Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood have sold nearly Long before Fetty Wap and the craze, the Royals had special relationship with a different music star: Garth Brooks. his blessing for the late country music and rodeo star Chris LeDoux, . Music helps therapists reach out to teens. Garth Brooks took country music by storm in the late s, eventually mentioned "a worn out tape of Chris LeDoux," the rodeo star / singer rose to In June of , Brooks ended his relationship with Capitol Records, after. "Good Ride Cowboy" is a song written by Jerrod Niemann, Bryan Kennedy, Richie Brown and Bob Doyle, and recorded by American country music artist Garth Brooks. The song is a tribute to Brooks' friend Chris LeDoux, champion rodeo.
His first acoustic guitar was a Gibson, which he played at first with only three strings, adding strings as he learned to play better "to keep from killing my fingers. For his sixteenth birthday, Garth was given a banjo. That got him interested in bluegrass, so he formed a bluegrass band. In his senior year, he sang in one of the school's vocal clubs. He started another band called The Nyle with his good friend Mickey Weber, but as Weber's mother Jacque said later, the other kids in the band gave up.
Garth, however, began to say music was something he was going to put his mind to. Garth appreciated the pure country sounds of Merle Haggard and George Jones. He especially loved Billy Joel and Elton John. He was a huge fan of Dan Fogelberg. Disco was hot, the Eagles were soaring, and the lines between country, pop, and rock were blurring every day. Even with all of the rock music dominating the airwaves, it was kind of hip to be square and to like country music. Groups like Poco, Pure Prairie League, and the Byrds were combining southern rock with traditional country.
In the seventies, rock and roll radio played a huge variety of music--some of which would surely be called country today. The hard-rock groups KISS and Queen could often be heard blasting from Garth's stereo, and when he went to a Queen concert for the first time in Oklahoma City he's still got the ticket stubhe noticed how great it felt when Freddie Mercury seemed to look straight at him from the stage.
When Garth first heard Don McLean's epic "American Pie," he was hooked on the song, which told of a generation's journey through the worlds of politics and music. It was an amazing bit of foresight on his part--telling his son that you're not a success until the man in the glass looks at you and says you are.
Be true to yourself, Raymond was telling Garth, and the rest will fall into place. Garth was popular in high school. He enjoyed being the center of attention.
He didn't date until he was sixteen, and then, he says, he "went from one girl to another. Can't you just see Garth Brooks escorting the homecoming queen into the prom? He even had the guts to do something most teenage boys wouldn't want to be caught dead doing. The Future Homemakers of America club had begun a campaign to convince young men to take home economics courses.
Garth accompanied Yukon High's home-ec teacher, Pam Sheldon, to some speaking engagements. Yukon High football coach Milt Bassett reluctantly asked Garth to give up his position as starting quarterback on the Millers in his senior year. The coach wanted a junior to take that spot and have time to develop into a stronger player. Bassett thought it "took a lot for a young man to give up the starting quarterback position and still play for the team.
Education was important to the Brookses, and all of Garth's brothers had gone to college. His sister Betsy went to college for one day and didn't like it. Garth was accepted into Oklahoma State University in Stillwater remember that name before he graduated from high school in the spring of His brother Kelly was already there on a track scholarship. Garth got a sports scholarship as well, a nice break for a family with two kids in college at the same time.
The hauntingly rich and beautiful voice that has now enthralled millions around the world grew and developed in that dorm as he jammed with his fellow students, playing whatever songs captured his musical imagination.
All of that singing and playing paid off when Garth was elected to represent Iba Hall in a talent show at the Student Union's Little Theatre in April of his sophomore year. The three musicians were great together--writing songs and playing constantly in Iba Hall and anywhere else they could--and it seemed they might have a shot at something big.
Then something happened that nearly crushed Garth: Jim Kelley was killed when a small plane in which he was a passenger crashed near Stillwater Airport. Ty and Garth played really well together--and promised each other that whoever got a break first would bring the other one along for the ride.
Garth was working on his guitar playing--with great results--and writing songs as well. His performances at and around OSU had the same effect on girls as Garth had in high school: The fact that Garth didn't have a steady girlfriend at the time only made the college girls more enamored of his charms onstage.
Most performers will tell you that at a certain point the response of listeners to their music becomes as vital to the experience as the playing itself--perhaps more so.
As fans, we know the rush we get while watching and hearing music, feeling it move our bodies and touch our hearts. The energy that gets stirred up in us reflects back onto the performer, who becomes enveloped in the love and joy of whatever number of people he's reaching with his song. If it's a thrilling experience for fans, imagine what it must feel like for the performer up on the stage. There at Aunt Molly's or at the many campus parties where he was often asked to play, Garth Brooks got a taste of the power of his music to move people, to bring out their emotions.
