“Friends in Low Places” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.

S2: This ain’t coming from no profit.

S3: Welcome to Hit Parade, a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris Melaniphy, chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s Why Is This Song No. One series on today’s show a couple of weeks after a divisive 2020 U.S. election, I thought I might play you a little something from the American culture wars of a generation ago, 28 years ago this week, in November 1992, this gospel flavored country song titled We Shall Be Free was in the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart. It was the lead single from the number one album in the country, and this song aimed to capture the mood of the Times with the last thing we notice is the color of skin, and the first thing we look for is the beauty.


S4: With the singer of this country, Song pledges allegiance to some very progressive issues. He espouses tolerance for both freedom of religion and gay equality.

S5: He decries racism, hunger and homelessness. He even gestures in the direction of condemning economic inequality in 1992. And I know what some of you are thinking.

S6: This was a hit on country radio.

S4: Well, sort of this song was actually an underperformer for its singer and songwriter, We Shall Be Free peaked at number 12 on the Hot Country chart in October 1992. That was low for this artist, the only time a lead single from one of his original studio albums fell short of the country. Top 10. Of course, the only way a song like We Shall Be Free could be any kind of country hit in 1992 was if it came from an absolute megastar, someone country radio had to play.


S3: In other words, the only man in country music who could get away with it was Garth Brooks.

S4: My girls are not shy about this guy, Brooks did not have trouble topping the charts in the 1990s.

S3: He was the best selling musician of that decade, not just country music’s best seller, the best seller period in any genre with total album sales in that decade of nearly 100 million, topping such 90s titans as Mariah Carey, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Tupac.

S1: Two decades later, Garth is up to 157 million in certifications, second only in America to the Beatles. And all this despite the fact that his hit songs, including literally all 18 of his 90s country chart toppers, didn’t appear on Billboard’s hot 100 pop charts at all.


S2: Down to the sun comes up.

S3: This might sound like a conspiracy or evidence of urban blue state America thumbing its nose at red state, America’s favorite son, an Oklahoma native whose biggest hits were about honkytonks, cowboys and rodeos.

S2: Well, it ain’t no woman. Flesh and blood. It’s a damn no Rovigo.

S4: I mean, talk about two Americas, Brooks was the music megastar top 40 pop fans barely even knew. And yet on the charts, the truth was much more nuanced. Garth Brooks wasn’t on the hot 100 because Brooks wanted it that way.

S1: He was a savvy billboard observer who understood how the charts worked and played the game to win more over. Brooks came up in a Nashville that remembered the last time country music had tried to flirt with the pop charts of.


S7: And how Country Pop then became a bull riding denim and rhinestones fat, even a punchline put up in the pocket by Garth Brooks would not let that happen to him.


S1: He was determined to dominate the hit parade while as the country singing goes dancin with the one that brung him. Brooks wanted to prove country music could have the Flash and Arina packing spectacle of rock. He’s got a.

S5: And the blockbuster sales of mainstream pop is what she’s doing next year.

S3: While remaining unapologetically country, he fused a prior generation of adult contemporary balladry and even certain hard rock elements into songs that still have steel guitars, fiddles and the kind of yearning, high lonesome vocals that were a Nashville trademark album.


S2: Jamling.

S3: When it comes down to the story of country music’s explosion in the 90s was about a lot of things even beyond Garth Brooks, some of it was about fads.

S4: I just don’t think you’d understand some was about country songs that could just as easily be Popson.

S3: And some of it was about the country sound hybridizing with other genres and spreading around the world.

S5: I will say, Spradlin, let’s use this is just a little too tiny, but a good deal of country’s newfound success had to do with better information in the music business and better Billboard charts.

S1: The same forces that finally helped elevate hip hop would do all that and more for country music. And no one benefited more than the guy in the cowboy hat from Tulsa, Oklahoma.


S8: The thunder and lightning strikes today on hit parade.

S3: We will trace the winding path that brought country music to the top of the charts, including the pop album chart, and made household names on a first name basis out of folks like Garth, Wynona, Billy Ray and even Shania.

S1: These megastars went multi platinum by applying pop professionalism to music that still have that twang.


S3: And the best navigator of this town and country approach was the guy who broke big while singing about his roots and his roots. No Nygård brands and no places where the whiskey drowns. And that’s where your hit parade marches today, the week ending October 27th, 1990, when Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks was in its fourth week at number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and tracks. It was the same week his album, No Fences, instantly went gold and platinum, affirming that he was country music’s biggest star. Soon enough, Garth Brooks would become more than any rock star, rapper or pop diva, the archetypal artist of the SoundScan era. So swap your champagne for a whiskey with a beer chaser and join us as we go ropin the wind at our hit parade rodeo. Hmmm, is this one of my typical hit parade head fakes, why am I playing this disco classic by the Bee Gees? Didn’t I just say this was a country episode? Well, what are you picturing as I play this? Whom are you picturing? John Travolta. Right. Maybe strutting down Sixth Street in Brooklyn, New York, in 1977 with a paint can in his hand.


S5: Travolta, yes, John Travolta plays an unlikely but vital role in the story of country music’s dance with the pop charts.

S4: The blockbuster movie that this BJ’s song appeared in Saturday Night Fever is a kind of preamble to that country crossover moment.

S1: And we have to take a detour through the history of country crossover. Before we get back to Garth Brooks and his 90s chart commanding country conquest. To be sure, Country Crossover dated back well before the 70s.

S3: Ever since so-called hillbilly music was defined as a category in the 1920s, country performers, radio programmers and fans have pridefully policed the border of what is and isn’t and ain’t country.


S9: Gaudily. Deal may be the only the only.

S7: But it was always complicated by the 1950s, rock and roll, especially early rockabilly recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, had country baked into it from the jump shot. On the Hot 100 in the late 50s and 60s, there were pop chart toppers by such country stars as Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee and Jimmy Dean, Big Bad John John, Bobby Goldsborough, Jimmy C. Reilly, and even with a number two pop hit called a boy named Sue, Johnny Cash lit, I’ll take it easy for a boy named Sue. By the 70s, the border between polished Nashville country records and straight up pop was starting to blur. Songs like Lynn Anderson’s number one country number three pop smash Rose Garden in 1971 sounded like they weren’t fully wedded to either format. I never promised you a Rose Garden.


S3: I know the sunshine. Easy listening. Singer songwriters like John Denver muddied the waters further.

S1: Denver was more pop, sometimes more country other times.

S3: And at his peak, he commanded both charts. Hey. This led to controversy when in 1975, the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award was presented to John Denver live on TV.

S1: The CMA Prize was presented by the prior year’s winner, Charlie Rich, who in a drunken, instantly infamous incident opened the envelope, took out a lighter, and when he saw Denver’s name, lit the slip of paper on fire. The winner. My friend, Mr. John Denver, this act drunk in protest against the perceived papa fixation of country, was, well, a bit rich coming from Charlie Rich because he, too was a hot 100 topping pop crossover star in the 70s.


S10: Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?


S3: And Charlie Rich was in good company, also working both sides of the street in the 70s were veteran guitarist turned country pop megastar Glen Campbell.

S4: And the moderately twangy singer songwriter B.J. Thomas hey. Another somebody done somebody wrong song.

S7: And all of these were number one hits on both the hot 100 and hot country singles, the wall between pop and country was porous enough in the mid 70s that when British Australian singer Olivia Newton John broke in America, it was on the country chart first.

S1: In fact, in an awards show upset nearly as controversial as John Denver’s CMA when Newton John won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal in 1974 over Tammy Wynette in Love.

