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For the millions of fans who have made Garth Brooks the biggest solo musical artist in history--and for everyone else who wants to know what all the excitement is about--here is the whole amazing story of Garth's wild ride to the top. New York Times bestselling author Jo Sgammato shares the fun-filled stories--many of them never-before published--from the songwriters, managers, publicists, agents, journalists, and industry insiders who witnessed the Garth Brooks phenomenon and helped to make it happen.
On April 12, 1989, Garth's first album was released, and since then, the entertainment world--and America--haven't been the same. He was an ordinary guy from Yukon, Oklahoma, who hoped to become an athlete-- until he discovered his own unique ability to harness the power of music and reach into people's hearts and souls. By giving his all to his fans and combining the flash of rock 'n' roll with the music and values of country, Garth has created some of the most spectacular hits and concert events of our time, selling a monumental 89 million albums in just ten years.
In a book that's (almost!) as much fun as being there, go backstage and into the recording studios . . . travel from Texas Stadium to Central Park and to the concert halls of Europe and Australia . . . and learn the stories behind the songs like "The Dance," "The Thunder Rolls," and the all-time party anthem, "Friends in Low Places." Discover the real Garth Brooks--from his childhood and college years in Oklahoma to his ordinary-guy struggles with questions of success, family, and the meaning of life. From his tough early years in Nashville to his latest venture into the movies with The Lamb, celebrate the man who created a new kind of storm: American Thunder. If you own even one Garth Brooks album--you must read this book!
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Jo Sgammato is the New York Times bestselling author of Dream Come True: The LeAnn Rimes Story, Keepin' It Country: The George Strait Story, Country's Greatest Duo: The Brooks & Dunn Story, and For the Music: The Vince Gill Story. She divides her time between New York and Nashville.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In February of 1962, according to the Census Bureau, 318,090 people were born in the United States. These babies entered the world with the potential to be or do anything. In America, a land of limitless opportunity where citizens were encouraged to reach for the sky, no dream was too big, no ambition unattainable.
Troyal Garth Brooks was born on the seventh day of February 1962, at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In America's heartland, wheat grew tall, cowboys stood taller, and proud Native Americans kept the country's true history alive. Giant oil rigs gushed black gold, fueling the prosperity and peace that made dreaming possible.
Two weeks after Garth's birth, John Glenn safely orbited the earth three times and President John F. Kennedy traveled to NASA headquarters in Florida to personally welcome him home. Meanwhile, back in Washington, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was conducting the first nationally televised tour of the White House. From suburban New Jersey to rural Arkansas, the talk was of desegregation, as Martin Luther King, Jr., was spreading his dream. Overseas, the United States was expanding its military role in a country called Vietnam. And a "crisis of abundance," a surplus of agricultural products, including milk, led the government to pay farmers to produce less.
The proud parents on that seventh day of February 1962, Colleen Carroll Brooks and Troyal Raymond Brooks, had begun their lives together with a family that consisted of three of Colleen's children and one of Troyal's. Together they had been blessed with one son, Kelly, and now, eighteen months later, they completed their family with the birth of their last child. Two loving parents and six lucky children formed a household where the words stepchildren, half brother, and half sister were never used.
Tulsa was a town that loved music. Cain's Ballroom, over on Fourth and Main, was known as Western Swing's own Alamo. Cain's had been christened by the sounds of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, the swingin'est band in the West, which played there almost every Thursday and Saturday night from 1935 to 1943.
Bob Wills's unique style--a mix of everything from the blues to cowboy music, from Mexican mariachi to German polka, and from Dixieland jazz to pure bluegrass--did more than transform American music forever. It drew everyone at Cain's Ballroom to the curly maplewood dance floor mounted on sets of Dodge truck springs. Another attraction at Cain's in the 1930s and '40s was the availability of bootleg whiskey--Prohibition wasn't repealed in Oklahoma until 1957. Dancing and booze made for some wild times. When things got too rowdy, Bob Wills tapped the microphone with his fiddle bow and played a church hymn.
Colleen Brooks, Garth's mother, loved music herself. As Colleen Carroll, she'd been a featured singer on "Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee," the pioneering radio and television show. Her black curly hair draping down to her shoulders, a ribbon tied sweetly at the neckline of her fringed shirt, Colleen sang her heart out. Her strong, sweet, clear voice captured the attention of the folks at Capitol Records, where she recorded four singles in the mid-1950s. Her talent might have led to fame and fortune, but it was hard to be a female singer back then, and even harder if you were married and had children. Colleen loved music, but she loved family life even more.
Troyal Brooks, called Raymond by everyone who knew him, was a former U.S. marine. He worked as an engineer and draftsman for one of Tulsa's many oil companies, Union of California (Union 76).
The big city of Tulsa was exciting, but Colleen and Raymond wanted a quieter life for their family. In 1966 they moved to Yukon, a town of 10,000 residents about fifteen miles southeast of Oklahoma City. The ride from Tulsa to Oklahoma City was along America's most famous highway, a road of legend, music, and dreams--Route 66. Woody Guthrie's folk music, John Steinbeck's classic novels, and Jack Kerouac's amazing book On the Road all memorialized the lives that were spent, enjoyed, endured, and sometimes lost on Route 66. What a fitting backdrop for a future American hero.