The more of that feedback he experienced, the more he strived to make his music stronger, more direct, a deeper call to the hearts of his listeners. A call came into Garth's own heart in the summer of As he was driving to the store with his father, the radio was playing a song called "Unwound" by a singer Garth--and most everyone else, for that matter--had never heard of.
His name was George Strait. Throughout the late s, while Garth Brooks was in high school discovering rock and pop and heavy-metal music, George Strait was struggling to get Nashville--the center of country music--to give him a record deal. Strait had grown up in Pearsall, Texas, south of San Antonio in the brush country where the land is flat and dry and the sky is vast and blue. The longhorn cattle that were brought up the Chisholm Trail through Oklahoma had been brought to Strait's South Texas ranch country a century earlier.
George Strait was a genuine cowboy. As he put it, "About the time most young men were playing Little League baseball, I was learning to rope and ride.
These guys tore up every country music bar in the area. Guys loved George Strait because he was a tall, cool cowboy. Girls loved George because he was so good-looking and charming. Music fans loved what he was playing. But Nashville didn't love him at all when he first came to town seeking a record deal. Here was a great singer with a great band playing real country music--and Music City in the late s dismissed him as being "too country.
Finally, inwhen Strait was about ready to quit music and take a job with a cattle pen outfit in Uvalde, Texas, MCA Records gave him the kind of deal cautious record companies were trying in those days--a deal for a single. That single was "Unwound. One fan is even more grateful. Garth turned up the radio in his daddy's car and listened intently to the song. That's what I'm gonna do! He continued to run track, but with his heart and his interests elsewhere, he didn't particularly distinguish himself there.
He became a javelin thrower, hurling the light metal spear distances that never much exceeded two hundred feet. In later interviews, Garth would refer to himself as more of a javelin catcher than a thrower. He did win a medal at the Kansas Relays. It became clear to those who knew him that Garth's music was the passion that drove him. Sports fans might wish their favorite teams had someone with Garth Brooks's drive and passion, but it wasn't to be.
Music fans, needless to say, are thrilled Garth turned his attention from sports to his other passion. From Aunt Molly's and campus parties, Garth moved to his first real paying gig as a musician: Still, doing that solo gig with his guitar and banjo gave him experience playing to a live audience that we all appreciate today.
The crowd was a little restless in Willie's Saloon. But they quieted down when a young man wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap took the stage. Many of them had already heard about this musician who was wowing folks wherever he had the chance to play. Willie's Saloon, with its redbrick and wood-plank exterior, is on the section of Washington Street known in Stillwater as "The Strip.
Bars with names like Coney Island and the Turning Point--and even one called Nuevo Wavo--were quieter now that the state of Oklahoma had raised the drinking age to twenty-one, but they were still busy enough to have live music. The folks sitting at the bar had a bird's-eye view of the small stage around the corner from the entrance and just past the two pool tables. With a mustache, a full beard, and shoulder-length hair, Garth Brooks played a set that couldn't be characterized as any one type of music.
He went from a Willie Nelson tune to a Neil Young song. Someone requested a song he'd heard only a few times, so he improvised it. Someone else called out the name of a song he'd never heard, and he tried to play it anyway. As the evening wore on and the beer kept flowing, people came up onstage and sang with him. Like every musician trying to please a crowd while still furthering his own musical dreams, between cover songs he snuck in a few he'd written himself. Willie's wasn't exactly a major musical venue, but it was a good place to start.
And from the start, Garth Brooks took the stage seriously. He was going to lots of concerts, seeing everyone from Kansas, Queen, and Styx to his country idol, George Strait, and observing what made each concert memorable. Elaborate stage settings, sound, and lights appealed to him. But so did the way George Strait simply stood at a microphone, making his own voice the star, backed by the great Ace in the Hole Band.
Garth ended his show with one of the songs he loved best. The audience sang "American Pie" along with him. It was nice to be paid a hundred bucks to play music. In addition to Willie's, Garth played at any Stillwater nightspots that would have him. So in addition to trying to keep up with his college courses, Garth needed a job. Watkins and his wife, Ann, had taken a liking to Garth's music and loved his shows. Eddie Watkins realized Garth was struggling, so he offered him a job in the store.
Garth was majoring in advertising in college he thought he'd learn about writing jingles as a way to make money with music. He had a great way with people, remembered their names, gave customers extra service, and was an asset to Watkins's business. Working at DuPree's gave Garth a chance to hone his people skills--skills that would become considerably greater as the years wore on.
