Friday, August 14, 2009

Goodbye Brooks & Dunn

Though they were not official members of the genre altering Country Music Class of 89, Brooks & Dunn in many ways came to symbolize the “Hot New Country” movement of the early 90’s. Their boot scootin’ up-tempo songs, passionate ballads, flashy live shows, and even flashier cloths made stand out as something new, something different, something interesting. People took to them and Brooks & Dunn’s debut album Brand New Man sold 6 million copies. Its follow up Hard Workin’ Man sold 5 million.

Brooks & Dunn sold 26.5 million albums, scored 20 #1 singles, and won the 1996 CMA Entertainer of the Year Award. Their The Greatest Hits Collection released in 1997 still charts on the Country Catalog Album Chart and has sold 4.9 million copies. Not bad for a duo formed in 1991 at a lunch meeting hosted by Arista Nashville President Tim Dubois between failing solo artist Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn.

Brooks & Dunn survived the ups and down and the music business to be along with Alan Jackson the only artists of the early 90’s country movement to still be commercially viable. Now Alan Jackson is alone as Brooks & Dunn have called it quits after 20 years. They will release an album of their #1 hits this fall then stage a farewell tour in 2010.

Kix and Ronnie are in the mid fifties. They were always opposites in style and personality. That they made it 20 years is amazing. Ronnie Dunn did most the singing. Kix Brooks was the energy on the live stage. They both wrote songs– sometimes separately sometimes together. Kix and Ronnie share lead vocals on only one song. They alternated who would write the latest chapter of story of Slim and Howdy the mythical cowboy characters who a short story about would appear in each Brooks & Dunn album.

I saw Brooks & Dunn in 1995 with Trisha Yearwood at the Minnesota State Fair. 17,000 plus showed up and were treated to a great show. The up-tempo songs rocked, the ballads were moving. Ronnie Dunn’s voice was even better live, so for that matter was Kix Brooks’. And yes they had a huge balloon shaped like their logo of bleached out, dead Long Horn Steer skull.

I saw them again in 1996 at the Minnesota State Fair with Pam Tillis. Fewer people came (13,000), but the show was still good though not as good. Brooks & Dunn came to town several more times, but I never was moved to see the again. Maybe hearing their big hits “Boot Scootin Boogie”, “My Maria”, and “Neon Moon” on the radio all the time wore on me. I still like their music; they just were no longer a concert destination for me.

I did write them this and ask them to sign a custom baseball card I created of them. They did so showing yet again that some superstar acts like Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn still have time to respond to their fans. Maybe that was the key to their success – listening to their fans.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn has talked the last few years about recording solo albums. I hope they do. I think they will be very different from their Brooks & Dunn music. Whatever they do, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn can take pride in a great 20 year run as Brooks & Dunn.