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Brooks & Dunn

Brooks & Dunn

Country vocal duo, songwriters

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Mixing two elements can sometimes cause an explosive reaction that results in something completely new, something greater than the sum of its parts. When Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn teamed up, two little-known solo artists who struggled for decades were transformed into overnight superstars, becoming countrys top vocal duo. Their debut album, Brand New Man, remained on Billboards Top Country Albums charts for more than five years and is the best-selling album by a country duo in music history. Since their 1991 breakthrough, the duos standout songwriting and performances have continued to win critical acclaim and every major industry awardas well as an enthusiastic audience, evidenced by record-breaking tours and album sales topping 17 million. Theres never been a male pairing thats turned into this kind of sociological phenomenon, Country Music Association director Ed Benson told Entertainment Weekly. They have an electricity and a camaraderie together thats infectious.

The energetic Kix Brookswho earned his nickname before he was bornbegan his musical journey in Shreveport, Lousiana. At six years old, he started playing the ukelele. At age 12, he gave his first performance, during a birthday party for country legend Johnny Hortons daughter, who lived down the street. By the time he began college at Louisiana State University, Brooks was a regular on the club circuit. He recalled a New Orleans joint where flying fists and beer bottles filled the air. I got a blank pistol, he told People. When theyd get too wild, Id pop a cap, and theyd be looking for bullet holes in themselves and running for cover. Dunn added, It took us about 40 years combined, but we finally got out of those danged bars.

After traveling to Alaska to work on the pipeline and to Maine to work in advertising, Brooks moved to Nashville, where a former classmate worked for Charlie Daniels publishing company. Brooks became a staff writer at Tree Publishing, where he penned hits for John Conley, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Highway 101, Sawyer Brown, The Oak Ridge Boys and Ricky Van Shelton. He also continued pursuing a solo career, releasing albums on Avion and Capitol, with only minor success.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Dunn grew up performing with his fathers band in west Texas. He was later forced to choose between music and the Baptist ministry while at Abilene Christian College. Moonlighting in honkytonks was not an approved part of the curriculum for psychology and theology students.

Confronted with the choice, Dunn quit school and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his parents. After years of

For the Record

Members include Leon Eric Kix Brooks III (born May 12, 1955, Shreveport, LA); married; wifes name, Barbara; children: Molly, Eric; Education: Studied speech and drama at Louisiana State University. Ronnie Gene Dunn (born June 1, 1953, in Coleman, TX); married; wifes name, Janine; children: [first marriage] daughter Whitney, son Jesse, [current marriage] daughter Haley); Education: Studied psychology and theology at Abilene Christian College.

Partnership suggested by Arista executive Tim DuBois; signed to Arista Records, 1990; recorded Brand New Man, Arista, 1991, Hard Workin Man, 1993, Waitiri on Sundown, 1994, Borderline, 1996, The Greatest Hits Collection, 1997, If You See Her, 1998; highest certified country duo of all time with more than 17 million albums sold.

Awards: Top vocal duet, Academy of Country Music, 1991-96; top vocal duet or group, Academy of Country Music, 1997; top new vocal duet or group, Academy of Country Music, 1991; album of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1992; single record of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1992, for Boot Scootin Boogie; entertainer of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1995 and 1996; favorite band, duo or group, American Music Awards, 1997; rising star award, A.M.O.A. Jukebox Awards, 1992; songwriter of the year (Ronnie Dunn), Billboard Entertainment Award, 1995; favorite country album by a duo or group, Billboard Entertainment Award, 1998; favorite country duo or group artist, Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, 1995; favorite country album by a duo or group, Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, 1998; songwriter of the year (Ronnie Dunn), BMI Country Awards, 1996 and 1998; vocal duo of the year, Country Music Association, 1992-98; album of the year, Country Music Association, 1994; entertainer of the year, Country Music Association, 1996; video group/duo, Country Music Television, 1997; best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, Grammy Awards, 1993; best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, Grammy Awards, 1997; vocal duo of the year, TNN/Music City News Awards, 1993-98.

Addresses: Record company Arista/Nashville, 7 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203.

playing clubs in Texas and Oklahoma, he won the Marlboro Talent Search. His prizes included recording sessions with producers Barry Beckett and ScottHendricks. It was Hendricks who later brought Dunn to the attention of Arista executive Tim DuBois. Dunn moved to Nashville and signed with Tree Publishing, where Brooks was also on staff.

DuBois noticed similarities in Brooks and Dunns music, introduced the two over lunch in 1990, and suggested they try writing together. Brooks told People, Ronnie and I were the most unlikely duo candidates. We had always held onto single egos. When they first paired up, Brooks told David Zimmerman of USA Today that, these songs kept poppin out, adding that the duo hoped Alan Jackson would include one of their songs in his next project.