Yukon sits squarely on the famous Chisholm Trail. Less than a mile from the Brookses' new home was a remnant of the trail where, in the late 1800s, more than a million longhorn cattle traveled from San Marcos, Texas, to railroad loading yards at Abilene, Kansas. This was cowboy country, pure and simple. It is also flat country with sweltering summers, frequent tornadoes, and winters that see fierce blizzards.
Over on Main Street in a town where kids could roam freely as long as they came home in time for supper, two-story brick and cinder-block buildings housed the town's businesses and stores. The MFC Farmers Co-op and Yukon's Best Flour Mill across the street were the tallest structures in town. Several blocks south of Main Street, at 408 Yukon Avenue, was the white split-level house where Garth Brooks grew up. From the street, the Brooks home looked like any other pleasant, quiet suburban home in 1960s America.
Inside was a different story. How quiet could it be with six kids running around, feeling free to play, laugh, enjoy life, and listen to music? As Garth would later say about the home he grew up in, it was "just totally cool. You could live in the house. You could try things, stretch your imagination." Like other households where the kids were encouraged to dream and allowed the freedom to falter, it was, he said, "a house you could make mistakes in."
Colleen and Raymond were serious about raising their children right. When the kids asked permission for something, the answers were clear: "yes" or "no." "Maybe" was not an option and "We'll see" generally meant no. Garth wasn't allowed to go out of his yard unless he asked his mom or dad. With all those older brothers and a big sister, who he says was tougher than any of the boys, Garth was surrounded by lots of love and plenty of protection.
The Brookses didn't have much money to spend on their children, but they gave them something more valuable--time and attention. Many evenings would find the whole bunch of them sitting around telling jokes. Raymond Brooks enjoyed picking the guitar and singing as a hobby. Jerry, Mike, and Betsy played the guitar too. Colleen still loved to sing songs like "Kansas City," "Lo Siento Mucho," and "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral" for this audience of her biggest fans. With Jim on harmonica and Garth and Kelly playing the waxpaper comb kazoo, the happy sounds of music filled the house.
But the most fun on those Brooks family "funny nights," as they were called, came when each kid took center stage to tell more jokes, do some solo singing, or devise a skit. Colleen says it was always Garth who would "come up with some of the darnedest stuff you ever heard in your life." Even at the age of two, Betsy said, Garth would "capture your attention." As the youngest of the six children, he got plenty of it.
If the game involved Kelly pretending to "shoot" Garth, Garth would take as long as he could to "die." As long as he could hold the attention of the family, he'd try to keep it.
Maybe that's why he was bold enough to repeat the words he'd often heard his dad say. Colleen says that Garth's first complete sentence was "I'm the boss around here." This from a man still in diapers.
Decades after he was in diapers, and long after he'd become one of the biggest stars in the history of American entertainment, Garth Brooks surprised everyone by putting on a baseball jersey and joining the 1999 spring training camp of the San Diego Padres. Snorting doubters all over America wondered what made Garth think he could play baseball. Well, his love for all sports started in Yukon, first in the backyard, where Raymond taught his sons about football, baseball, and being team players. Garth learned about competition--particularly competition with himself. He played on the Little League teams his dad coached. Right back then, he began developing the competitive instincts and belief in his own talents that would sustain him when it looked as if he'd never achieve his dream of a career in music.
Garth credits his mother with giving him permission to have unlimited dreams and his father with giving him frequent doses of reality. Raymond set standards of perfection, and Colleen said, "Hey, a mistake is okay if you tried your best."
At Central Elementary School on Oak Avenue and Seventh Street, Garth learned to read and write. In second grade, he became friends with a guy named Mickey Weber.
Garth's third-grade teacher, Pearl Kinsey, said, "I never had a discipline problem with Garth. He was a very good boy. The only problem I had was I couldn't keep all the little girls away from Garth." LaDawna Urton, his fourth-grade teacher, said that after he participated in a school talent show she knew he was destined for stardom.
"Anyone who can pat their head, rub their tummy, dance, and sing a jingle about a Fig Newton will make it far in the entertainment world," Urton said. Perhaps one of the things those Oklahoma schoolgirls loved about the young Garth Brooks was his unabashed love of music and his delight in sharing that love with anyone who would listen.
People listened to all kinds of music at the Brooks home, where dozens of kids came to the scores of parties the family loved to host for Halloween, Christmas, birthdays, and often for no reason at all. Garth's mom loved Harry Belafonte's captivating Caribbean rhythms. Raymond had Johnny Horton's Greatest Hits album, Merle Haggard's Swinging Doors, and The Best of George Jones. The age range in the household--Garth's oldest brother was fifteen years his senior--meant that Garth was exposed to music of many eras. He heard Peter Paul and Mary, Tom Rush, and Arlo Guthrie. His sister Bet...
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