S3: Which brings us back to the end of the 70s and John Travolta, not only because Travolta, right after Saturday Night Fever costarred with Olivia Newton John in the 50s, nostalgia movie musical Grease.

S7: By the way, that film’s soundtrack gave Newton John one final top 20 country hit, the old school slow dance, hopelessly devoted to you before she went fully pop. John Travolta, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction after Greece and Saturday Night Fever.

S1: He moved toward country not on record, but on the screen and in the process he was going to do for country what he did for disco with Saturday Night Fever, bring it fully into the mainstream. Travolta dropped his Brooklyn accent for a Southern accent and became Bud Davis in Urban Cowboy.

S11: I just want to tell you something. I’m hardheaded and I’m prideful and I want to apologize back to when I hit you the first time. I love you, Sissy.

S3: Released in the summer of 1980 and costarring Debra Winger, Urban Cowboy was labeled the country Saturday Night Fever by more than one movie critic. The comparison was apt, and not just because both films starred Travolta. They were stories about blue collar strivers yearning to move to the big city who spent their nights peacocking at a buzzy nightclub in the case of Urban Cowboy.


S1: That club was an actual, real life, sprawling honky tonk on the outskirts of Houston called Gilly’s Co., owned by country hitmaker Mickey Gilley. The club was known not only for its country line dancing, but even more iconically, its mechanical bull riding. Oh, shit.

S12: But she ran there you do. You drive a narrative all around and you write it labor love, back off. Ride it.

S3: Here’s why all of this matters.

S1: The mechanical bulls, the line dancing, the kitschy boots and Stetson hats. Urban Cowboy was more than a movie. It was a cultural happening. The film was only a moderate box office hit, taking in 47 million in 1980, about half of what Saturday Night Fever had grossed. But the musical impact of Urban Cowboy on country crossover is hard to overstate.

S3: Too many face country music historians often mark the shift from the 70s into the 80s as the urban cowboy phenomenon honky tonks with mechanical bulls sprouted up in cities across America with designer jeans and cowboy boots as their dress code. As for the music, the Urban Cowboy soundtrack was itself a smash, reaching the top three on the pop album chart, going platinum and spawning a half dozen top 40 hits from Johnny Lee’s number five pop hit Looking for Love to Mickey, Gilly’s twangy cover of Ben E King’s classic Stand By Me, a number 22 Poppea. But what was more remarkable was the knock on effect Urban Cowboy had on country acts who had nothing to do with the movie. That’s how you knew the phenomenon had legs. Look at Eddie Rabbitt, a songwriter who penned Kentucky Rain for Elvis Presley before becoming a recording star himself, scored a string of country number ones in the late 70s.


S1: But he’d only cracked the pop top 40 a couple of times before Urban Cowboy after Urban Cowboy Rabbit became a pop star, too.

S5: He hit number five on the Hot 100 with Driving My Life Away.

S13: And then a few months after me now, Sonny. Love, yeah, I love.

S5: Baby Rabbit topped the hot 100 with I love a rainy night when Rabbit went to number one in February 1981, he was trading places with another pop chart topper by a country.

S1: Well, Star is too mild a word for this American icon working.

S3: Dolly Parton had scored more than a dozen country, no ones through the end of the 70s, but on the pop chart, most of her hits stalled below the top 10. Dolly picked the right moment to star in a movie and record her catchiest ever song as its title track.

S1: Nine to five probably would have been a hit without Urban Cowboy. But in early 1981, the urbane country song fit right in on pop radio and went all the way to the top of the hot 100.

S3: And speaking of Urbain, you have got. Kenny Rogers was a mostly country hitmaker who in the 70s only occasionally crossed to the pop charts, for example, his 1979 classic The Gambler topped the country chart but only reached number 16 on the Hot 100.

S7: But in 1980, Kenny became America’s biggest solo male singer. His Lionel Richie penned ballad Lady topped both charts in the closing weeks of 1980, and his greatest hits LP topped the pop album chart and went platinum.

S3: It would eventually be certified for 12 million in sales in my.

S1: The song’s crossing from country to pop in the wake of urban cowboy were in many cases more pop than Country Lady was essentially an R and B ballad.


S7: Indeed, it even made an appearance on Billboard’s Soul chart and even the hits with a more obvious Southern accent. Elvira.

S14: High five, Ralphy.

S7: Like the Oak Ridge Boys cover of Dallas Fraziers, Elvira had a kitschy pop sensibility. Elvira reached number five on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1981, sharing space in the top 10 with the even perkier queen of hearts by Juice Newton and eventual number two pop.

S15: We know smart.

S5: Basically, country pop was riding a wave and serving a function for radio programmers, these were palatable middle of the road hits.

S3: In the era of the disco backlash, many of these singles functioned as straight up adult contemporary pop, whether it was Kenny Rogers number three ballad, I don’t need you, but we both want it bad enough.

S4: Ronnie Millsap’s borderline yacht rock, no getting over me at over five Pommie, it sweet darling, there ain’t no getting over me or the iconic Willie Nelson with his biggest ever pop hit the definitive Grammy winning cover of the country pop standard.

S7: Always On My Mind. It was a number five hit for Nelson in 1982 when you were always.

S16: You were always on my mind.

S1: From 1980 to 82, it seemed any country act able to record a crossover track and play down the TWANT could score a pop hit.

S3: Even country royalty Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, scored her only top 40 pop hit with the percolating 1981 single Seven Year in China.

S1: But the country pop wave started to peter out by 1983, that was the year a couple of smash duets brought the Urban Cowboy era to a close. Eddie Rabbit’s final pop crossover hit You and I, a duet with country veteran Crystal Gayle reached number seven on the Hot 100 in February of 83.


S7: And then, of course, there was Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s blockbuster version of a song I discussed in our BJ’s episode of Hit Parade, The Immortal Islands in the Stream, written by Barry Robin and Maurice Gibb. It topped the pop and country charts in the fall of.

S3: Islands in the stream may have seemed like country crossover at its apex, but it turned out to be a last hurrah. By 1984, Pop struck back and the sound of top 40 radio was much new wavier, funkier and more synthetic, dominated by the likes of Duran Duran. I’m on a ride and I want to get off.

S5: My day was so down, down. And Bruce Springsteen, who fused Heartland Rock with mass appeal pop SpongeBob.

S3: Top 40 radio didn’t really need country stars anymore. The rockers have the sound of middle American authenticity covered, whether it was John Mellencamp with hits like Pink Houses that you. Or Lionel Richie, his stuck on you was a country ballad in R and B clothing, it reached number three on the hot 100, number eight on the R and B chart, and even hit number 24 on the country chart. But leaving on that midnight.

S5: And I know this when.

S7: Meanwhile, actual country music recorded by Country Artists for Country Radio suddenly found itself unable to touch the upper reaches of the pop charts. Alabama, for example, one of the biggest bands of their era, went from consistently hitting the pop top 20 on both the album chart and the Hot 100 in the early 80s, with LP’s like the quadruple platinum mountain music baby like grandma, grandma used to play to missing the Top 40 with their albums and missing the Hot 100 with their singles.


S1: Not unlike the severe disco backlash of 1980, when the music didn’t really go away but was no longer topping the charts. Country music by 84 and 85 entered a long wilderness period. It was as if pop listeners had overdosed on Nashville product and sent the entire genre packing. Mind you, for its core fans, country was as popular as ever and still minting new stars. But now country existed in its own world.

S17: Mama, he’s crazy.

S3: To need the drugs, the mother daughter duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd broke in 1984 with the country chart topper Mama, he’s crazy.

