They are regarded to be the biggest-selling duo in country music history, giving them the title as the “Most Successful Duo in Country Music“. In addition, they have dominated the country charts in the 1990s and were the undisputed kings of the decade’s line-dance craze. If it were a romantic relationship, they are likened to a couple seemed to be in formidable and least expected to split. Already know who we are talking about? I guess, with all the hints presented, who would not exactly identify these artists? Yes, it certainly is. It’s the iconic American country music duo, Brooks & Dunn.
Brooks & Dunn: Country Music’s Most Successful Duo
The duo found their humble beginnings when Texan native Ronnie Dunn decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee, in pursuit of a greater and better career in country music. This event led him to meet the best partner he would ever meet in his life, Kix Brooks, a Louisianan native. After good talks and interesting deals, the two then created the would-be iconic and best-selling duo in the ’90s and named it after their surnames. Little did they know that the group they have just formed would then boom into the biggest-selling duo having sold more records than any other duos beating the records of The Judds and Simon & Garfunkel.
Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks were somewhat opposite in nature but were definitely one in their music. Dunn possesses more quietly intense vocals with a heart of a soulful singer. On the other hand, Brooks is an energetic showman and holds a great deal of skill every time he plays the instruments. Neither has pursued success as a solo artist, but the mix and combination of these two talents produced a rare and winning formula that could rock any song thrown into them.
Let’s first break the duo into parts and know more about each one of them.
Born on May 12, 1955, Leon Eric Brooks III or more popularly known by his stage name Kix Brook grew up in the city of Shreveport, Louisiana. He is an American country music artist, actor, and film producer, but is best known as the other half of Brooks & Dunn. Prior to joining the duo, he was an active songwriter writing some songs that have charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. In the 1980s, he found himself moving to Nashville in order to further and better his career in country music. It is there and during that time that he met his career-partner Ronnie Dunn who has the same motive as Brooks.
Born on June 1, 1953, Ronnie Gene Dunn or simply Ronnie Dunn is the son of a country music enthusiast. Hence, he can easily say that he is a natural and an inborn musician and performer. Dunn grew up in the small town of Coleman, Texas before eventually moving to the bigger city of Tulsa in Oklahoma where he spent most of his childhood. During his teenage years, Dunn started his music career joining his father and his band. While studying in college, he was expelled from school for performing in “honky tonks“. Nevertheless, he went on to draw attention with his performances in Tulsa nightclubs. Later in the 1980s, he appeared in the Marlboro National Country Music talent contest leading him a chance to go to Nashville, Tennessee. This is the time when he met Kix Brooks of whom he collaborated with and formed their duo.
The Duo’s Music Career: A Success
The 1990s was definitely the era when Brooks & Dunn have dominated and reigned in country music. With the record-breaking hits and over a million sales, they have proven that they are more than just a duo.
The year 1991 witnessed the budding career of the collaboration of the duo. During that year, Brooks & Dunn released their very first album, Brand New Man, containing their debut singles, which were all original. It went all the way, chart after chart in Billboard. While most of the songs penetrated the music charts, three of which were chart-toppers. The title track, “My Next Broken Heart”, Neon Moon”, and “Scootin’ Boogie” placed no. 1 and quickly spread into popularity across the country. Eventually, Brand New Man sold over 5 million copies and made the duo instant superstars.
After the immediate success of their debut album, Brooks & Dunn issued more albums, and sure as it is, success then followed. Hard Workin’ Man was their second album, which was released in 1993. Furthermore, the album added more success to the duo producing five Top Five Country Hits, which included the number ones “She Used to Be Mine” and “That Ain’t No Way to Go”, and the number twos “We’ll Burn That Bridge” and “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)”. Overall, Hard Workin’ Man profited over 4 million copies worldwide. Following the massive success of the first two albums, Brooks & Dunn completed their 1994 album, Waitin’ on Sundown.
With this, the duo gained more accolades as five more singles entered the Top Ten hits. These hits include “She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind”, “Little Miss Honky Tonk”, “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”, “I’ll Never Forgive My Heart”, and “Whiskey Under the Bridge”. To note, Waitin’ on Sundown was certified double platinum by the RIAA, which earned Brooks & Dunn’s blockbuster status.
As the years pass by, there was no strong entity that could stop the force and standard set by the duo. In 1996, they again released another double-platinum success with their album Borderline. This album produced two more no. 1 songs, “My Maria” (a cover of the B.W. Stevenson pop hit from 1972) and “A Man This Lonely”. In addition, it also produced a no. 2 hit, “I Am That Man”. The following year, Brooks & Dunn issued The Greatest Hits Compilation. Under it, two songs reached the Top Five, namely, “Honky Tonk Truth” and “He’s Got You”.
Moreover, in 1998-1999, they tried to continue their success streak and released two more albums, If You See Her, and Tight Rope, respectively. Again, both albums produced chart-toppers; however, it did not exceed what the previous albums have achieved.
