Makin’ Stuff Up: The Gold Rush

Garth-Brooks With the decade of big hair, padded shoulders and L.A. metal disappearing mercifully in our rearview mirrors – I’m referring to the 1980s here, kids – the extraordinary multi-platinum success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam kicked off a feeding frenzy for Seattle grunge. Major label Yosemite Sams raided the Emerald City, staking claim to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, then spelunking behind every garage door, clamoring to sign any barely breathing combo of Gen X-ers who could play a couple-a chords or warble nonsense in a three-note range. Saturday Night Live did a hilarious sketch about this irrational talent grab, in which a Hollywood A&R scout endeavored to negotiate a multi-album recording contract with the only un-signed Seattle-ite left – a beragged street person. Unbeknownst to the SNL writing staff, a similar phenomenon was taking place in Music City. But, in place of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, it was Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus filling Nashville’s coffers with unprecedented lucre. Pre-Garth, country records seldom exceeded Gold status. Thanks to the manic man from Oklahoma, platinum – often, many times over – was becoming a reasonable expectation for Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Brooks and Dunn, Joe Diffie, Patty Loveless, etc. Then a cat named McGraw showed up. Whoa, Nelly! Most of these acts were crankin’ out an album every year. And, as they all needed material, pretty much any dude or dudette with a six-string, a Mel Bay chord book, and/or a rhyming dictionary was a candidate for a staff writing deal. Major corporate publishers like Sony-Tree, EMI, and Warner-Chappell all maintained rosters of more than a hundred writers. In the mid-90s, it wasn’t unusual for even indie-boutique publishers or... Sign In to Keep Reading

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