S7: Their first of eight consecutive country, no ones in that world. The Judds were megastars in the pop world. No Judds album could crack the top 50. The same went for the newly minted soon to be legendary George Strait.

S3: This song, does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, was Strait’s sixth country number one out of a staggering 44 country? No one’s across his career an all time chart record. But not only did Strait’s 80s hits come nowhere near the Hot 100, his albums from the era, all of them, eventually platinum, peaked below the top 80.

S1: On the album chart, George Strait’s brand of country came to be called New Traditionalism, a mid 80s term coined specifically to differentiate it from the now disdained country pop sound of the early 80s circa Urban Cowboy. Wounded by their rejection by the pop, mainstream country artists went back to the music’s roots with such artists as country, bluegrass, multi instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs and Rainbow Country.

S3: Fellow bluegrass trained player Keith Whitley.

S18: Don’t close your.

S3: Let it be known and Bakersfield sound revivalist Dwight Yoakam, whose biggest hit paired him with country legend Buck Owens, trying to find me something better.


S19: You’re on the streets of L.A..

S7: Or what about Oklahoman Reba McEntire, a singer who’d been hitting the country charts since the late 70s, she gradually refined her sound to a blend of country pop balladry and more traditional elements and scored some of her biggest hits, cultivating a loyal audience akin to George Strait. Why is last one to know, the first one to cry?

S3: But the megastar of new traditionalism was the sturdy voiced singer Randy Travis, who came the closest of any ladies country star to crossing fully into the mainstream. Bethany.

S6: Is on the other hand.

S3: At a time when country hitmakers albums were lucky to go gold, Traves generated a string of multi platinum albums. His biggest hit, The Gentle Two-Step Forever and Ever. Amen, even scored some airplay on Heartland Pop Stations and video channel VH one for. New traditionalism flourished in the late 80s because there just wasn’t much upside in trying to blend country with straight ahead, pop, when Nashville band Restless Heart crossed over to the Hot 100 in 1987 with their stately ballad, I’ll Still Be Loving You.

S1: It was the only record of its kind to make pop radio. At the time, the industry in Nashville was stunned that restless heart crossed over at all.

S3: Even then, I’ll still be loving you peaked on the hot 100 at the modest number.

S20: Thirty three doors down at.

S7: Your time stands still on. We stole a half decade of new traditionalism eventually culminated in the 1989 success of the genial, toothsome Texan Clint Black, widely perceived as the great mass market hope of country going into the 90s this year and.

S3: See, Clint Black’s 1989 album, Killing Time went double platinum rare for a country LP at the time by anyone other than Randy Travis, and it generated a stunning four number one country hits out of the box. Remarkable for a newcomer. Clint Black was country to the core, but he deftly bridged the divide between the traditionalists and a new generation of arena friendly country.


S21: Yesterday, I spent all my life to die and love it passed away.

S3: But while Clint Black was tearing up the country charts in 1989 and 90, riding alongside him with considerably less attention at first was another newcomer, an Oklahoman in denim and a wide brimmed hat with a plaintive but sparkling sound, a yelping, high lonesome voice and melody. To spare this, newcomers very first hit much too young to feel this damn old was just breaking into the country top 10 in the summer of 1989 and the white lines getting longer and the sadder studio in this damn old. And this singer, more than Clint Black, was the true harbinger of country in the 90s, he would make the divide between country pop and new traditionalism moot, and he was just getting started.

S1: Growing up in Yukon, Oklahoma, Garth Brooks, by his own admission, listened more to rock than country music.

S3: In particular, he was inspired by the soft rock proffered by singer songwriters like James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg, the leader of the band Miss died.

S15: And his eyes are growing on.

S3: But it was only after young Garth heard George Strait, circa 1981 that Brooks became convinced he should pursue country music and. Head wrapped around my finger, just come on. Well. By the time Brooks broke into the top 10 on the country chart in 1989, with much too young to feel this damn old and the white lines getting longer and the sadder and. Brooks had already spent several prior years in Nashville looking for his break, it came in 1987 after he played the legendary Music City venue, the Bluebird Cafe.

S1: Several songwriters Brooks met at the Bluebird would wind up supplying him with songs. A vital connection in a town is fueled by songwriting as Nashville.


S3: These writers included Kent Blazey, who teamed with Brooks to co write his first number one hit.

S22: If Tomorrow Never Comes Any of My Time On.

S18: She must face this.

S3: Is this fusion of soft rock allowed Dan Fogelberg and plaintive country along George Strait was a potent sound for Brooks.

S1: He came up through Nashville during the new traditionalists era, but Brooks was no purist and the songs on his self-titled debut album, Garth Brooks, were infused with his mass appeal sensibilities. Pop was baked in, but it wasn’t courting top 40 listeners like the stuff from a decade earlier.

S2: The dance we see.

S7: The system, Garth’s traditional but accessible approach was most apparent on the Garth Brooks albums, last single and biggest hit, a song that you could easily picture Fogelberg singing, penned by fellow Bluebird alumnus Tony Arada. The dance became Brooks signature ballad No.

S3: The way it all would end, the way it all would go, the dance spent three weeks at number one on the Hot Country singles chart in the summer of 1990. A three week run on top of the country chart was impressive for a brand new artist.

S1: The prior year, 1989, no country single had spent more than two weeks at number one. Brooks moved quickly to follow up his successful debut. He had a second album in the can when the summer of 1990 was barely over, and he let it off with what turned out to be his most iconic song.

S3: With friends in low places is a barn busting, hard drinking sing along honky tonk anthem, a rowdy but witty song about a man who’s letting a beer chase his blues away and only pretending to apologize for being déclassé. Critic Chuck Klosterman later wrote, quote, Singing along with friends in low places was like drunkenly laughing at a rich person and knowing that you were right. Garth told stories about blue collar people who felt good about what their bad life symbolized.


S2: Well, I guess I was wrong. I just don’t belong there.

S3: I’ve been there, released less than a month after the dance peaked on hot country singles, friends in low places stormed up the chart, reaching number one in October 1990. It stayed there for four weeks. In the middle of its run up the chart, Brookes released his sophomore album, No Fences, which shot to number one on the country albums chart in just three weeks, knocking out Clint Black’s blockbuster Killing Time.

S4: Brooks now had both the top country single and album in America for the first time back Texas.

S5: Build no fences remains Garth Brooks, all time best selling album, certified for sales of 18 million in the U.S. alone.

S1: It was the album on which Brooks perfected his blend of tradition minded pedal steel and fiddle country crossed with 70s esque soft rock melodies.

S3: Brooks, his band and co songwriters were able to translate the sound of, say, old James Taylor records as a young cowboy, dishonouring into wistful bromides about Small-Town life like the number one country hit unanswered prayers just the other night at a hometown football game.

S7: My wife and Brooks also channeled the sound and spirit of vintage Eagles, or Aerosmith, on the album’s rock inflected opener, The Thunder Rolls, a cinematic story song about a marriage gone wrong.

S8: The Thunder Road and the lightning strikes.

S20: All the sleepless nights.

S3: But something was still amiss with Brooks’s billboard chart performance and all country hitmakers, country albums were starting to sell about as well as they had in the Urban Cowboy era.

S1: But on the Billboard album chart, country albums couldn’t get a break. They would peak well below the top 10, whereas pop and rock albums of similar or even lesser stature were charting much higher. Here’s an example. The same week Garth Brooks is No Fences debuted on the album chart in September 1990.


S5: So did the latest album by metal band Queens. Right.

S4: I’m not picking up news from their Empire album was legitimately huge and deserved to go platinum, and it did. By the spring of 1991, Queens Reich’s album was certified for a million in sales and it was sitting in the top 10 on the pop albums chart.

S1: But Garth’s No Fences again. An album with the same number of weeks on the chart was triple platinum, and yet to date, no fences had never gone higher than number 15. And while Queen’s Reich was in the top 10, Brooks by April had dropped back into the mid 30s. This despite the fact that Brooks was racking up his third number one country hit from the album.

S4: Two of a kind working on a full house.

S2: Yeah, or two of our be working on a.

S7: Was the flagship Billboard album chart, we call it the pop album chart, but really it’s an old genre chart. Was it biased against country music? It certainly seemed like it, but that was all about to change in past episodes of Hit Parade. I have talked about the chart revolution brought about in 1991 by the launch of Sound Scan, the barcode scanning retail technology that accurately tallied music sales in record stores for Billboard. When I talk about why SoundScan was so important to the evolution and accuracy of the billboard charts, I often talk about rap, maybe had it on and you know, I don’t know. I don’t believe the hype albums like Public Enemy’s It takes a nation of millions to Hold US Back were hard done by the old system, which relied on the vagaries of retailer sales reports and underrepresented.


S1: The huge sales of hip hop PD album went platinum, but it couldn’t crack. The Billboard album charts Top 40 or and was straight out of Compton, which went double platinum but couldn’t break into the top 30 as the best place to.

S5: Arguably, country artists had it just as bad as the rappers on the charts, country albums would go gold, platinum, even multi platinum and go nowhere near the top of the charts.

S1: The music industry, which was heavily skewed toward America’s coasts, had for years overstated the sales of rock and pop and understated the popularity of country and rap. SoundScan, which launched on the Billboard 200 album chart in May of 1991, eliminated that bias against rap and country for good.

S4: And no single artist benefited more from this chart revolution than Garth Brooks and.

S3: The very first week SoundScan came online, Garth’s No Fences album hurtled into the top 10, reaching a new peak of number four, it would later reach number three. Charts are feedback loops. They tell the music industry what kinds of music are popular so they can make them more popular. It’s widely perceived that the advent of truly accurate counting allowed the industry to perceive just how popular country and Garth Brooks were for the first time and promote him accordingly.

S1: While the thunder rolls hit number one on the Hot Country singles chart, fueled by a controversial music video in which Brooks played an abusive husband in a fake beard, glasses and a wig, the No Fences album spent the rest of the summer in and around the top 10 as it was certified quadruple and then quintuple platinum heading into the fall of 1991. Brooks was preparing to release a third album that would affirm whether his chart success was a SoundScan fueled fluke. But the music industry was paying more attention to the imminent release of an album by a rock band that was expected to dominate the fall season.


S5: Actually, two albums.

S4: Hard rock band Guns N Roses had made fans wait more than four years for a proper, full length follow up to their multi platinum smash Appetite for Destruction. In 1991, the band announced that the follow up was finally ready and it would be two CDs, not one issued as a pair of separate albums on the same day.

S1: Use your illusion one and use your illusion to media coverage for the Gianaris dual album release in mid-September 1991 reached fever pitch music stores announced midnight sales for the To Use Your Illusions CDs and the discs were widely expected to debut on top of the Billboard album chart. But while all this hype was mounting, the media hadn’t taken much notice that an album released the week before Guns and Roses had already been Enten.

S4: Chapin’s Callahans, it’s better than to let it go, it’s going to rain and enjoy.

S7: And they call the thing around. Ropin the Wind, Garth Brooks’s third album arrived atop the Billboard 200 in its first week, it was not only the first country album ever to debut at number one, it was also the first country title to top Billboard’s flagship album chart at all since Kenny Rogers greatest hits more than 10 years earlier.

S3: Ropen the winds lead single rodeo was already in the hot country singles top five on its way to number three Rowdy.

S5: Clouds of dust mites, all of a sudden the ground is on the album, Shot in the Wild Guns and Roses did indeed debut at number one the following week with use your allusion to their illusion.

S3: One debuted in the runner up slot.

S1: Guns only held the top of the album chart for two weeks before Brooks’s Ropin the Wind went right back to number one and stayed there for most of the fall. It appeared that Brooks was not only galvanizing countries, loyal listeners, but bringing along new fans.


S3: Perhaps his latest hit song, written by a guy who lived far from Nashville, had something to do with that.

S6: You know, now I’m not a fan who’s ever been insecure about the world. I’ve been living near a jailbreaking.

S4: Sheamus reached the top of hot country singles in November 1991. I talked about Shameless in Hit Parade earlier this year in our episode about this.

S5: I couldn’t resist what I couldn’t believe, Billy Joy wrote and first recorded Shameless for his 1989 album Stormfront.

S1: It was a deep cut, never released as a single by Joel, but Garth Brooks heard its potential and the country friendliness of the song. He’d been playing it live for months and saw it go over with his crowd. So he convinced his producer, Alan Reynolds, to let him recorded the album.

S6: Jamling.

S3: When it comes down and it was a standout on the album right away, and not just with country listeners, in the fall of 1991, more than a dozen pop stations began spinning Garth’s shameless alongside the likes of Brian Adams, Boyz to Men and Paula Abdul, like Run DMC s cover of Arrowsmith’s Walk This Way in 1986, albeit on a smaller scale, Garth’s cover of Billy Joel was a genre crossover, making fans out of listeners more accustomed to rock and pop. Evan Thomas standing near, funnily enough, Garth’s label wasn’t actively promoting Shameless to Top 40 radio, and the crossover didn’t interest them all that much. Brooks’s team was very wary of moving beyond the country audience ten years after the boom and bust of the urban cowboy fad. Speaking to Billboard on Brooks’s behalf about the pop radio attention, his co manager and publisher said, quote, If it happens, it happens. It’s not something we’re trying to generate. Let him cross to us this time.


S23: I have.

S3: In any case, Team Garth didn’t need to pop fans ropin the wind was a monster, it instantly certified quadruple platinum just two months after release from the fall of 1991 through the spring of 1992.

S1: It spent 18 weeks on top of the all genre Billboard 200 album chart and at Country Radio, the album generated five hits, including the number three Popl of Mamma and the number ones The River.

S5: And what she’s doing now is what she’s doing is me.

S1: Mean in my mind and empty in my pocket here, hoping the wind was eventually certified for sales of 14 million copies, which, by the way, was as much as those two Guns and Roses albums sold combined, Billboard would rank Ropin the Wind as the top seller among both country albums and pop albums for all of 1992. By 1992, it was clear that Garth Brooks had opened the floodgates for country artists on the charts. More to the point, the SoundScan fueled Billboard 200 now accurately reflecting just how popular country albums were.

S4: With or without a big pop audience, no one could be. The younger half of country duo the Judds Wynonna recording under only her first name, like Madonna or Cher, launched a solo career in 1992 and saw instant success.

S1: Winona’s debut album reached number four on the Billboard 200 and was triple platinum within a year.

S4: And she wasn’t the only country newcomer dominating the charts.

S3: I just don’t think you’d understand. By some measures, Billy Ray Cyrus was an even bigger crossover success in 1992 than Garth Brooks. Unlike Garth, Billy Ray actually did cork pop fans with his line dancing earworm Achy Breaky Heart. It not only topped the Hot Country singles chart, it sold well enough to reach number four on the Hot 100 pop chart.


