Filling the vacuum caused by dissolution of the Judds in 1991, Brooks and Dunn became the most popular country music duo of the 1990s. Although solidly within the New Traditionist movement, their eclectic style—incorporating elements of folk, blues, Cajoun, jazz, and pop—is a product of differing musical backgrounds.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Kix Brooks, first became interested in a music career as a result of his friendship with the daughter of legendary country-pop singer, Johnny Horton. In addition to performing in clubs and other venues throughout high school, he spent considerable time developing his songwriting skills. After school, he worked in a variety of jobs (e.g., the Alaskan pipeline, performing at Maine ski resorts) prior to taking a staff songwriting position with Don Gant’s Tree Publishing in Nashville. During the 1980s, artists such as John Conlee, Highway 101, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made the charts with his compositions. When time permitted, he attempted to launch a recording career. A single, "Baby, When Your Heart Breaks Down" (Avion 103; 1983) reached number seventy-three on the country charts. His debut LP, Kix Brooks (1989), failed to make much headway, due in part to lack of promotional support.
Born in Coleman, Texas, Ronnie Dunn was inspired to play music by his father, who played guitar in a traditional country string band. Learning bass, he played in honky-tonk bars while still in high school. After his family moved to Tulsa, he headed the Duke’s County house band. Securing a recording contract with Churchill, he placed a couple of song—"It’s Written All Over Your Face" (Churchill 94018; 1983) and "She Put the Sad in All His Songs" (Churchill 52383; 1984)—on the lower rungs of the country charts.
After deciding to move to Nashville, Dunn joined Tree Publishing, meeting Brooks in the process. They were soon writing and performing as a unit. Already familiar with Dunn’s demo tapes, Arista’s CEO Tim DuBois signed the duo to a contract. Their initial release, "Brand New Man" (Arista; 1990) rose to the top of the country charts. An album, Brand New Man (Arista 18658; 1991) followed; it went triple platinum by 1993, reaching the Top Ten on the pop charts, with the help of three more number one singles, "My Next Broken Heart" (Arista; 1991) and the double-sided hit, "Neon Moon"/"Boot Scootin’ Boogie" (Arista; 1992). Due to their rock-inflected hard country approach, Brooks and Dunn’s albums—Hard Workin’ Man (Arista; 1993), Waitin’ on Sundown (Arista; 1994), Borderline (Arista; 1996), If You See Her (Arista; 1998), Tight Rope (Arista; 1999), and Steers and Stripes (Arista; 2001)—have continued to sell well in the pop marketplace.
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