DuBois told Zimmerman, The first song they brought me that theyd written together was Brand New Man. I knew we had something special there. It was obvious I had to convince them that they were an act. They both wanted solo careers very badly and had pursued it for so long. Its not the same thing when youre having to share that spotlight with someone else. I think there was that element of letting go of that dream. Determined to succeed, they cast their chances together. Dunn told Dana Kennedy of Entertainment Weekly the duos success was a result of sheer blind determination. Psychotic need. There are a lot of people who make it who dont have a thimbleful of talent. They just want it more than anybody else. Thats what it takes.

Their debut album, Brand New Man, was released in 1991. The album proved the duo had what it took. Kennedy wrote, Their appeal stems from the way they mix stylesthe music is part lonesome-hearted country, part stomping rock & roll, overlaid with a 70s singer/songwriter sensibility.

Their sophomore effort, 1993s Hard Workin Man, left no doubt about the duos star status. Ted Drozdowski wrote in Rolling Stone, Hard Workin Man is a smooth-running machine, fueled by Dunns burr-edged lead vocals, the duos strong harmonies and choruses built on hooks heavy enough to pierce even the heartiest Saturday night honky-tonker. And thats what hits are made of on anyones assembly line. USA Todays Zimmerman wrote, Leave the weepy ballads to Vince Gill and the message songs to Garth Brooks (no relation to Kix); the duos sole aim is to scar up those hardwood dance floors with the gotta-dance tug of songs like Hard Workin Man and the career-making Boot Scootin Boogie, the dance-hall classic that even invaded disco clubs.

In 1996, the release of Borderline marked what Ronnie Dunn called a little bit of a left turn for us, according to imusic.com. I felt like it was time for us to kind of veer off the most traveled path. It sure doesnt hurt, in todays climate, to step just a little bit over into what the traditionalists might call progressive. Dunns range and persuasion as a singer have perhaps never been better showcased than on My Maria, noted imusic.com, the thrilling remake of a B.W. Stevenson hit ofyesteryear that practically jumps out of the grooves at you. Brooks told Tamara Saviano of Country Weekly, We use everyones input to decide which songs to cut. And of course, Ronnie has such a great voice and radio is really locked into it. As a result, he sings most of the singles. We keep that in mind when were making the record.

The duos 1998 album, If You See Her, included the 1966 Roger Miller classic Husbands and Wives. Cutting that was just a whim, Dunn told Saviano. I was in the studio, and we had a little bit of down time, and I looked at [producer Don] Cook and said, Do you remember that Roger Miller song? Does anybody know the lyrics? I want to cut it while we have a minute. The song eventually went to number one.

The albums title track, If You See Him/If You See Her, [sung with Reba McEntire] was the result of an unprecedented alliance between two superstar acts and their label chiefs, managers, producers and promotion and marketing teams, wrote Billboards Chet Flippo. One song became a single for two acts on two different labels, as well as a video. The song also anchors the new album for each act, and the albums themselves are named after the song. A joint tour with McEntire and Brooks & Dunn is powering the whole venture. During that co-headlining tour with McEntire, the two acts took turns going on first. At times, the question of who would open in what city was settled by a simple coin toss. After a month or so, Dunn joked, the only argument we had was over whod go on last. We both wanted to be the opening act!

In 1998, Brooks and Dunn were ranked the fourth highest-grossing tour for joint dates with McEntire, according to Amusement Business magazine, and ninth for the shows they headlined. The duos performance style has evolved to gain them coveted entertainer of the year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. They are the only duo ever to have achieved this honor. A dynamo in concert, People noted, Brooks likes to jump into the audience, while his laid-back foil packs his energies into the vocals. USA Todays Zimmerman wrote, In concert, Dunn is the less flamboyant of the two, but his vocal intensity somehow matches Brooks manic leaps, duck-walks and near-violent guitar work. I come from the school where you just stand there and sing, Dunn told USA Today. I was real shocked when I first saw Kix jumping all over the place and running to the end of the stage.

Their contrasting styles seem to be the secret of the duos success. I really dont know why we work so well together, Dunn was quoted in imusic.com. It must be because we are such opposites, in image and stuff like that and even in our approach to music. I think the freedom we give each other has a lot to do with it. We each kind of do our own thing then bring it all together.

In a biography from Arista, Dunn explained, Kix and I really give each other room to stretch. The two of us are just very different musically, in terms of what we like to hear and write. We accept that. We basically meet in the middle. Theres never been a rift, and it keeps things fresh. Brooks told imusic.com, Im not much good at analyzing it. We just do what we do and thank God that a lot of folks are into it. I think the public just sees us for what we are: a couple of buddies making music together that obviously has a fun factor to it. We really have fun at what were doing . But, he explained further in the Arista biography, I think its the fear factor that really keeps us going. Our career will have to go on for a lot longer for Ronnie and I to get comfortable with our success or merely take it for granted. Weve been scared to death since the day we got together. We know this whole big fun thing that we do all revolves around that next hit. Thats a wolf that never stops barking at you.