Along with the best-selling albums are the songs that made them worth buying for and listening to. For almost two decades of working together, Brooks & Dunn have released chart-topping and award-winning songs. Thus, here are the 10 best songs (according to Billboard) of the duo and see for yourself if your choice made it to the list.
“She’s Not The Cheatin’ Kind”
“Red Dirt Road”
“Lost and Found”
“She Used To Be Mine”
“You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”
“Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
The Duo’s Split, The Event That Shocked Many Fans
The ride of the duo was not always happy and the weather was not always fair. Just like the mother-daughter duo, The Judds (who split in 1991), and many other groups, Brooks and Dunn have already seen that there will be a time when parting is a sweet sorrow. And yes it was, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn eventually announced their breakup after a series of tours in 2010. The announcement broke many hearts of other artists and friends but especially the die-hard fans.
“After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it’s time call it a day. This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed … We owe it all to you, the fans. If you hear rumors, don’t believe them, it’s just time.” (Brook & Dunn, 2010)
But why the breakup?
Many accounts broke out and rumors spread like conflagration regarding the real score behind the split. While several say that it’s just a normal move for every band/group/duo to do such act, many others still opted to question their decision.
After a 20-long year of partnership, why did they decide to part ways?
Only the duo themselves can answer this kind of questions. In an interview in Nashville during a taping of CMT’s Invitation Only special, Brooks expressed his side with regard to his and Dunn’s decision to split.
“It’s too good a horse to ride it into the ground. We’re still good friends. I’m proud to say we’ve never had a fight, never even yelled at each other. And that’s the truth.”
Dunn, on the other hand, answered some questions from the audience thrown at them at the taping of the show. When asked about his bond with partner Brooks, he said:
“We started as co-workers and realized we had whole lot in common. We’ve ended up more like brothers.”
Moreover, they have also clarified that there is no animosity or bad blood between them and explained that their time together has just simply run its course.
Brooks then further stated:
“It’s a good thing. It’s just time.”
Whilst the duo has already expressed their side, the split was still in lukewarm waters and a center of speculation and controversy. Many still believed that they were not really on good terms.
And yes it’s true, despite their claims that there was no bad blood between them, Brooks and Dunn later admitted that they have encountered problems on compromising. In addition, the tension between them soon became strong that they recorded their songs in different studios with different producers in the late 1990s.
Dunn told USA Today in 2009:
“Looking back, we should have just taken a break and let all the dust settle under us.”
Meanwhile, Brooks immediately admitted and said:
“There have always been hurt feelings. There have always been opinions.”
The decision of breaking up finally came over because of the disagreements on song choices. Brooks further said:
“We both knew this was probably it. He called back the next day and said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ And I was in agreement. I really was. I was willing that day to try and work it out, but when he said, ‘This is it, I really think it is,’ I said, ‘I think it is, too’ … and still am totally at peace with it. It’s a good time for us to stop.”
Eventually, the duo parted ways and went on to pursue solo careers; however, none of any of their solo released singles has toppled the records set when they were still a duo.
Brooks & Dunn: The Reunion and the Comeback
Just as when fans started accepting the fact that Brooks and Dunn are no longer together, news crashed the internet with the announcement of the reunion of the duo in Las Vegas together with long-time friend and country music diva Reba McEntire.
What prompted their reunion?
When asked about it, Brooks joked:
“We’ve been going to dinners and going on vacations together, which is pretty amazing considering Ronnie and I hate each other and don’t get along. We love hanging out and playing music. We thought, let’s do it somewhere besides the campfire.”
Working together again and starting a new beginning is still not easy for the two, even though they’ve been working for almost two decades. However, both Ronnie and Kix are so happy to be together once more as they are joined by Reba McEntire.
Brooks further said about Reba:
“We needed a good referee. [Reba] makes us both behave. It really is a great way for Ronnie and I to get back together. I think it’s been a great break for both of us.”
“Certainly Ronnie and I always considered ourselves brothers more than friends. We’ve never been afraid to express our differences of opinions to each other. We just hadn’t swept a lot of stuff under the rug.”
Dunn responded to this and said:
“There’s never been hate or discord. We’ve never not been friends.”
As for Reba, she has something to say,
“This is the classiest way for us to come in and put a show together. You can do things here that you can’t do other places. It’s going to be a challenge for us. It’s going to be the classiest, most entertaining emotional roller coaster we can put together.”
One of the Most Loved Reunions: A Commentary
The news about Brooks and Dunn reuniting is certainly one of the best announcements in country music. Music has never been the same without their songs entering the charts and heard on the radios. We’re glad to say that they decided to see this option and opportunity — to reunite and do some good music together. Well, a big thanks to Reba whose influence to the duo has made so much impact. It is very evident that both Brooks and Dunn respect this wonderful woman. Efforts of reuniting them were tough, and convincing them to cross paths again seemed almost impossible, but not for the power and charm of Reba.
Both Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire are indeed a force to reckon with, but if they were to make a trio, their force would grow even more. Whatever happened to the duo, let it just stay in the past, and let us be grateful that they have finally reunited to bring more goodness and realness in country music. Yee~haw!
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Brooks & Dunn, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn