Garth Brooks

Country music's reigning sales king, Garth Brooks, recently released the

smash hit album, Double Live. When the two-CD set came out near

the end of 1998, it moved 500,000 copies in one day and eventually

surpassed the all-time one-week sales record set by Pearl Jam's 1993


But Brooks' record-breaking one-week total of 1,085,373 was challenged

by industry insiders who attributed it to a change in the way major

distributor the Handleman Company reports its sales. Handleman supplies

a great deal of stock to Wal-Mart, which heavily promoted Double


That controversy notwithstanding, Troyal Garth Brooks, born 37 years ago

today in Tulsa, Okla., is a commercial phenomenon in the music business.

Brooks' mother, Colleen, was an unsuccessful, professional country

singer who performed at family gatherings, often with a very young Garth

at her side. At first, Garth concentrated on sports at school, and

received a partial scholarship to Oklahoma State University as a javelin


But Brooks soon began singing at local clubs and dropped sports to try a

career as a country singer. In 1985, he moved to Nashville, Tenn., but

soon gave up and moved back to Oklahoma. He got married and brought his

wife back to the unofficial country music "capital," two years later, to

try again. In 1988, Capitol Records finally signed Brooks and issued his

1989 eponymous debut. The LP was an immediate hit and crossed over to

the pop charts.

Brooks' second LP, No Fences, brought him superstar status and

helped him eclipse other young male country singers such as Travis Tritt

and Clint Black. The LP yielded such hits as "Friends in Low Places" and

"Unanswered Prayers." No Fences eventually sold more than 10

million units and propelled Brooks into a stadium-level live act.

He soon was able to sell out huge concert venues almost immediately, and

quickly became famous for using a cordless, headset microphone that

enabled him to run around the stage like the '70s-era Elton John. Also

like '70s mega-stars, Brooks used complex light shows and pyrotechnics

during his concerts.

Though Brooks' live spectacle brought him fans, many country purists

thought his shows and personality were too over-the-top to be

genuine-Nashville music. Despite the scorn of many of his country peers, Brooks'

1991 Ropin' the Wind became the first country effort to debut at

#1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Brooks experimented with gospel on The Chase, but returned to his

usual country pop on 1993's In Pieces. Two years later came

Fresh Horses. Though all of these releases sold extremely well by

music industry standards, Brooks began to tell media interviewers he was

intent on out-selling everyone, inspiring more rancor among fellow


In the ensuing years, Brooks trumpeted his high-profile appearances,

including a concert in New York City's Central Park. In 1997, he issued

the highly successful Sevens, featuring


music/Brooks,_Garth/Longneck_Bottle.ram">"Longneck Bottle"

(RealAudio excerpt). Last year, he covered Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel

My Love" and issued The Limited Series, comprising his first six


Other birthdays: Jimmy Greenspoon (Three Dog Night), 51; Alan Lancaster

(ex-Status Quo), 50; Brian Travers (UB40), 40; and David Bryan (BonJovi),