As for recalling people's names, maybe learning the lyrics to all the songs he sang onstage had something to do with Garth's superior memorization skills. He wasn't afraid to work hard, and his energy seemed to have no limits. It was here that Garth, who had never been a drinker to begin with, developed his disgust for alcohol. There's nothing like the smell of a bar where patrons have been drinking--and you-know-what-elsing--all night.
Working as a bouncer in clubs--and cleaning up when the night was through--Garth came to hate that smell. But the job was cool--he got to hang out with his friends and listen to a lot of music. Most of the customers wanted to pick on the bigger guys Garth is six feet one, but in Oklahoma there are plenty of guys bigger than thatso he didn't get into too many fights.
He danced a lot, played pool, and had fun. When passing through Oklahoma, many national acts stopped in to play for the folks at the Tumbleweed. The locals who loved to get out and hear some good music filled the large metal building on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sandy Gail Mahl was born in in the same hospital where Garth Brooks had been born almost three years earlier. She grew up in Owasso, Oklahoma, a city half the size of Yukon just north of Tulsa. Sandy's parents, John and Pat Mahl, had raised her and her older sister, Debbie, to do their chores--which included taking care of all the family's animals--and to go to church each Sunday. Growing up, Sandy loved the outdoors. In high school she ran track, was a cheerleader, and played basketball, activities that took a lot of discipline and commitment.
Sandy promised her mother she would go to college and made good on that promise, arriving at OSU in the fall of Like so many other young girls experiencing their first real freedom away from home, she spent her freshman year of college partying. Sandy Mahl had noticed the new bouncer at the Tumbleweed. She'd seen him surrounded by all the girls who loved to flirt with him. The young musician was a charmer, but he didn't have a steady girl--he was pretty single-minded about his music.
As a bouncer, there was no telling what scuffles Garth might have to deal with on any given night. Still, he had to be surprised one evening in when he was asked to straighten out a situation going on in, of all places, the ladies' room. Sandy Mahl and another girl had gotten into a pretty heated argument concerning--what else?
The argument escalated and Sandy warned the other girl she might have to hurt her, but the girl would not back off. So Sandy hauled off, prepared to throw a punch, and instead stuck her fist through the wood-paneled wall of the rest room in the Tumbleweed Ballroom.
As if that weren't bad enough, she couldn't pull her hand back out. And that is the way Sandy Mahl looked the first time Garth Brooks laid eyes on her. In her tight black jeans, black shirt, and a black cowboy hat, with her blond hair tousled from all the excitement, she looked good to Garth.
So good, in fact, that after he delicately removed her arm from the wall, he told her the club's policy was that they couldn't let her leave by herself, since she'd had a few drinks.
He convinced her to wait for him until he finished his night's work. He said he would see her home.
When he discovered they lived in neighboring dorms, Garth told Sandy his roommate was away and asked her to come up to his room. She told him to drop dead after calling him a few choice words. Garth took Sandy to the elevator at her own dormitory, and the two said good night. Garth thought she was pretty cool. He called her the next morning, and they spent the day together.
Good Ride Cowboy
At first their dates consisted of walking around the beautiful OSU campus holding hands. Some time later, they started going to the movies together. The first movie they saw was Starman. When Garth failed to qualify for the Big Eight track and field finals that year, he realized he hadn't been putting his all into sports.
He was lying in the pole vault pit when a coach walked by and said the words that changed his life: And he knew with music he could say, "Maybe I'm not a loser. Garth decided to create a demo tape of some of his songs. The demo tape is the ticket inside any doors in the music business--if you're lucky enough to get any of those doors to open.
Music business executives--and anyone remotely connected to them or working in any part of the business--are always handed new demos to listen to, songs by aspiring singers or songwriters who dream of the big break that will turn them into stars. Garth knew that short of getting a powerful music business executive to come hear him live, a great demo tape was the only way he could prove he had talent.
To create his first demo, Garth managed to get himself into a real recording studio in Stillwater. He assembled several musicians from a country band in Claremore, Oklahoma, and a few female backup vocalists.
They spent an entire weekend creating a tape with some of his original songs, the ones Garth considered his best. In the summer ofrepresentatives from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville held open auditions in Oklahoma to find musicians to sing in the various theaters and attractions in their amusement park just east of downtown Nashville.
After the folks from Music City heard Garth sing, they offered him a job singing popular country standards at Opryland. Garth had only one semester of college left. He told his parents he wanted to move to Nashville and pursue his dream of making it as a country singer. Colleen begged him not to go. She said she wanted her son to get a "real job. Garth turned down the job and finished school.
Nashville would have to wait a little longer. By December ofGarth Brooks and Sandy Mahl were a couple and Garth had finished up all of the credits he needed to get his bachelor of science degree in advertising from the Oklahoma State University School of Journalism.
