stuff,” and luckily I called on one of the RCA record executives who knew me from KWDJ as their Music Director and Midday Radio Personality. That next afternoon I interviewed Paul Overstreet, who had several top ten hits on the charts and was a celebrated songwriter; he co-wrote Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever Amen” just about the biggest Country song of the 80s. I got the job and we began to report on all the news from Music City.


The blog, Back to Nashville, will not go in chronological order but I’ll weave in my own anecdotes while I give you a front row seat to all that happened during The Explosive Years in Country Music. Below is a verbatim of the first Garth Brooks press conference we attended as The ABC Radio Networks.

In a rare appearance, Garth’s mother, the former Colleen Carroll who recorded for Capitol Records in the mid-1950’s and was a regular on Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee, sat side-by-side with her son to talk about his amazing achievements since the release of his debut album “Garth Brooks” in 1989. By the time of this press conference, Brooks’ debut album sold nearly a million copies, spawning four Top Ten singles, three of them hitting the top of the charts: “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “The Dance” and “Not Counting You.” And from his second album “No Fences,” which shipped Gold on August 27, 1990, the first single “Friends In Low Places” debuted as a Top Ten hit due to a frenzy of bootlegged airplay. Two months later Brooks won the Country Music Award’s Horizon Award and Video of the Year Award for “The Dance.” This interview was conducted just after the October 8, 1990 County Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. Again, this is an exact verbatim of the press conference:

Press: Are you surprised all this success came so fast given all the competition out there?

GARTH BROOKS: Oh yeah, competition or not I’m surprised this came so fast. I remember someone at the CMA night asked me, said “…ten years ago did you think this would happen.” I told him ten days ago I didn’t think this would happen. It’s a shock this whole month has been a shock with me, with “No Fences” coming out already being platinum and my family down and the CMA Awards and the induction to the Opry, and now the induction to the Hall of Fame, you know, the articles of clothing. I don’t know how to take it. I’m just happy it’s happening to us.

Press: Why do you think it’s happening to you?

GARTH BROOKS: I don’t know and I tell you what if I set down and figure it out it’s gonna fall apart in front of my eyes. So, I’m gonna just, I’m gonna accept it as it is and keep running and keep smiling!

Press: Why record cover tunes, other people’s songs, why not 10 original songs?

GARTH BROOKS: I firmly believe that you know five, ten, fifteen bucks that’s spent on a cassette or CD is a hell of a lot of money and I think they deserve the best they get, and I’m not going to fool myself and say “I’ve got the ten best songs in the world” you know. I need the ten best songs I can find at that time and whose ever they are, is what needs to go on that album!

Press: Did your mother help you with your deal with Capitol Records, since she also had a recording contract back in the 50’s?

GARTH BROOKS: (Joking) Mom snuck in there and got me everything from Capitol.

COLLEEN BROOKS: I did not! I didn’t get him one thing. He did this on his own with the people he met here and his wife.

Press: Was Capitol Records the first company you met with in Nashville?

GARTH BROOKS: No mam! In fact all seven of the majors at the time I was here had passed on me including Capitol Records and they saw us two days later in a showcase. Someone didn’t go on and the producer asked me to go in the guy’s place that wasn’t there. Capitol was there to see that act. I believe Jim Fogelsong believed in me from day one but the rest of his crew had to see us on stage and then they came back and signed us. (Garth is referring to a showcase at the now famous Bluebird Café)

Press: Mrs. Brooks how do you feel about your son’s success?

COLLEEN BROOKS: Well, I think it’s wonderful but I knew he could, but I didn’t know he would this fast.

Press: Did you tell him about the business before he got into it?

COLLEEN BROOKS: Well it’s so different now and the people are different and everything. It wasn’t like this back when I was in it. It was dog-eat-dog and now they’re just… this is top dog and they all want him!

Press: Garth with five nominations, were you disappointed you didn’t walk away with more?

GARTH BROOKS: Oh, it didn’t really bother me. I was there for one award and that was uh, for the video of “The Dance,” and the one thing that I wished that I might have been able to slipped away with, for Kent Blazy’s sake, was Song of the Year for “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” I think he’s a wonderful man I think he deserves everything. Someone asked me that night said: “Well, if you had a choice between the two which one would you have taken” and still the video for “The Dance” was what I really went there to get. I was very happy with the “Horizon”

Press: What does it mean to get the Horizon Award?

GARTH BROOKS: It means wonderful because the video was almost like creating a whole new song. It was a whole new aspect of the song and the letters I got off that video from people that said it had changed their life were truly my awards when I went in. But to have a CMA Award or to be recognized for that from the Country Music Association probably was the cherry on top.

Press: Whose idea was it for the video?

GARTH BROOKS: Everything that’s got my name on it is a team effort. So, it was everybody’s idea. It was just something that was in my heart from day one though that I really wanted.


Press: Are the striped shirts your trademark?