Brooks summarized on imusic.com: It goes through your mind sometimes how long all this is going to last. That tremendous rush we feel when we hit the stage, or when we lay down final vocal tracks in the studio, is still there. Its something I cant imagine losing. And we hope to keep doing it for a long, long time.

Selected discography

Brand New Man (includes Boot Scootin Boogie), Arista, 1991.

Hard WorkinMan, Arista, 1993.

Waitin on Sundown, Arista, 1994.

Borderline (includes My Maria), Arista, 1996.

The Greatest Hits Collection, Arista, 1997.

If You See Her (includes Husbands and Wives), Arista, 1998.

Sources

Books

McCloud, Barry, and contributors, Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers, Perigee, 1995.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 27, 1998, p. 36.

Country Weekly, January 5, 1999, p. 14.

Entertainment Weekly, October 21, 1994.

People, March 29, 1993, p. 51.

Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993, p. 107.

USA Today, March 10, 1993, p. ID.

Online

Artist showcase, Brooks & Dunn, imusic.com

Other

Additional information was provided by Aristal Nashville publicity materials, 1998.

Shari Garrett

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Brooks &amp; Dunn

Brooks & Dunn

Country vocal duo

Mixing two elements can sometimes cause an explosive reaction that results in something completely new, something greater than the sum of its parts. When Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn teamed up, two little-known solo artists who struggled for decades were transformed overnight into superstars, becoming country music's top vocal duo. Their debut album, Brand New Man, remained on Billboard's Top Country Albums charts for more than five years. Since their 1991 breakthrough, the duo's standout songwriting and performances have continued to win critical acclaim and every major industry award, as well as an enthusiastic audience, evidenced by record-breaking tours and a nearly unprecedented durability. "There's never been a male pairing that's turned into this kind of sociological phenomenon," Country Music Association director Ed Benson told Entertainment Weekly. "They have an electricity and a camaraderie together that's infectious."

Humble Beginnings

The energetic Kix Brooks—who earned his nickname before he was born—began his musical journey in Shreveport, Lousiana. At six years old, he started playing the ukulele. At age 12 he gave his first performance, during a birthday party for country legend Johnny Horton's daughter, who lived down the street. By the time he began college at Louisiana State University, Brooks was a regular on the club circuit. He recalled a New Orleans joint where flying fists and beer bottles filled the air. "I got a blank pistol," he told People. "When they'd get too wild, I'd pop a cap, and they'd be looking for bullet holes in themselves and running for cover." Dunn added that "it took us about 40 years combined, but we finally got out of those danged bars."

After traveling to Alaska to work on an oil pipeline and to Maine to work in advertising, Brooks moved to Nashville, where a former classmate worked for the publishing company of country singer Charlie Daniels. Brooks became a staff writer at Tree Publishing, where he penned hits for John Conley, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Highway 101, Sawyer Brown, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Ricky Van Shelton. He also pursued a solo career, releasing albums on Avion and Capitol with only minor success.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Dunn grew up performing with his father's band in west Texas. He was later forced to choose between music and the Baptist ministry while at Abilene Christian College, as moonlighting in honky-tonks was not an approved part of the curriculum for psychology and theology students.

Confronted with the choice, Dunn quit school and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his parents. After years of playing clubs in Texas and Oklahoma, he won the Marlboro Talent Search contest. His prizes included recording sessions with producers Barry Beckett and Scott Hendricks. It was Hendricks who later brought Dunn to the attention of Arista executive Tim DuBois. Dunn moved to Nashville and signed with Tree Publishing, where Brooks was also on staff.

DuBois noticed similarities in Brooks and Dunn's music, introduced the two over lunch in 1990, and suggested they try writing together. Brooks told People, "Ronnie and I were the most unlikely duo candidates. We had always held onto single egos." When they first paired up, Brooks told David Zimmerman of USA Today, "These songs kept poppin' out," adding that the duo hoped Alan Jackson would include one of their songs in his next project.

A Reluctant Duo

As DuBois recalled to Zimmerman, "The first song they brought me that they'd written together was ‘Brand New Man.’ I knew we had something special there. It was obvious I had to convince them that they were an act. They both wanted solo careers very badly and had pursued it for so long. … I think there was that element of letting go of that dream." Determined to succeed, they finally decided to take their chances together. Dunn told Dana Kennedy of Entertainment Weekly that the duo's success was a result of "sheer blind determination. Psychotic need. There are a lot of people who make it who don't have a thimbleful of talent. They just want it more than anybody else. That's what it takes."

Their debut album, Brand New Man, was released in 1991. The album proved the duo had what it took. In Kennedy's words, "Their appeal stems from the way they mix styles—the music is part lonesome-hearted country, part stomping rock & roll, overlaid with a '70s singer/songwriter sensibility."

