Happy 67th birthday to Kix Brooks! The singer was born on this day (May 12) in 1955, in Shreveport, La.
Born into a musical family, Brooks grew up living close to country star Johnny Horton. The future country star played gigs around town with Horton’s daughter, performing at clubs and writing songs, before relocating as a teenager to Tennessee, to attend the Sewanee Military Academy.
“I wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t good,” Brooks tells GAC. “The discipline was good for me. It gave me structure and problem-solving skills, which are really helpful for creative people.”
Fortuitously, Brooks’ roommate at Sewanee was future publishing executive Jody Williams. He birthed in Brooks a love of the Opry and a deeper understanding of country music.
“I was a fan of bluegrass, rock and outlaw country, people like Willie [Nelson], [Johnny] Cash and Roger Miller,” Brooks explains. “I loved the Allman Brothers, Leon Russell, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker.”
Brooks enrolled at Louisiana Tech after high school, before getting a job with his father, working on the pipeline in Alaska; he later worked in TV production with his sister in Maine. But with his heart still in music, Brooks decided to return to Louisiana to make a living as a performer, stopping in Music City to visit his former roommate, Williams.
“We stayed up all night talking and playing music, and Jody tried to talk me into staying,” Brooks recalls. “He said I could make a living writing songs. I said, ‘A, you’re nuts, and B, I’m going to New Orleans to play music.’”
But the lure of Nashville was too strong for Brooks: He ultimately returned to Middle Tennessee, living with Williams and working in concert production while taking meetings all over town.
“Everybody was really nice for about half a song, and then I wrote some more songs and called them back, and everyone was always out to lunch,” Brooks says. “So I started breaking songs down and figuring out what these guys were doing, which doesn’t mean you can do it, but at least I did my homework and really started working harder at trying to figure out how to do it. I realized it was one thing to make people smile in bars and another thing to make a living as a songwriter in Nashville.”
LOOK: Brooks & Dunn Through the Years
Brooks’ talent eventually garnered him some attention, and he soon earned a staff writing deal with Tree Publishing; he co-wrote ”Modern Day Romance,” which became a No. 1 hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. But when Tim DuBois, head of the Arista record label, suggested that Brooks write with a recent talent contest winner, Ronnie Dunn, magic happened. Impressed with the way they sounded together on a demo of a song they had written, DuBois suggested they form a duo, and Brooks & Dunn was born.
Brooks & Dunn’s freshman album, Brand New Man, was released in 1991. Four of the five singles, including the title track and “Neon Moon,” shot straight to the top of the charts. Together, the two men released 10 studio records, sold more than 30 million albums and earned a total of 23 No. 1 hits; they won more than four dozen awards, including 19 CMA Awards, 28 ACM Awards and two Grammys.
In spite of Brooks & Dunn’s success, Brooks wasn’t focusing on just his musical career: He has also appeared in several films, including A Country Christmas, Ambush at Dark Canyon and Born Wild. In addition, he found success as a winemaker, co-opening the popular Arrington Vineyards, just outside of Nashville, Tenn.
Still, after two decades together, both Brooks and Dunn felt like it was time to pursue other options. They announced in 2009 that their 2010 Last Rodeo Tour would be their last.
“We’re both pretty much at peace with it,” Brooks says of the split. “We both need to move on right now. We’ve really chased everything that we know how to chase musically as far as our stage shows. Neither one of us wanted to do this in the first place. We got put together, and we said, ‘What the heck? We’ll give it a shot!’ And the next thing you know, it’s 20 years later.”
Brooks released a solo album, New to This Town, in 2012, but the lure of the duo remained strong. In 2014, the men announced that they were reuniting to perform a series of shows with their good friend, Reba McEntire; Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas began in June of 2015.
In 2019, the pair released a new album, Reboot, and they announced a 2020 tour before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic halted live shows. No further plans for Brooks & Dunn’s future as a duo have been announced, but one thing is certain: Brooks has no plans of staying stagnant.
“That fear I had at one point in my career where you’re scared to death to make the wrong move, I don’t feel that way now,” he says. “But you still really want to do something that is relevant and makes people rock, and look out at a crowd and know you have connected, you’ve hit that nerve. I don’t think you ever get over that.”
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