This article appears in our upcoming May/June “country” issue. Subscribe here. At the turn of the ’90s, Music Row had no idea what awesome changes were just around the corner. Having only just suffered the tragic, untimely silencing of the voice of the times, Keith Whitley, the industry was eager for a new standard bearer. Waiting in the wings was a drop-dead handsome, throaty-voiced Texan, with a smile that could charm a rattlesnake – named Clint Black. Country has a long lineage of singer-songwriters. Jimmie Rogers, Hank Williams, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, to name a few. Each of these icons seized the public’s attention – as all great recording artists do – by penning and performing finely crafted songs that exhibit bold, individual points of view. These writer-performers share another quality, too: the wisdom and humility to identify a great outside song and record it. Kicking off 1990 with a three-week number-one, young Master Black lost no time proving that he was a cat of a different stripe. He showed no interest whatsoever in listening to publishers’ pitches and – perhaps of even greater offense – he insisted on exporting his recording budgets back home to the Lonestar State. Despite this overt snubbing of Music City, the Texan’s star rose. But it would only go so high for so long. There was another cowboy hat in the ring, worn by a guy from Oklahoma, with a college degree in – of all things! – marketing. Under that brim, Garth Brooks was concocting some pretty crazy ideas: about performing country-music concerts in arenas – on a KISS-scale! Like Black, Brooks wielded some genuine acumen... Sign In to Keep Reading
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