GARTH BROOKS: Yeah, when I first took my album I was 222, 223 pounds, so I need the stripes to go down. I’m right around 195 now and it just hits me that everything that I’ve got is stripes. Where my wife does laundry everyone thinks an inmate lives at our house because it’s just stripes up and down the line outside.

Press: Your wife, is she in the music business?

GARTH BROOKS: She is not in the music business, she is in the wife business – as far as being just an unbelievable half or even better half than of myself. I try to explain it this way: I didn’t walk up there without a leg or an arm and I wasn’t going to walk up there without my wife!

Press: How did you meet her?

GARTH BROOKS: How did I meet her? Oh, you don’t want to know this believe me (laughing)…

COLLEEN BROOKS: Oh, please don’t!

GARTH BROOKS: A lot of people take this wrong but Sandy’s very much a lady… I met her as a bouncer in a club and I had to throw her out of the club one night and that’s how we met. I don’t believe in love at first sight but when I saw her, my heart just hit the floor and uh, I thought she was so cute. I kept asking and she kept turning me down and finally she said: “yeah, I’ll go out with you,” and two and a half years later we got married.

COLLEEN BROOKS: He apologized more than any human ever has for doing his job before she’d go out with him.

Press: Do you regret telling this story since you’ve become famous?

GARTH BROOKS: No, no I really don’t. I think people see us as real people because of that story. I just apologize simply because I never want anyone to get the wrong idea about my wife. That was seven and a half, eight years ago and uh, you know things change, we’ve all had those nights before, and to tell you the truth, I might catch a lot of flak for this but, I truly feel like God sent her to me and people say he works in mysterious ways, well… that was one of ‘em.

Press: Why did you record the song “Nobody Gets Off In This Town?”

GARTH BROOKS: Allen Reynolds knows me inside and out and he pulled me over one day and says “Garth,” he says “you’re a very intense guy and sometimes you can get too many intense songs on an album…” he said “…they need to see the side of you that’s just sitting around you know, having fun.” So, we out to look for fun songs: “Nobody Get’s Off In This Town,” “Knock Me Out,” “Friends In Low Places,” “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House.” There’s a song that we’re going to try for the third album called “We Bury The Hatchet but Leave the Handle Stickin’ Out” and it’s a true-life song about forgiving and forgettin’ you know?

Press: Who are the most influential people in your life?

GARTH BROOKS: Oh, there’s no doubt that my father has been what makes my decisions in my mind. It’s the stuff that he has shown me. My dad will be the first guy to tell you that he’s nowhere near perfect and he’s a regular human being, he makes his mistakes; and my mother and my father have always stressed the importance of following your heart. Allen Reynolds, musically, probably is the greatest leader I could ever ask for. Outside of all that I would have to say as a country artist George Jones and George Strait are the king and the second command for me, and I really like the characters that John Wayne played even when he was a bad guy, he knew what was right, you know, and he admitted it even though he still wanted to be a bad guy. So, that’s cool, that’s how I like to live my life.


Press: What about the first time you were on the Opry? How did you feel?

GARTH BROOKS: I don’t recall the exact date of that I just know that when I saw the (Grand Ole Opry) video I said “Oh, God what a dorf,” you know? I’m looking at this guy and my first words out of my mouth is “so this is the Opry” and I had to buy a new t.v. set after I saw that one because I think I threw a boot through it.

( “If Tomorrow Never Comes” was just released to Country Radio at the time Garth appeared on the Opry. He became a member October 6, 1990.)

GARTH BROOKS: The Opry is Garth Brooks’ beginning and end. It’s my home! I know that no matter what I try, or no matter what I do in country music and no matter what the result of it, I’ve got a family and I’ve got a reputation to uphold and it’s not my reputation, it’s the Grand Ole Opry’s reputation. So, I really feel… it’s really weird, it’s like a child must leave its parent but a parent is always behind that child no matter how far out he goes and that’s what I feel like the Grand Ole Opry’s done for me.

Press: Did you grow up listening to the Grand Ole Opry?

GARTH BROOKS: Oh no! I listened to just about every kind of music in the house. The Grand Ole Opry was just something we never sat around… I mean, I’d love to tell you yeah I did and I worked on a railroad you know, stuff like that but I just don’t. I’m an average kid from the middle of Oklahoma and the Grand Ole Opry has always been the church of Country Music for us but it was nothing that we ever ritually sat and listened to.

Press: Did you always want to be a country music singer?

GARTH BROOKS: No! I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Fortunately I sucked at baseball so I went into singing. I really just followed my heart like I was telling the lady before, it’s not heritary, I mean, it’s not handed down like from Mom to son, just cuz she was in it. It wasn’t that she said “you do it,” but I think that anybody that’s meant to do this for a living is born with it in its heart and it’s like a good cancer it’ll just eat you up till finally you have to come here or you have to go to LA or New York and pursue your dreams.

Press: What took you so long?

GARTH BROOKS: I’ve never been a guy that liked commitments, never have and this town needs a commitment, this job needs a commitment. I always roamed from job to job, from relationship to relationship and when I got married to my wife Sandy and figured out that you could fly higher tied down, which didn’t make any sense to me, that commitment wasn’t a bad thing.

Press: Your name is kind of unusual, what’s the story and can you give us the full name?

GARTH BROOKS: Sure it’s Troyal Garth Brooks and (laughing) now I’ve been waiting for this explanation too…

COLLEEN BROOKS: He has not! He knows why he was named. I had five boys and a girl, didn’t to get to name any of ‘em but when he came along I said “this one I’m going to name,” so I named him after his father and grandfather for Troyal and Garth, his great, great grandfather was a confederate General and his name was Garth Ruben Hedges and I think Garth is one of the strongest names I’ve ever heard. So, it went good with Troyal Garth.

Press: What about children?

GARTH BROOKS: That’s what I want. I just want a houseful of girls. Sandy of course, wants boys.

Press: What do you listen to musically when you have time to relax?

GARTH BROOKS: Everything! Mostly lyrically oriented stuff like James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, uh, Billy Joel’s “Stormfront” album, I’m probably wearing that one out right now. I have bought ten George Strait albums and they have been five a piece of his first two albums. I don’t know if Mr. Strait know how I feel about him but “Strait From The Heart” and “Strait Country” to me have been the two things of George’s that I buy all the time and listen to over and over and over again.

Press: Do you think George Strait feels like the elder statesmen after your tribute to him?

GARTH BROOKS: I never meant to cause him any embarrassment or anything but I think as the Horizon Award Winner idols are very important and George Jones and George Strait, John Wayne and my father have been cornerstones on my frame.

Press: What do you do with your time off?

GARTH BROOKS: I try and be a husband in those times. I never get to be and it’s neat when you have your day off and stuff you try, you try and be a partner to someone that’s always been a wife to you even when you haven’t been a husband to her.

By the time Garth Brooks and Capitol Records were preparing for a private party celebrating the success of his second album, No Fences sat 158 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200 Charts and had sold 10 million copies. There had only been 9 albums certified 10 million by the time of this party, only 3 had done it faster than No Fences, and only 1 other was a considered a Country album. “Friends In Low Places,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ On A Full House” and “The Thunder Rolls” had all become No. 1 singles. ABC Radio Networks was invited to this historical event and I can’t wait to share these actual interviews with you. It’s always good to hear what Garth has to say.

In 1991 Ropin’ The Wind made Billboard history on September 28th as the first album to enter the Billboard Top 200 Chart and the Billboard Country Chart at No. 1. Nearly half of the album’s singles were chart toppers, including four No. 1’s, “Rodeo,” “Shameless,” “What She’s Doing Now” and “The River.” “Papa Loved Mama” peaked at No. 2 by the following year. Brooks had also won numerous awards including Entertainer of the Year from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

Then 1992 was a blockbuster year for Brooks with 34 more awards to add to his trophy warehouse, including the ACM, CMA and Music City News/TNN Viewer’s Choice Entertainer of the Year Award. This Is Garth Brooks NBC Television special aired on January 17, which became the 9th highest rated show of the week. Brooks became a father with the birth of his first child, Taylor Mayne Pearl on July 8th and two more albums were release: Brooks’ first Christmas album, Beyond The Season and The Chase, which became the second album in music history to enter both the Billboard Top 200 and Country charts at No. 1. There was of course three more No. 1 singles, “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” “Learning to Live Again” and “That Summer.”

Just after the release of Garth Brooks’ sixth album, In Pieces on August 31, 1993, I was about to conduct my first exclusive interview with Garth. I had participated in group interviews in the past, but now me and my microphone were on our own with the man who would be “…fronting the biggest and fastest selling concert tour in the U.S.” The announcement of a second NBC special to be filmed at Texas Stadium preceded a ticket buying frenzy on the part of Texas fans. He sold out Texas Stadium in 92 minutes, selling over 65,000 tickets to the first show and breaking the previous sales record held by Paul McCartney.” This Is Garth Brooks Too would air the following May.

Garth Brooks never left any press members out of his important announcements, press conferences, celebrations or even his concert events. In this way, he was fair, decent and very cunning about who contributed to his exposure. He assembled one of the best teams of professionals in the business, including Bob Doyle, Scott Stem and Karen Macauley and of course the odd but effective Pam Lewis. They were exceptional when it came to media relationships.

I’ll be back each week with stories from all of my interviews during Country Music’s Explosive Years (1980s and 1990s) while working on-the-air at KWDJ Radio in California and while reporting for the ABC Radio Networks and SW Networks in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, Dallas, West Virginia, wherever they sent me. I own all the rights to all my interviews and there are thousand of hours never aired. So, we’ll be back next week to continue this ride through the Explosive Years in Country Music and let you head back in time with many of your favorite artists, including Vince Gill, Allison Krauss, George Strait, Faith HIll, Kenny Chesney and many more – and of course more Garth Brooks!

Lou Lunden
lou@backtocountry.com

Photos provided by Nashville Photographer Alan L. Mayor.
Caricatures by Jodie Fleming of Big-Smile.com

Categories: Back to Nashville

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