The first singer-songwriter inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame was Hank Williams in 1961. He had been dead 8 years by then. He had a short, but remarkable, history of taking a nation by storm. His songs became instant radio hits. He sold out auditoriums all over the country. Post-WWII America was hungering for entertainment and Hank Williams stepped up to be a superstar.
In October 2012, the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Garth Brooks. As only the 25th singer/songwriter to be invited alongside a total of 118 singers, producers, performers, groups, music executives, and more, Garth Brooks, like Hank, wrote and sang songs that became instant radio hits. He sold out arenas all over the country. And, like Hank, there is no doubt he was a superstar of his time. Beyond that, the parallels with the life of Hank Williams cease to exist.
Fortunately, there has been no drug addiction and early demise at the peak of his career. And unlike most superstars, Garth Brooks chose to walk away from his stardom and success to stay at home with his 3 daughters and his new wife, country music singer Trisha Yearwood. After equaling, surpassing, or being neck-and-neck with the Beatles and Elvis Presley for almost every type of record sales accomplishment there is, he returned to his Oklahoma birthplace and shunned the spotlight for years before agreeing to perform at Steve Wynn’s Encore Las Vegas hotel and casino in solo weekend shows. His retirement continues, though, as he remains at home during the week while his children are in school. His fans’ anticipation is building as the youngest daughter’s high school graduation gets closer.
All through the 1990s, Garth Brooks’ name and face were on the covers of the national magazines as often as Lady Gaga is today. He was the first country music artist to perform in football stadiums, to “fly” over the audience, and to use stagecraft more reminiscent of KISS than the Carter Family. He was the first artist of any genre to sell a million records on the first week of release. In an era when many country artists sang songs written by others (the 80’s superstar George Strait, for instance), Garth Brooks was one of the 90’s upstarts who upset the Nashville songwriters’ network by bringing his own songs with him. He was the first country artist to have a concert in Central Park in New York … a town with no country music radio station… and drew, by some accounts, over 500,000 people. So big, in fact, it was the last concert in Central Park the city has ever allowed.
While Hank Williams got his degree in the school of hard knocks, Garth Brooks went to Oklahoma State University and got a degree in Advertising and Marketing before he launched his musical career. There is no doubt he put his lessons to good use as he marketed himself as the product during his years as the hottest thing in country music. But apparently he wanted to make sure he was staying up with the industry even in his retirement. Last year, word leaked–in a big way–that Garth Brooks had been working on an MBA at Oklahoma State University, when he walked across the stage at the graduation ceremonies to pick up his newly earned diploma.
Fans hope the new knowledge will be put to use to again market the product Garth Brooks knows best and they hope that that product will re-launch soon. The Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony in October and the all-too-brief mention on the Country Music Association awards on television may be the reminder of the spotlight that Garth Brooks needs to launch Garth Brooks 2.0 in 2013.
– Submitted by Janice Williams, Music Design