S1: Achy Breaky Heart was such a phenomenon that it sent Cyrus’s album. Some gave all to No. One on the Billboard 200, where it spent 17 consecutive weeks on top and eventually went nine times platinum. Billy Ray’s success even spawned an urban cowboy style line dance fad, complete with specific steps. And it was followed by other line dance friendly hits like Boot Scootin Boogie by Brooks and Dunn would now turn around and go to town.

S6: Good.

S5: In a sense, Garth Brooks had made all of this conceivable, let alone possible, by 1992, and that was when he decided to use his clout to make a stink when the last man dies for just words.

S3: And he sang when, as I said at the top of our show, the number 12 country hit We Shall Be Free was Brooks in full on social protest mode. And it was his first major single to receive pushback. Country stations were leery about playing the pro equality, anti-racist and anti homophobia song, at the very least out of a desire not to take sides in a presidential election year. This explains why the never hotter Brooks missed the top 10 with this single in the fall of 92. Still, Brooks was using his Imperial Chart status and, if you will, political capital to make a statement. On the scale of protest music. We shall be free is no the times they are a changin or a change is going to come. It’s considerably better than accidental racist. However, regardless of the song’s merits, it was a sign Garth Brooks could come to a point. Now, do whatever he wants and we shall.

S24: We shall be free.

S5: We Shall Be Free was the lead single to Brooks’s fourth album, The Chase, and the only thing that had changed by 1992 was that Brooks was now expected to debut atop the Billboard 200 album chart.


S1: And of course, he did. The chase sailed in at number one just as its second single, The More Conventional Country Ballad Somewhere Other than the Night was on its way to number one somewhere other than the.

S15: She needs to hear I love you somewhere other than the novel.

S7: In fact, the chase sold so well in its first two months that it prevented Ari M’s new album, Automatic for the People, their follow up to the 1991 smash out of time from reaching number one on the album Chart of Dreams.

S4: Eventual quadruple platinum automatic had to settle for a number two few.

S5: A couple of weeks after that, Brooks is the chase stopped Madonna’s hotly anticipated album Erotica from topping the charts. It, too, peaked at number two.

S1: This became the pattern for Garth Brooks every fall he would release a new album and it would not only debut at number one, but outperform a more hotly anticipated pop or rock album in late 1993. Brooks debuted on top with In Pieces, his fifth studio album and third chart topper. It generated five top ten country hits, including the number one rave ups ain’t going down till the Sun Comes Up and American Honky Tonk Bar Association.

S3: It’s called American. Bar Association.

S5: It represents a half done by staying at number one for more than a month in pieces held back the 1993 album by Pop and be Uber star Mariah Carey, her CD, Music Box had to wait until Christmas to talk with Chuck.

S3: Speaking of Christmas, Brooks got ahead of Kerry there to future queen of Christmas, Mariah wouldn’t record her storied holiday album until 1994. Brooks issued his Christmas disc Beyond the Season, two years old. Mistletoe is hung and the trees blow, and Garth’s Christmas album peaked higher on the Billboard 200 reaching number two, Carrie’s Merry Christmas topped out at number three.


S1: Every move Brooks made was a savvy feeding of his fan base and a clever move to dominate the charts. An avid billboard reader and industry observer, Garth had opinions on all aspects of the business, for example, as quaint as this now sounds. In 1993, one of the hot topics in the music business was over used CDs at a time when the compact disc was five to seven dollars more expensive than the LP or cassette. Retailers found consumers happy to sell back their old discs to stores and shop for other used discs at cut rate prices. The record industry hated used CDs because they made no money off of them and so, it turned out, did buy Brooks fits.

S21: Not enough just to stand outside the five.

S3: When a coalition of record labels announced a plan to eliminate cooperative advertising with retailers who sold used CDs, Brooks doubled down a few months before his In Pieces album came out. He announced he wouldn’t sell it on CD at any retailer that dealt in used product. Brooks framed it as a fight for musicians, songwriters and producers. The media portrayed it as greed. Artists didn’t normally take sides in such arcane industry issues. In essence, Garth’s move was like Metallica taking on Napster or Taylor Swift taking on Spotify years before those fights happened.

S20: The fact that Brooks even had an opinion on those sites was remarkable.

S4: Anyway, even with certain retailers left out of the launch of Earpieces, Brooks’s 1993 album did great business. It opened to the best numbers of Brooks’s career to date.

S1: As with We Shall Be Free, Garth could get away with stances other acts would just as soon avoid. Incidentally, used CDs also didn’t help Brooks’s position on the charts or his platinum certifications. And this, even beyond the loss of royalties, might have been his ultimate motivation. Brooks was a fierce competitor, and he didn’t want to compete in arenas where he didn’t stand a chance of winning.


S5: That included the Hot 100 singles chart. As I chronicled three years ago in our great war against the single edition of Hit Parade, the biggest story on the charts in the 90s was the music business Quiet Campaign to kill off retail singles and try to force sales of full length CDs for all of the hot 100 year history.

S1: Through the mid 90s, Billboard required a retail single release for a hit to appear on the chart. So enormous 90s radio hits that weren’t issued as singles like the Rembrandts theme from TV’s Friends or No Doubts Don’t Speak.

S7: These hits were invisible on the Hot 100, even when they were the most played songs at radio still even acts like no doubt, or the Rembrandts did issue singles occasionally. But for Garth Brooks, not releasing retail singles was even more strategic.

S4: I need a cup of coffee and a couple others change.

S3: For one thing, the hot country chart didn’t require a retail release, in fact, that charts full title was Hot Country Singles and tracks, indicating that many of its hits were tracks available only on albums.

S1: Brooks could dominate this chart and still sell truckloads of albums by not issuing singles. But there was another factor. Issuing singles would have made Garthe songs eligible to appear on the Hot 100.

S5: Except then those tracks would have to compete with big pop hits.

S7: And as country songs, Garth’s singles would be at a disadvantage.

S5: Why allow his hits to peak on the Hot 100 somewhere below the number one spot, the top 10, or even the top 40?

S25: And I began with.

S3: Down the sun comes up in multiple interviews, Brooks took particular pride at the fact that he was achieving all his sales records while sticking close to country fans, not courting pop listeners and inviting the pop fans to come over to his side of the radio dial.


S1: He remembered what happened when country stars went hard after pop listeners in the early 80s and how that story and.

S5: I love a rainy night.

S3: Yeah, I love the rain. By 1993 and 94, country music was thriving, with multiple acts going multi platinum and pop listeners were beside the. And she never did have any water in me, for example, Alan Jackson’s Chattahoochee, a wistful reminiscence about summer spent on a river near Jackson’s Georgia hometown, was the number one country song of 1993.

S1: And Jackson actually did issue it as a retail single, which went gold. But on the Hot 100, Chattahoochee peaked just below the top 40, given its limited airplay beyond country stations. That was confirmation that Garth Brooks was wise to avoid that pop competition. Still, Alan Jackson couldn’t have been unhappy. His album A Lot About Levon and a Little About Love, went triple platinum in 1993 and kept on selling two years later. Jackson’s album was Sextuplet Platinum. Other acts that had stuck it out through countries late 80s sales slump.

S3: Like Reba McEntire is a lonely hunter and there’s no sign of love and saw their albums hitting new chart and sales peaks. MacIntyre’s 1994 album, Read My Mind, reached number two on the Billboard 200 and went triple platinum the week MacIntire peaked at number two. Sitting right above her was a new country singer that he played.

S7: Don’t take the girl, Tim McGraw, whose debut album, Not a Moment Too Soon, spent a fortnight at number one on the chart and went quadruple platinum within a year. And McGraw wasn’t the only relative newcomer topping the chart. I swear.