He gave his mother his graduation tassel, as his older brothers had done, and asked for her blessing to pursue a career in music.
She withheld it but promised to pray for him, remembering how hard the entertainment business had been on her. Garth wasn't thinking of how hard it would be to become a big country music star.
Maybe he should have been: In the summer ofGarth Brooks packed all of his stuff into his Honda Accord and took his dream east on Interstate It was a twelve-hour drive straight to the heart of the country music business: His local audiences thought he had a chance.
Folks at the shows in Stillwater had passed the hat to give Garth a few extra bucks for his journey. He told everyone he was going to Nashville to become a star in the country music business.
He gave up his apartment in Stillwater and quit his job at DuPree's. Garth would admit later he was even ready to walk away from his relationship with Sandy.
American Thunder: The Garth Brooks Story
He figured he'd go to Nashville and become a swinging bachelor with tons of bucks. Nothing mattered except making it in Nashville. He drove nonstop to Music City, listening to tapes of James Taylor and Chris LeDoux, listening to the beating of his own excited heart. The highways into Nashville are jammed with talented singers, songwriters, and players hoping their moment has come.
It hadn't occurred to Garth that music was a business. After all, he hadn't exactly been making a fortune--or even a living, for that matter--playing music. Littlefield listened to Garth's demo tape. You know how lucky he was to get someone of Littlefield's stature to even listen to his tape?
Garth was waiting to hear the words every artist spent hours dreaming about, the words he'd no doubt prayed for on the whole ride from Stillwater to Nashville. Instead he heard Littlefield say, "You've got a choice. You either starve as a songwriter or get five people and starve as a band.
The words "you've got a deal" were nowhere to be heard. While Garth was in Littlefield's office, Littlefield received a call. He hung up the phone and said, "You're going to see one of the greatest writers in Nashville.
Now Garth was really stunned. Garth went back to the Holiday Inn near Music Row.
He left Nashville within twenty-three hours of his arrival, feeling, he said later, like a whipped pup. He stopped in Arkansas and called Sandy and told her, "I'm coming home.
But Garth didn't go straight to Stillwater, where all his friends and well-wishers would no doubt have been as disappointed as he was. Instead he went home to Yukon, where Colleen did her best to comfort him.
Tornadoes and earthquakes were shaking the country--hitting in such unlikely places as New York and Pennsylvania, and causing significant damage. Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, along with the artist then called Prince, were at the top of the musical charts. But another event taking place in would play a major role in Garth Brooks's future. Sam Walton decided to change the cash registers in his Wal-Mart stores from old-fashioned ones to computerized ones.
When he did that, he discovered that his previous estimates of how well country music was selling in his stores had been way off. To make a long story short, the formula retailers use to calculate the profitability of merchandise showed country music was doing three times as well as Walton had previously believed. Rock music, on the other hand, was less profitable than he'd thought it was.
With that discovery, Walton upped the amount of country music offered in the stores and lowered the amount of rock.
But his mood didn't stay that way for too long. He returned to Stillwater after a few weeks of licking his wounds in Yukon and found out his old place was still available for rent. He got his job back at DuPree's Sports. The crowd at Willie's Saloon was thrilled to have Garth's great music back for themselves. His friends were just as happy to see him as if he had made it big in Nashville. That helped ease the pain. And though it took a little coaxing, he even won back the heart of the woman he loved, Sandy Mahl.
He played lots of music and had a good time. But the dream of bigger stardom wouldn't die. His energy, optimism, and determination were bigger than his disappointment.
Garth's home was a typical college apartment in a house just a few blocks away from the OSU campus. The floor was crooked, the ceiling was cracked, and the kitchen faucet leaked.
Garth hung a picture of John Wayne on the wall. Songbooks from everyone from George Strait to Bob Seger were all over the living room. But it was from this old house at the young age of twenty-four that Garth Brooks launched his plan to get the experience he needed to conquer the music business and achieve his dream. That dream was of more than a career in music. He wanted to connect with people in a special way. He'd seen firsthand from the small stage at Willie's what effect his music could have--not just on a crowd but on each person in that crowd.
The feeling he gave was tremendous. What he got back was just plain addictive. To play a lot of music, Garth needed a good band. Tom Skinner, who had grown up in Bristow, Oklahoma, was a bass player who had formed a group with his brothers.
The Skinner Brothers Band had recorded nine original songs in Tulsa but hadn't landed a record deal. By August ofTom was married and he and his wife Jeri had a child. Tom and his brother, Mike, both got jobs in the Stillwater post office and continued performing on the Strip in Stillwater, where Garth often sat in with them.
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