Their sophomore effort, 1993's Hard Workin' Man, left no doubt about the duo's star status. Ted Drozdowski wrote in Rolling Stone, "Hard Workin' Man is a smooth-running machine, fueled by Dunn's burr-edged lead vocals, the duo's strong harmonies and choruses built on hooks heavy enough to pierce even the heartiest Saturday night honky-tonker." Zimmerman wrote, "Leave the weepy ballads to Vince Gill and the message songs to Garth Brooks (no relation to Kix); the duo's sole aim is to scar up those hardwood dance floors with the gotta-dance tug of songs like … ‘Hard Workin' Man’ and the career-making ‘Boot Scootin' Boogie,’ the dance-hall classic that even invaded disco clubs."

For the Record …

Members include Leon Eric "Kix" Brooks III (born May 12, 1955, in Shreveport, LA; married; wife's name, Barbara; children: Molly, Eric); Ronnie Gene Dunn (born June 1, 1953, in Coleman, TX; married; wife's name, Janine; children: (first marriage) daughter Whitney, son Jesse, (current marriage) daughter Haley.

Partnership suggested by Arista executive Tim DuBois; signed to Arista Records, 1990; recorded Brand New Man, 1991; Hard Workin' Man, 1993; Waitin' on Sundown, 1994; Borderline, 1996; The Greatest Hits Collection, 1997; If You See Her, 1998; Tight Rope, 1999; Steers and Stripes, 2001; It Won't Be Christmas Without You, 2002; Red Dirt Road, 2004; Hillbilly Deluxe, 2005; Cowboy Town, 2007.

Awards: Academy of Country Music Awards: top vocal duet, 1992-1996; top new vocal duet or group, 1991; single record of the year and album of the year, 1992; entertainer of the year, 1995 and 1996; top vocal duet or group, 1997; best vocal duo; 2005, 2007; American Music Awards, favorite band, duo or group, 1997; favorite country duo or group, 2004, 2005; Billboard Entertainment Awards, songwriter of the year (Ronnie Dunn), 1995; favorite country album by a duo or group, 1998; Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, favorite country duo or group artist, 1995; favorite country album by a duo or group, 1998; BMI Country Awards, songwriter of the year (Ronnie Dunn), 1996, 1998; Country Music Television, video group/duo, 1997; Grammy Awards, best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, 1993, 1997; TNN/Music City News Awards, vocal duo of the year, 1993-98; Country Music Association, vocal duo of the year, 1992-2006 and 2008 (except 2000 and 2007); album of the year, 1994; entertainer of the year, 1996.

Addresses: Record company—Arista Nashville, 1400 18th Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37212. Web site—Brooks & Dunn Official Web site: www.brooks-dunn.com

In 1996 the release of Borderline marked what Ronnie Dunn called "a little bit of a left turn for us," according to imusic.com. "I felt like it was time for us to kind of veer off the most traveled path. It sure doesn't hurt, in today's climate, to step just a little bit over into what the traditionalists might call ‘progressive.’" "We use everyone's input to decide which songs to cut," Brooks told Tamara Saviano of Country Weekly. After the 1994 album Waitin' on Sundown spawned five top ten hits, Brooks & Dunn were superstars.

The duo's 1998 album If You See Her included a remake of the 1966 Roger Miller classic "Husbands and Wives." The song eventually went to number one.

The album's title track, "If You See Him/If You See Her" (sung with Reba McEntire), "was the result of an unprecedented alliance between two superstar acts and their label chiefs, managers, producers and promotion and marketing teams," wrote Billboard's Chet Flippo. "One song became a single for two acts on two different labels, as well as a video. The song also anchors the new album for each act, and the albums themselves are named after the song. A joint tour with McEntire and Brooks & Dunn is powering the whole venture." During that co-headlining tour with McEntire, the two acts took turns going on stage first. At times, the question of who would open in what city was settled by a simple coin toss. "After a month or so," Dunn joked, "the only argument we had was over who'd go on last. We both wanted to be the opening act!"

Collaboration Brought Success

In 1998 Brooks and Dunn were ranked the fourth highest-grossing tour for their joint dates with McEntire, according to Amusement Business magazine, and ninth for the shows they headlined. The duo's performance style garnered them coveted entertainer of the year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association in the 1990s. They are the only duo ever to have achieved this honor. "A dynamo in concert," People noted, "Brooks likes to jump into the audience, while his laid-back foil packs his energies into the vocals." And Zimmerman wrote, "In concert … Dunn is the less flamboyant of the two, but his vocal intensity somehow matches Brooks' manic leaps, duckwalks and near-violent guitar work."

Their contrasting styles seem to be part of the key to the duo's success. "I really don't know why we work so well together," Dunn was quoted in imusic.com. "It must be because we are such opposites, in image and stuff like that. … I think the freedom we give each other has a lot to do with it. We each kind of do our own thing then bring it all together."