S3: John Michael Montgomery, a singer on only his second album, reached number one on the Billboard 200 with his Kickin It Up album featuring 1994, his biggest country hit.


S1: I swear if you’re a pop fan who remembers the 90s and this song sounds oddly familiar to you, that’s because it also topped the Hot 100, but not in John Michael Montgomery.

S5: The boy band, all for one, recorded the same song and took, I swear to the top of the hot 100, this only reinforced that country and pop were parallel platinum worlds.

S7: A country song could be a pop song and vice versa.

S1: But unlike the Urban Cowboy era, each was succeeding in its own arena. Audience crossover by the same recording wasn’t strictly necessary. As for Garth Brooks, he closed in 1994 with a victory lap, his first greatest hits collection. For years, Brooks had resisted pleas for a compilation from fans and his label, Capitol Nashville, fearing it might cannibalize sales of his studio albums, which were still selling like all get.

S5: Cleverley Brooks agreed to put out a collection under the no frills title, the hits on the condition that it would be a limited edition release. The CD was even printed with the phrase limited time only on the cover. Garth’s gambit worked, arriving just days before Christmas 1994.

S1: The hits sold in the millions and topped the billboard 200 for eight weeks in early 1995.

S5: Yet again, it outsold the most highly anticipated rock album of the holiday season, Pearl Jam’s third album by Talib. There was one other well hyped rock album in 1994 that Garth Brooks was the hits handily outsold that Christmas, a Beatles compilation called Live at the BBC, because, baby, it’s you. Maybe it is this wasn’t too surprising. Even if Brooks was outselling the biggest rock group of all time live at the BBC was an unusual collection of vintage performances from the Fab Four’s early days. It contained very few of their hits, and it was packed with bits of light comedy and short interviews for any other band. A collection of curios like this one might have sold only to the devoted because it was the Beatles.


S1: It went quadruple platinum. Still, Garth’s the hits charted higher and sold better than live at the BBC. Perhaps outselling the Beatles during the holiday season of nineteen ninety four made Garth Brooks feel fairly invincible because the next year he tried something similar and it didn’t work out too well. Garth Brooks had let two years go by without a new studio album, an unprecedented gap for him in interviews, he said he needed the break to tend to his family and shore up his marriage.

S4: When he finally began recording a new album in 1995, it had the makings of another smash.

S21: When it comes down to. Down to. She’s on both sides of the fence.

S7: She’s every woman, a James Taylor, like Ballard, was issued several months ahead of Garth’s next album and it soared to number one on hot country singles in just seven weeks, a sign Brooks had stayed away long enough to be missed and could pick up where he left off. But he was also trying out new styles in addition to his early love for acoustic soft rock. Brooks also loved his share of flashy 70s hard rock from Aerosmith to Queen. Having already turned a Billy Joel song into a country smash, Brooks began exploring other rock songs he could control.

S8: You’ll be a hard.

S5: The year before, in 1994, Brooks had contributed a song to a tribute album called Kiss My Ass, classic Kiss Regrouped, he turned Hard Luck Woman, a 1976 track from KISS’s Rock and Roll Over album into an acoustic style rave up with the members of Kiss backing him up.

S1: The song was only a modest hit, but his hard luck woman cracked the lower rungs of the adult contemporary chart and even the mainstream pop radio chart.


S5: Flush with that modest success, Brooks tried his hand at adapting a newer rock song. Fever was from Arrowsmith’s 1993 album Get a Grip in Brooks’s Hands, retitled The Fever Aerosmith song became a radio rock anthem as the album took shape over the summer of 1995.

S1: Brooks and his label, Capitol Nashville, announced the album’s title, Fresh Horses and its release date three days before Thanksgiving 1995, most years dropping a new Garth Brooks album. The week of Black Friday might have been a great idea if the capital label didn’t have an even bigger priority act coming out. That very.

S4: The wait is over.

S1: The Beatles anthology tonight at nine eight central on a Beatle see Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were reuniting for a multipart TV documentary called The Beatles Anthology. Plus, the TV documentary would be accompanied by three double CD releases of old Beatles rarities, also called Anthology, and two of them would feature new Beatles songs built out of old John Lennon, demerge its.

S3: Some at the EMI capital conglomerate were reportedly leery of Brooks issuing his next album, the same week as the Beatles when questioned about the move.

S1: Garth said he knew what he signed up for, quote, I think we’re in a no lose situation, Brooks told one reporter. If we get pounded, it’s by the Beatles and everyone’s expecting us to get pounded anyway. And if for some reason we hold our own, it’s going to make country music, make Garth Brooks look stronger. So we’ll see, unquote. The fact was, as Capital’s top selling current artist and a guy who referred to himself in both the third person and the royal, we Brooks was big enough to call the shots even against Capital’s all time biggest band.


S5: Brooks even threw in a couple of million dollars of his own money to buy TV advertising time, setting up fresh horses.

S4: Joyce is again the week before the album arrived, Capitol service radio stations with Garth’s version of Arrowsmith’s The Fever, and it began climbing the country truck but many.

S5: More than 27 million Americans tuned in for the first part of the Beatles anthology on ABC and the debut of Free as a Bird. Though reviews for this new Beatles track were lukewarm at best, a sizable percentage of viewers felt they had to own this song. As a result, in its first week anthology, won by the Beatles sold more than 850000 copies, which was then a one week record for a two disc set.

S1: And Garth Brooks. That same week, fresh horses opened to 480000. One of his best sales weeks ever. But it was a distant number two to the Beatles, Garth’s first studio album to fall short of the number one spot in the SoundScan era. Making matters worse, his Aerosmith cover was shaping up as a flop. B.

S5: Anything the fans didn’t seem to know what to make of the fever. It wasn’t rock enough to get airplay at rock stations, but it didn’t connect with country listeners either. The fever peaked at number 23 on hot country singles. Brooks’s first promoted single to fall short of the country top 20.

S1: Now, some perspective here. Fresh horses still sold millions of copies. About three million in its first six months and eventually seven million. Moreover, the album continued to generate hits. A few months after the fever flopped.

S4: The more traditional country ballad, The Beaches of Cheyenne brought Brooks back to number one.


S3: But Garth took the underperformance of fresh horses and the muted fan response hard by the spring of 1996, he was telling Robert Hilburn of the L.A. Times, quote, We’ll have to take a serious look at where we are in our career.

S1: If the record and ticket sales don’t tell me that I’m stirring things up or changing people’s lives, then I think it’s time for me to hang it up, unquote. That same L.A. Times article pointed out that just seven years into his career, Brooks’s total U.S. album sales were the highest for any solo act in recording industry Association of America history, second only to the Beatles. Still, the dejected Brooks would take another two year break from recording.

S5: But with or without Garth on the scene, country crossover was only getting bigger. Shania Twain from Timmins, Ontario, Canada, broke in 1995 and 96 as the queen of country pop crossover, the arena rock dynamics that Garth Brooks brought to country music, Shania Twain pumped up to stadium size.

S1: A lot of that had to do with her producer, co songwriter and then husband, Robert John Mutt Lange. He made all of SHENISE singles sound like 80s arena rock, not unlike the hair metal bands Mutt had produced a decade earlier, like Def Leppard.

S5: Shanaya and Mud packed her albums even deeper with hits than Garthwaite, and they all banged. Twains, 1995 breakthrough, the woman in me rode the Billboard 200 album chart for over two years, went Diamond and spun off eight country hits team. Shania was supersizing the Garth Brooks model.

S1: Not all mid 90s country stars had Shania and Mutt’s Jumbotron ambitions, but many of the biggest hits, even those that were sticking to core country audiences, had the flavor of mass appeal. Pop, the Top Country Song of 1996 by multi platinum duo Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn was my Maria Brooks and Dunn’s soaring cover of a 1973 Top 10 pop hit by BW Stephens. As for Garth Brooks, he didn’t do much recording in 1996. In fact, after the singles from Fresh Horses had run their course, Brooks was mostly off the country singles chart for the better part of a year. It wasn’t until the late summer of 1997 that Brooks made his return and then only in a duet. But it was with a very special duet partner in another.


S3: I’m afraid that I can’t see Trisha Yearwood had been riding the country charts alongside Garth Brooks for virtually all of the 1990s. They met in Nashville at the end of the 80s when she sang backup for Garth’s debut album. He introduced her to a producer who helped get her signed, and Garth even invited her to open his concerts.

S1: Thanks in part to Brooks’s mentorship, Yearwood launched her career with a chart topper, the 1991 number one smash.

S4: She’s In Love With the Boy.

S5: By the summer of 97, Trisha Yearwood had racked up a dozen top 10 country hits, including four no ones.

S1: She was due for a greatest hits album and she recorded three new tracks for the collection.

S3: One of those was, in Another’s Eyes, a duet with Garth Brooks, who had to date remained a platonic friend of hers and one.

S4: The track would eventually reach number two on hot country singles, bringing Brooks back to the chart for the first time in months, and the relationship would eventually become more than platonic. Five years later, after Yearwood and Brooks had each divorced their respective spouses, they began dating. And three years after that, they were married.

S1: Less than two weeks before the Trisha Yearwood duet was officially released in the first week of August 1997, Garth Brooks reintroduced himself to the music world in much grander fashion.

S2: New York invited me to the Big Apple invites you. You don’t turn them down. We’re going to come.

S1: And if she was the one that I don’t want it for all time, the biggest myth Brooks longed to shatter about his audience was that they were all based in rural areas of the American heartland. Brooks had seen his album sales numbers, and he knew that cities like New York made up a not insignificant share. He also knew if he held a major New York City show that fans from across the country would make the trip. So on August 7th, 1997, Brooks and his band fulfilled a dream to play a free show at New York’s Central Park, a concert televised live on HBO. Brooks’s team set up the largest stage of the North Meadow had ever seen, and so many of his fans caravanned into the city that week that the gig was jokingly dubbed Garth Stock.


S6: Central Park had already hosted some legendary mega concerts by Paul Simon, and I bring that with Simon and Garfunkel.

S3: And Diana Ross. And Brooks reportedly outdrew them all Central Park attendance figures are notoriously inexact.

S1: New York City was expecting only about 300000 attendees. But the night of the gig, crowd estimates in the North Meadow were at a minimum of 750000, a later estimate by the fire department. But the crowd size at just shy of a million. Whatever the actual figure, the show was generally agreed to be the park’s largest concert ever. Among the guests Brooks welcomed to his historic show was native New Yorker Billy Joel, writer of the song Brooks turned into a hit Shameless. Joel not only performed a pair of his own songs, including New York State of Mind, he also played piano and sang on Garth’s hit Ain’t Going Down Till the Sun.

S8: But I don’t want to go.

S7: You better get to bed feeling the love once again and having satisfied himself that he could still set improbable records, Garth Brooks was ready to release his long delayed seventh album, simply titled Seven Long Neck Bottle and Go Here.

S5: Garth had been holding back the album for months in a dispute with his label over promotional plans. He didn’t want Sevan’s to meet the same tepid greeting as fresh horses. As a result, the CD didn’t arrive in stores until late November, more than three months after the Central Park concert. If anything, the delay only appeared to stoke fans pent up demand. Seven’s opened to nearly 900000 in its first week, the biggest debut by a country album to date. One week later, the album’s first single, a jaunty good time Western swing ditty called Long Neck Bottle, hit number one on hot country singles getting there in just five minutes, followed by the time the album’s second single to Pina Coladas reached number one in the spring of 1998.


S2: Bring me to be Nicola. One for each.

S3: The seventh album was well past quintuple platinum on its way to eventual sales of 10 million.

S1: The rumor within the music industry now that Brooks was inching ever higher on the roster of all time album sellers was that he was aiming to topple.

S5: The RIAA is king of sales, the Beatles and Rocky Raccoon.

S10: It fell back in his room.

S7: Only to find Gideon’s Bible, what’s quirky about the Arias certification rules for gold and platinum albums is that double albums are counted twice.

S1: So a title like the Beatles White Album, for example, their only studio double album is certified by the RIAA at 24 times platinum for 12 million in sales, even though the White Album has sold only about as many copies as the 12 times Platinum Abbey Road. Garth Brooks knew how this RIAA math worked, and so he began putting out a lot more multi disc sets. In the spring of 1998, he reissued his first six albums as a box set called The Limited Series, featuring new bonus tracks on each disc. One of those bonus tracks was a cover of Bob Dylan’s To Make You Feel My Love, a song also recorded by everyone from Billy Joel to Adele.

S4: Brooks’s version of the song topped Hot Country singles in August 1998.

S2: Storms are raging on erro.

S26: Down the hall here.

S7: But Garth had an even slicker coin up his sleeve for the holiday season of 98, he would put out his first live album and make that album a double disc set. It was a valid move. Brooks had been a top concert draw for nearly a decade, featuring pyrotechnics uncommon to a country show and sellout crowds at a scale only previously seen among rock acts.


S3: I spent last night in the arms of a girl in Louisiana. He called the double CD set Double Life, and there was one more sales feat. Brooks wanted to pull off the first album to debut to a million in sales.

S1: In its first week, team Garth pulled every trick in the book, including Sale Pricing, the two disc set at a single CD prices and getting one major account to report nine days of sales for the week, including two weekends instead of the usual seven by hook or by crook. Double Live debuted to one point 085 million in week one, the biggest week to date of any album in SoundScan history.

S5: He was your.

S17: That made me see.

S4: Just one since he was promoted to radio stations from DoubleLine, a new track called It’s Your Song.

S3: It did respectably on hot country songs reaching number nine. But that wasn’t its most interesting chart performance. It’s Your song was also Garth’s first track to ever reach the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number 62.

S2: The music starts the. But I’ll do my best and I won’t let you down.

S3: How exactly did this miner live cut become Garth Brooks first ever hot 100 hit nearly a decade into his career?

S1: It had nothing to do with the song. It had to do with Billboard’s chart rules. As I explained in our great war against the single episode, after eight years of the music industry pulling away from issuing retail singles, Billboard finally caved. They changed hot 100 rules to allow radio only songs to appear on the chart for the first time. This rule went into effect on the Hot 100 in December 1998. So, for example, 1998 radio smashes that had gone unreleased at retailers and were invisible on the Hot 100, like the Goo Goo Dolls song.


S5: Iris and I Don’t Want to See Me suddenly materialized on the chart.

S1: Of course, for his entire career, Garth Brooks had never issued his radio hits as retail singles. And so not a single one of them. Not the dance, not friends in low places. Not even Shameless had appeared on the Hot 100. Now his songs were going to make that chart.

S3: Whether Brooks wanted them there or not, it was your. Which explains the sudden appearance by girths, it’s your song on the Hot 100 in the closing weeks of 1998 and it’s peak of number 62, affirmed what Brooks must have known all along with only country radio playing his songs.

S7: They would rarely make the upper reaches of the pop chart as long as most of pop radio in the late 90s sounded like this.

S3: Garth’s hits would look diminished by comparison. That is, unless Brooks tried to record contemporary pop music himself, howre memory.

