Today is a very special day. On February 7th, 1962 Mr. Garth Brooks was born.
Garth has been a very special friend to my family, and I wanted to take a few minutes to celebrate him on his special day.
(image left to right Dad Kim Williams, Garth Brooks, Uncle Larry Williams.)
I first met Garth back in 1987 or ’88. I remember the day clearly.
My dad Kim Williams was chasing the dream of being a professional songwriter in Nashville, TN, and as a young kid, I had full confidence that he would succeed, not knowing the kind of odds he was up against in this very competitive field.
Dad had been splitting his time between our small town East Tennessee mountain home of Rogersville and the big bustling Nashville Music City.
At first, Dad just visited Nashville every month or two for a weekend, staying at the Shoney’s or the Hall of Fame Inn.
But as the years dragged on, Dad was spending more and more time in Nashville, and by my 5th grade year, he had basically moved to Nashville, and was only coming home every other weekend or even less.
It was during this time that my mom and I began making regular trips to Nashville to visit Dad, and I started to get a glimpse of the life of a struggling songwriter.
Dad’s first Nashville apartment was a roach motel on Music Row across from a church that used to put crazy flyers on everyone’s cars touting that the Pope was an alien and other equally outlandish claims, accompanied by doctored photos “proving” these theories. Every day we’d go out to find a new pamphlet under the windshield wiper on Dad’s Maxima.
Dad’s roommate was our small town rock star, Benny Wilson and his manager friend Phyllis who used to (bless her heart) leave large ladies underwear and other unsightly items strewn around in the living room of the roach motel apartment, or maybe Mom carried them in there having found them in the spare bedroom, I’m not sure.
This was all very amusing, and very different from our quiet rural lives in Rogersville. Nashville might as well have been a different planet, and as a lifelong Daddy’s girl, I found Nashville to be somewhat of a hostile invader at first. After all, it did take my dad away from me…
However, I knew his passion, will power and perseverance would prevail, and never doubted his eventual success.
(image is Garth inducting Dad into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame)
But before all that, back to the day I met Garth.
Dad was having some demo recordings made at County Q studio, and Mom and I came along to see what that was like. Dad was excited, pacing and drinking too much coffee at the studio as he anticipated the demo singer’s arrival.
He told us the singer was a new artist he had been writing with named Garth Brooks. Dad believed in Garth’s talent and star power, and was naturally rooting for his success considering all the time he had spent writing with him.
Frequently in those days, Dad would excitedly tell his friends about this new kid named Garth Brooks he was working with, and we would invariably hear, “Garth?! Garth?! What kind of name is Garth?!” accompanied by laughter and jeering.
Dad would purse his lips together and angrily shoot daggers with his eyes at whomever was making fun of his friend’s name – no stranger himself to people making fun of his name “Kim.”
On this day, Dad was excited to introduce my mom and me to Garth who was due to arrive at the studio any minute to record the vocals on the newly tracked demonstration recordings of their new songs.
I was busily playing Nintendo in the floor when the door swung open and Garth stepped in to the studio lobby. He was wearing a baseball cap, high topped tennis shoes untied, sweats and a long black trench coat – remember this was the ‘80s.
I was the only one in the room at the time, because Dad and Mom and all the session musicians were in the back where the tracking session was happening.
Garth glanced down at the little red haired child sitting in the floor, and introduced himself politely like he would to an adult, not a hint of condescension.
(image of me with Mom and Grandma Williams at Garth's concert)
I appreciated his attitude and began a discussion with him about the game I was playing, and other favorite games. Garth told me he liked darts, and showed me a few tips using the dartboard hanging in the studio lobby.
A few moments later, my parents came out of the studio control room, and Dad excitedly introduced my mom to Garth, and bustled him off into the other room to sing his parts.
Later that night, after the studio session was finished, Garth left and Dad excitedly turned to Mom and said, “Well, what do you think?”
My mom clucked her tongue and dolefully looked up at my dad, “I don’t know Kim,” she said, “He don’t look like no star to me.”
I can still hear my dad’s uproarious laughter every time he reminded Mom about what she said that day.
Years later were sitting in the Dallas Stadium watching Garth fly across the arena to the raucous beat of “Ain’t Goin’ Down ‘Til the Sun Comes Up,” a song Dad and Garth had written together back in those roach motel days, Garth with his trademark striped shirt, cowboy hat and boots singing to thousands of screaming, adoring fans, when Dad leaned over and poked Mom on the arm, “Does he look like a star to you now, Phyllis?!” he shouted as he threw his head back in uncontrollable laughter.
All of us are grateful that Mom’s star predictor was so far off the mark that day, with Garth going on to be The Greatest Selling Solo Artist of All Time.
Garth, your voice, your songs, and your HEART have touched so many of us here on this planet. I am so very grateful to know you perhaps a little better than some, and I can honestly say that I owe what I am today in large part to you and your trailblazing talent.
Your writing with my dad afforded me the opportunity to go to the best schools in the country, to study songwriting under my Hall of Fame inducted Dad, and to learn by your incredible example how to be a decent human being in this crazy place called Nashville Music City.
I love you, man. You are the real deal. Can’t wait to see what barriers you’ll blaze through next.
I’ll be here cheering you on, and I know Dad is sending down his birthday wishes to you today from heaven.
Lots of love and respect on your birthday!
Love & Light,
(image wearing my limited edition Garth Brooks 7 Diamond sales shirt - purple in honor of my dad's favorite color)
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