Brooks & Dunn Were Reluctant Duo Partners at First
Brooks & Dunn are one of the biggest names in country music duo history — but did you know that bandmates Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn weren't even sure they wanted to partner up at first?
It's true: The superstar act behind hits like "Brand New Man" and "Neon Moon" needed a little push from then-head of Arista Nashville Tim DuBois before they became a duo in 1990. The two men didn't even know each other at the time. They were both around 40 years old, and each had been working on a solo career.
Brooks, a Louisiana native who grew up playing in local joints, moved to Nashville in 1979 and spent the next ten years as a successful songwriter with a lukewarm artist career. He's listed as a writer for on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Modern Day Romance" and John Conlee's "I'm Only in It for the Love" before putting out a solo project on Capitol Records in 1989.
Dunn grew up in Texas, but relocated to Tulsa after attending Abilene Christian College. Once in Oklahoma, he caught the eye of Jim Halsey, an artist manager and agent who signed Dunn as a solo act to independent label Churchill Records in 1983. Five years later, he won the Marlboro Talent Search competition, and rode that momentum all the way to Nashville.
With both members of the soon-to-be star duo now in the same city at the same time, DuBois began to push the idea of Brooks and Dunn getting together. Still, the two artists remained skeptical.
"A record company guy convinced us that we should be a duo," Brooks recounted in an interview with Larry King. "On a Tuesday, over an enchilada, was the day I met him, and we were like, 'We don't wanna do this. We don't know each other. I mean, this is just silly.'"
Though the idea of partnering up might have seemed silly at the time, the next couple of years proved that it was anything but: Their first single, "Brand New Man," hit the country radio airwaves in June 1991 and went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. That song would be the title track of their debut album, a project that produced three more chart-topping singles after "Brand New Man."
The duo's successes kept rolling in from there. They were named the CMA Awards Duo of the Year in '92, and would continue to reign in that category every year until 2006, with the exception of 2000, when the title went to Montgomery Gentry. Between 1991 and 2007, Brooks & Dunn put out 10 studio albums and a Christmas album, sending a total of 20 singles to the No. 1 spot on the country charts.
In 2009, fans were shocked when the duo decided to break up. But according to the bandmates, they were simply burnt out, and they each wanted to pursue dreams they'd individually held before they ever started working together.
"Both of us are going — Ronnie, for sure, [was] like, 'I wanna make a record without having to look over my shoulder,'" Brooks told Larry King. "I was like, 'I totally get it. Go do it, man.'"
The split wouldn't last forever. In 2019, Brooks & Dunn reunited for Reboot, a collection of their greatest hits reimagined as duets with modern-day country superstars. These days, Brooks & Dunn together onstage is a fairly common sight once again. Most recently, they appeared as part of New Year's Eve Live! Nashville's Big Bash.
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