S5: Chart policy cannot by itself explain what Garth Brooks tried in 1999, a move that is still more than two decades later, the strangest thing he ever attempted, becoming someone else. Before we close the story of Garth Brooks, we have to talk about Chris Gaines Howard.

S3: Garth Brooks had been toying for a couple of years with starring in a movie, he had even reportedly turned down a couple of potential roles in movies like Twister and Saving Private Ryan.

S1: Brooks wanted to conceive his first film role himself. He had an idea for a thriller biopic of a fictional rock star with floppy hair and a goatee named Chris Gaines. The film would be called The Lamb, and Brooks got the film greenlit at Paramount Pictures. As part of the campaign for the film, Brooks recorded what he called a priest soundtrack, kind of like a Broadway concept album of himself as Chris Gaines. The music would be everything but country, some light R and B, some rock, mostly pop. And because it was supposed to be a compilation of songs by a musician who had existed for years, he even wanted to call the album Chris Gaines Greatest Hits.


S7: Instead, in the late summer of nineteen ninety nine, the CD was issued for real, as Garth Brooks presents in the life of Chris Gaines. I’m head over heels and it shows. I made a few last fans, got their first sampling of this project with the single Lost In You, officially credited to Chris Gaines, although Billboard charted it as Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines for the first time in the career of the actual Garth Brooks. He issued the song as a retail single on both cassette and CD. And thanks to Garth’s presold profile, the single opened strongly debuting on the Hot 100 all the way up at number five. Not bad for a first top 40 fellow.

S27: That’s why I came here.

S7: And here’s the thing, it was also the only top 40 hit for both Chris Gaines and Garth Brooks. The song never caught on at radio and lost in you fell out of the top 10 in just two weeks, the top 40 in seven weeks.

S1: No other gains. Singles made the hot 100. Still, the promotional campaign for Chris Gaines was already in motion. Garth made an appearance on the Today show and he taped an episode of VH1 behind the music that purported to tell the life story of Chris Gaines. He even maintained this dual identity as a host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

S4: Hey, everybody, I’m Garth Brooks and I get to host Saturday Night Live this weekend. My musical guest going to be Chris Gaines. Now, of course, I wanted to play the music, but Mango wanted Chris.

S1: The SNL episode was well-received. The album was not in the life of Chris Gaines debuted on the Billboard 200 at number two, but it was down to number 16 within two weeks. Fans were bewildered by the CD booklets, photos of an unrecognizable Garth Brooks in various poses as Chris Gaines throughout Gaines’s career in tights or a bowler hat, retailers were reportedly shipped more than three million copies of in the life of Chris Gaines, but at least a million of them went unsold.


S7: Still one track from the gains album. It don’t matter to the Sun sounded country enough that it peaked on hot country singles at a decent number.

S1: Twenty four. And then Chris Gaines was never heard from again. Although lost in you remains, Garth’s only top 40 pop hit to this day, Garth never would star in the slam. The movie was shelved a little over a year later. The Chris Gaines experiment was a bold gambit to spread Garth’s wings beyond country music, but maybe by the late 90s it just wasn’t necessary. By 1998 and 99, Shania Twain was proving over and over again that it was possible to get hit songs on both country radio and top 40 radio.

S7: You still have the hottest new group in country, the Dixie Chicks, now known as the Chicks, were topping the Billboard 200 with albums filled with capital see country songs that were nonetheless widely embraced by pop fans.

S4: Cowboy.

S1: And in 2000, one country at the Nashville based Lone Star even topped the Hot 100 with their ballad Amazed, it was the first country song to top the big pop chart since Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s islands in the Stream 17 years earlier.

S4: I don’t know how you do what you do.

S3: It just keeps all of these chart feeds would have been unimaginable without the breakthroughs achieved earlier by Garth Brooks, sensing his time as a consistent chart topper might soon be over before he went into a self-imposed retirement from recording.

S1: Brooks wanted to take one more ride as his old self.

S2: There ain’t no hide in this for a baby.

S3: In 2001, Brooks released Scarecrow’s, the final studio album of his long imperial period. The Chris Gaines project had tested the limits of that in pure reality. And by the way, the Gaines CD did still manage to go double platinum. But Scarecrow proved Garth as Garth was still a draw. The album opened in late November 2001 to sales of four hundred and sixty six thousand copies, comparable to the opener’s of Garth’s albums from a half decade earlier. Scarecrow eventually went quintuple platinum and generated six top 40 countries, including the top five hit wrapped up in your.


S28: How do we don’t know how deep love can go?

S7: Garth Brooks then settled down with Trisha Yearwood for a long hiatus from recording. Together, they raised his three daughters from his previous marriage. Brooks would occasionally record one off tracks for various hits and rarities compilations such as his 2005 number three hit Good Ride, Cowboy.

S4: They tell you good.

S3: And his 2007 smash More Than a Memory, which achieved the unprecedented feat of debuting at number one on the Hot Country songs chart, a sign his audience was as devoted as Baggini. When she’s born out of. Even with Brooks largely absent, he cast a long shadow over the country, hit makers of the 21st century who scored hits, reinventing Garth’s combination of melodic pop sensibilities and unabashed country twang, all acknowledged his influence, whether it was Kenny Chesney.

S19: There goes my future. My dad, Keith Urban. Yeah.

S4: Or American Idol winner and country crossover superstar Carrie Underwood sometimes.

S3: Brooks got back in the game in 2013, releasing a box set sold exclusively at Wal-Mart called Blame It All on My Roots that briefly topped the Billboard 200.

S1: And he returned to recording albums in 2014, still determined to do things his way, even at the peak of digital music.

S4: Brooks refused to sell his albums on iTunes or stream on Spotify. Hey, no quick fix at the end of Anita.

S5: So as part of the release of his 2014 album, Man Against Machine, Brooks launched his own digital music service, which he called Ghost Tunes.

S1: It lasted three years before Brooks signed a digital exclusivity deal with Amazon as recently as three years ago. Brooks was still topping the country charts.

S4: His single Ask Me How I Know topped the Country Airplay chart in December 2017. Actually, a while back and not for. Ask me, how are.


S7: And just one month ago, during the covid-19 lockdown, Brooks announced that the first single from his next album, Fun, would be a duet with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, a cover of the Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper song Shallow that he and Yearwood performed on Good Morning America on the show last night.

S3: The shadow, shadow and the shadow. Brooks has been keeping busy even during the pandemic.

S1: He held an online concert that was broadcast to 300 drive in theaters across North America. Industry observers called it one of the most ingenious ways to circumvent the limits on live performance in this terrible year for the music business. Leave it to Garth Brooks to figure out a new way to connect with his audience.

S3: He’ll probably be one of the first ones back on stage when we all come out of lock down, if that tomorrow ever comes.

S2: Yes, love I gave her in the past, going to be enough to live.

S29: If tomorrow never comes.

S2: I’ve lost loved ones in my life.

S3: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade. Our show was written, edited and narrated by Chris Melaniphy. That’s me. My producer for this episode was Benjamin Fresh, and we also had help from Rosemary Bellson, special thanks to Steven Thomas, Earl Warren and Emily Hansen for invaluable research support on this episode. June Thomas is the senior managing producer and Gabriel Roth, the editorial director of Slate podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slate dot com slash podcasts. You can subscribe to Hit Parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate culture field. If you’re subscribing on Apple podcasts, please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show. Thanks for listening and I look forward to leading the hit parade back your way. Until then, keep on marching on the one. I’m Chris Mullen for sure. Every day it sees my own.