In an Arista label biography, Dunn explained that "Kix and I really give each other room to stretch. The two of us are just very different musically, in terms of what we like to hear and write. We accept that. We basically meet in the middle. There's never been a rift, and it keeps things fresh." And Brooks told imusic.com, "I'm not much good at analyzing it. We just do what we do and thank God that a lot of folks are into it. I think the public just sees us for what we are: a couple of buddies making music together that obviously has a fun factor to it." But, he explained further in the Arista biography, "I think it's the fear factor that really keeps us going. … We know this whole big fun thing that we do all revolves around that next hit. That's a wolf that never stops barking at you." "It goes through your mind sometimes how long all this is going to last," Brooks told imusic.com. "That tremendous rush we feel when we hit the stage, or when we lay down final vocal tracks in the studio, is still there. It's something I can't imagine losing."

Remained Country Favorites

And indeed Brooks & Dunn maintained their top-level stardom well into the new decade, long after most other acts with whom they shared the top of the charts in the early 1990s had faded, Reba McEntire being a notable exception. The year after the 1999 Brooks & Dunn album Tight Rope appeared, they failed to win the Country Music Association's vocal duo of the year award, the first time it had gone to anyone other than Brooks & Dunn since 1992.

Instead of settling into the casinos-and-oldies circuit, Brooks and Dunn redoubled their efforts with a new focus on songwriting. The 2001 album Steers and Stripes spawned three number one hits, "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," "Only in America," and "The Long Goodbye." For their next release, 2003's Red Dirt Road, Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly noted that "they dug even deeper, using autobiography, the musical influences of their teens, and energized roots-rock production."

As could be heard in the Rolling Stones-style chords that introduced that album's hit single "You Can't Take the Honky-Tonk out of the Girl," Brooks & Dunn relied partly on their ability to project a country image while introducing numerous rock guitar elements into their sound. Their releases skillfully alternated between harder-rocking albums and those that kept closer to ballads and country dance rhythms, and their releases of the mid-2000s continued to deliver variety that pleased a wide spectrum of country listeners: Hillbilly Deluxe (2005) gave nods to singers dating as far back as Patsy Cline in "Play Something Country," while the 2007 release Cowboy Town honored a 1970s Texas country-rock fusion pioneer with "The Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker." Cowboy Town spawned a hit with the reflective "God Must Be Busy," but 2007 marked the first time since 2000 that the duo had failed to capture the Country Music Association's vocal duo of the year honor. Nevertheless, Mikael Wood of Entertainment Weekly praised the album's "muscular riffs and handsome vocal harmonies."

Selected discography

Brand New Man, Arista, 1991.

Hard Workin' Man, Arista, 1993.

Waitin' on Sundown, Arista, 1994.

Borderline, Arista, 1996.

The Greatest Hits Collection, Arista, 1997.

If You See Her, Arista, 1998.

Tight Rope, Arista, 1999.

Steers and Stripes, Arista, 2001.

It Won't Be Christmas Without You, Arista, 2002.

Red Dirt Road, Arista, 2004.

Greatest Hits Collection, Vol. II, Arista, 2004.

Hillbilly Deluxe, Arista, 2005.

Cowboy Town, Arista, 2007.

Sources

Books

McCloud, Barry, et al, Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers, Perigee, 1995.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 27, 1998, p. 36.

Country Weekly, January 5, 1999, p. 14.

Entertainment Weekly, October 21, 1994; July 18, 2003, p. 73; October 12, 2007, p. 73.

People, March 29, 1993, p. 51.

Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993, p. 107.

USA Today, March 10, 1993, p. D1; July 22, 2003, p. D4.

Online

"Brooks & Dunn,",Artist showcase,imusic.com (1999).

"Brooks & Dunn," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (March 3, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this essay was provided by Arista/Nashville publicity materials, 1998.

—Shari Garrett and James M. Manheim

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Brooks & Dunn

Brooks & Dunn

Country duo

Raised in Country Musics Heartland

Teamwork Quickly Led to Stardom

High-Level Lyric Craft

Selected discography

Sources

Fine dance musicians and expert wordsmiths as well, Brooks & Dunn meld the guitar-driven kick of early 1990s country dance music with the elegance of lyric that has long been country musics backbone. The duos first single release, 1991 s Brand New Man, shot to the top of the charts, and Brooks & Dunn have proved to be consistent hitmakers with almost every subsequent release. In a typical country-oriented nightclub in 1993 and 1994, little time could pass before the band or disc jockey selected one of Brooks & Dunns compositions.

Brooks & Dunns success is testimony to how important collaboration can be in propelling popular musical artists to prominence. Before the two joined forces in 1990, Kix Brooks was a minor Nashville songwriter a few paychecks away from poverty, and Ronnie Dunn was a Tulsa-area dance band leader of purely regional repute. It was their teamwork that forged the tricks learned over long years of apprenticeship into the catchy, irresistible sound that took Brooks & Dunn to the top. Bob Guerra, an influential Los Angeles-area country radio executive, came closer than most music critics when he was asked by a Los Angeles Times writer to account for Brooks & Dunns success. Its their songs, he answered. Its as simple as that. Theyre just good songwriters, writing the kind of songs people like to hear.

Raised in Country Musics Heartland

Both Brooks (who acquired the nickname Kix as an energetic unborn baby) and Dunn were born into the Texas-Louisiana oil industry setting that in the early 1940s gave birth to honky-tonk dance music itself. Leon Eric Brooks was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1955; he grew up in a house on the same block as the boyhood home of country legend Johnny Horton. Ronnie Gene Dunn was born in the central Texas town of Coleman and grew up in Eldorado, Arkansas, just north of Shreveport. Both men were entertaining beer-hall audiences before they reached the age of 20. Brooks financed studies at Louisiana Tech University with his musical activities; the venues he played were so rowdy, he told a People magazine interviewer, that he sometimes had to quiet the crowd by shooting blanks from a pistol on stage.

Dunn, meanwhile, was ejected from a small Christian college for the sin of playing bass in a bar band on weekends. He moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and there joined forces with a group of musicians that had once backed rock music giant Eric Clapton (and that also included Garth Brookss sister Betsy on bass). The band enjoyed some local success, but Dunn was still

For the Record

Leon Eric Kix Brooks (born May 12, 1955, in Shreveport, LA; married; wifes name, Barbara; children: Molly, Eric). Ronnie Dunn (born June 1, 1953, in Coleman, TX; married; wifes name, Janine; children [from a previous marriage]: Whitney, Jesse). Education: Brooks graduated from Louisiana Tech University.

Country vocal duo; partnership suggested by Arista executive Tim DuBois; formed in Nashville and signed to Arista Records, 1990; recorded Brand New Man, 1991, and Hard Workin Man, 1993; six Number One country singles, 1991-94.

Selected awards: Top vocal duet, Academy of Country Music, 1991 and 1992; album of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1992; single of the year, Academy of Country Music, 1992, for Boot Scootin Boogie ; vocal duo of the year, Country Music Association, 1992 and 1993; Grammy Award, best country vocal duo or group, 1993; triple-platinum record for Brand New Man, 1994.

Addresses: Management Robert R. Titley & Associates, 706 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203. Record company Arista Records, 1 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203. Fan ClubBrooks & Dunn Fan Club, P.O. Box 120669, Nashville, TN 37202.

forced to take a series of day jobs, including a stint as a liquor-store clerk, to support his wife and two children.

Brooks eventually moved to Nashville and began working his way up in the citys hierarchy of songwriters. Though he wrote hit tunes for Highway 101 and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others, and eventually attained the position of staff songwriter with the giant Sony/Tree publishing concern, he too faced lean years. I worked Manpower jobs, he recalled in Country Americamagazine. Id go downtown with forty or fifty other guys and line up for work. It really opened my eyes to America, thats for sure.

Dunns fortunes turned upward in 1989 with a surprise first-place finish in the Marlboro National Talent Search contesthe didnt even know that one of his band-mates had submitted his tape for consideration. He moved to Nashville in 1990 when Arista Records executive Tim DuBois selected his composition Boot Scootin Boogie for inclusion on a work by the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel. Brooks and Dunn were aiming toward individual stardom at this point, but a 1990 solo release from Brooks was a commercial failure. The two performers reacted coolly when DuBois, impressed by the strength of a group of songs they had composed together at his behest, suggested that they join together as performers too. They both wanted solo careers very badly, DuBois recalled in an interview with USA Today s David Zimmerman. I think there was that element of letting go of that dream. But let go they did. Brooks & Dunns Brand New Man album was released in August of 1991.

Teamwork Quickly Led to Stardom

Among the songs Brooks and Dunn wrote together were Brand New Man and My Next Broken Heart, which became the duos first two single releases late in 1991. Both rose to Number One on Billboard magazines country singles chart, as did the next Brooks & Dunn release, a reflective barroom lament called Neon Moon. The duos ascent to stardom was complete when the fourth single from Brand New Man, a bass-heavy, eminently danceable version of Boot Scootin Boogie, also climbed to the top spot. The recording crossed over to non-country dance clubs, and this resulted in the release of a dance remix of the song. Although they initially resisted the remix idea, Brooks & Dunn were responsible for inaugurating the genre of the country dance mix, or club mix, which attained considerable popularity in the following years.

Sales of the Brand New Man album mounted steadily, eventually reaching a total of more than three million copies. As Brooks & Dunn worked toward the release of their second album in early 1993, they were reluctant to tamper with a successful formula. We thought it was kind of funny that a lot of the critics of the second album seemed to be real surprised that we continued with the same kind of music, Brooks told a Music City News writer.

Critical reviews of Brooks & Dunns music are mixed, despite the duos success; some critics take them to task for what is seen as a lack of seriousness in their music. Taken one at a time on country radio, these songs make for satisfying morsels. But when theyre over, you may want to devour something a little meatier, wrote David Browne in Entertainment Weekly. But the public vindicated the pairs decision to style the Hard Workin Man album after its predecessor. The assortment of up-tempo country dance-party songs was approaching double-platinum status in mid-1994. The Hard Workin Man single, driven by Dunns intense lead vocals, was a sort of rock updating of Merle Haggards 1960s hit Workir Man Blues, and Rock My World (Little Country Girl) carried forward the club-mix technique.

High-Level Lyric Craft

Brooks & Dunn may have encouraged the impression that they rarely strive toward great depth in their lyrics. We leave the profundity to Billy Ray Cyrus, Brooks once explained in Newsweek, with a characteristic modesty that often borders on self-deprecation. In fact, Hard Workin Man is a good example of how skillfully Brooks & Dunn have mined long traditions of country songwriting and reconciled them with the high energy of contemporary country. Especially noteworthy in this regard is the fusion of religious and romantic imagery in Brand New Man, all unfolding against a backdrop of electric guitars and charged vocal harmonies: I saw the light, Ive been baptized/By the fire in your touch and the flame in your eyes/Im born to love againIm a brand new man.

Brooks & Dunns long-term prospects seem to depend on whether they can maintain the consistently high level of songwriting that characterized their first two album releases. By mid-1994 the duo were a well-established concert draw, with Brookss manic on-stage presence effectively complementing Dunns more restrained demeanor. Their image was enhanced by the release of a line of western wear bearing their names; a shirt with a red and black flame pattern sold particularly well.

In the first few years of their career, Brooks & Dunn backed up their image with songwriting substance, and if they continue to do so, they seem well on their way to admission into the longstanding pantheon of great duet acts in country music.

Selected discography

Brand New Man (includes Brand New Man, My Next Broken Heart, Neon Moon, and Boot Scootin Boogie), Arista, 1991.
Hard Workin Man (includes Hard Workin Man and Rock My World [Little Country Girl]), Arista, 1993.

Sources

Billboard, May 22, 1993.

Country America, September 1993.

Country Music, May/June 1993; July/August 1993; May/June 1994.

Country Weekly, May 17, 1994.

Entertainment Weekly, September 18, 1992; February 26, 1993.

Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1993.

Music City News, August 1993.

Newsweek, October 19, 1992.

People, March 29, 1993.

Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993.

USA Today, March 10, 1993.

James M. Manheim

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Brooks & Dunn

BROOKS & DUNN

Formed: 1990, Nashville, Tennessee

Members: Leon Eric "Kix" Brooks (born Shreveport, Louisiana, 12 May 1955); Ronnie Dunn (born Coleman, Texas, 1 June 1953).

Genre: Country

Best-selling album since 1990: Steers and Stripes (2001)

Hit songs since 1990: "Brand New Man," "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind," "The Long Goodbye"


Composed of two veteran vocalists who had pursued solo careers with little success, Brooks & Dunn became one of the most popular acts in country music in the 1990s. Key factors in their ongoing success are versatility and flexibility. By the early 1990s, they had proven themselves adept in handling a variety of modern country styles, from "western swing"styled dance numbers to pop-influenced ballads. Although both members play guitar and sing leads, Ronnie Dunn is generally considered the stronger vocalist, while Kix Brooks is described as the crowd pleaser, performing the "duckwalk," a dance move inspired by rock great Chuck Berry, during live concerts. As songwriters, they display an ability to update classic country themes with wit and humor, particularly on their earlier albums. Brooks & Dunn continued recording into the early 2000s with little sign of commercial decline, although later albums tended to smooth over the duo's sound with a glossy finish, in keeping with the slickness of contemporary country.


Beginnings

Brooks was raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, not far from the family of Johnny Horton, a popular country singer who died in 1960. Brooks made his singing debut at the age of twelve with Horton's daughter; later, in high school, he began performing his own songs in local clubs. After graduation, Brooks worked on the Alaskan pipeline and then moved to Maine, where he often performed in ski resorts. By the early 1980s he had relocated to the country music hub of Nashville, Tennessee, and begun writing hits for artists such as John Conlee and Highway 101. In 1989 Brooks released a self-titled solo album that made little commercial impact. Dunn's route to Nashville was quite different. Initially planning to become a Baptist minister, he studied theology at Abilene Christian College in his home state of Texas. Having learned to play the bass during high school, Dunn became increasingly interested in music during his college years, spending much of his free time in local music bars. Leaving college to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his family, he soon found work within the house band at a popular nightclub, Duke's Country. Having scored two minor country hits for a small label, Dunn moved to Nashville after winning a talent contest. Through the influence of producer Scott Hendricks, he met Arista Records vice president Tim DuBois, who encouraged him to write songs and perform with Brooks.

1990s Success

Impressed with the pair's first writing collaboration, "Brand New Man," DuBois offered the newly formed Brooks & Dunn a recording contract. "Brand New Man," with its tight, close harmonies and lyrics celebrating rebirth and love, was a smash hit, reaching the number one country chart position in 1991. Many critics have judged Brand New Man (1991), Brooks & Dunn's first album, as their finest. A pleasing blend of up-tempo swing numbers and heartfelt ballads, the album is smooth and radio-friendly without succumbing to blandness. "My Next Broken Heart," another number one hit, is a rousing western-swing number, enlivened by Dunn's high, keening voice, one of the most impressive instruments to emerge within 1990s country. The song features woebegone lyrics that mine the best of classic country humor: "I thought all along you'd be the death of me / But I met one tonight who wants what's left of me." "Neon Moon" is more pop-oriented: an easy, percussive ballad on which Dunn's vocals convey a sense of wistful longing. "Boot Scootin' Boogie," another number one hit, is one of the album's most enjoyable tracks. Driven by a lean guitar rhythm and a pounding piano, the song recalls the spirited, rowdy, "honky-tonk" country hits of the 1950s. With four number one hits in all, Brand New Man established Brooks & Dunn as major country stars, the most successful vocal duo since 1980s country act the Judds.

Throughout the 1990s, Brooks & Dunn's string of number one country hits continued unabated. Sometimes described as country's answer to 1980s rock group Hall & Oates, the duo gradually moved in a pop direction as the decade progressed. Hits such as "She Used to Be Mine" (1993) and "That Ain't No Way to Go" (1994) feature a polished production that adheres to the increasingly slick dictates of 1990s country. On rocking up-tempo songs such as "Hard Workin' Man" (1993), Brooks & Dunn retained more of the verve displayed on their debut. While extolling virtues of traditional masculinity, "Hard Workin' Man" reflects the socially sensitive attitude of the early years of the Clinton administration. After singing lines such as "I can ride, rope, hammer, and paint, do things with my hands that most men can't," Dunn ends the song with the spoken interjection, "and women too." While giving the appearance of an amusing afterthought, the line nonetheless illustrates the social changes that had permeated country during the early 1990s.

By the mid-1990s, Brooks & Dunn had settled upon a standard formula for album releases: several large ballad and up-tempo hits, surrounded by less distinctive tracks, or "filler." Waitin' on Sundown (1994) contains what critics have described as one of the duo's finest hits, "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind." An account of a spurned wife who goes out for a night of dancing in order to forget her husband's unfaithfulness, the song features lyrics with a strong female point of view: "She's not the cheatin' kind/ She's been cheated one too many times." The impassioned quality of Dunn's singingsmooth, but capable of a tough shout when pushedgives the song an added dimension of truthfulness. Elsewhere on Waitin' for Sundown, Brooks & Dunn display their keen songwriting ability. Penned by both members, "Whiskey under the Bridge" sports the kind of witty titlea popular saying rephrased in a humorous waythat characterized country music writing of the past. While the duo's late 1990s albums are less satisfying from an artistic perspective, they often feature inspired vocal performances. Criticized by reviewers as overly produced, Borderline is enhanced by Dunn's energetic delivery of the 1970s pop hit "My Maria." Soaring into a gliding falsetto on the song's chorus, Dunn displays further development as a singer.


Ongoing Popularity after 2000

In 2001 Brooks & Dunn released one of their most commercially successful albums, Only in America. Reflecting a trend of the early 2000s toward flag-waving conservatism in country, the number one hit "Only in America" features a mildly patriotic message, one underscored with lyrics that display little of the duo's past ingenuity: "If we all get a chance / Everybody gets to dance." "The Long Goodbye," another number one hit, is a pop ballad lacquered with synthesized aural effects such as the sound of wind blowing. While well arranged and orchestrated, the song deviates far from Brooks & Dunn's roots, the only discernable country influence being the twang in their voices. Veering from the hard rock of "See Jane Dance" to the Latin rhythms of "My Heart Is Lost to You," Only in America manages to display the versatility for which the duo is known.

One of the most enduringly popular of all 1990s country groups, Brooks & Dunn hit upon a successful formula and retained it through the early 2000s, making adjustments for the pop-oriented influences that overtook country in the mid- to late 1990s. While the wit and bite of their early lyrics disappeared on later albums, Brooks & Dunn continued to deliver vocal performances full of energy and charisma.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Brand New Man (Arista, 1991); Hard Workin' Man (Arista, 1993); Waitin' on Sundown (Arista, 1994); Tight Rope (Arista, 1999); Steers and Stripes (Arista, 2001).

WEBSITE:

www.brooks-dunn.com.

david freeland

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"Brooks & Dunn." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brooks-dunn