Garth Brooks Surprises Bluebird Café Crowd

Returns to Ground Zero for Nashville Recording Career

It only has 20 tables, 10 bar seats, and eight short church pews and it was ground zero for Garth Brooks’ recording career in Nashville — the Bluebird Café.

It was nearly 30 years ago on May 11, 1988, when Lynn Shults, an executive from Capitol Records at the time, extended a then 26-year-old Brooks a “handshake” agreement welcoming him to the company after his showcase at the famed listening room.

Brooks then officially signed with Capitol on June 17, 1988. His first single, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” was released on March 25 of the following year.

On Monday night (Oct. 3), Brooks returned to a packed Bluebird to sit-in with four songwriters behind some of his biggest hits — Pat Alger (“The Thunder Rolls”), Tony Arata (“The Dance”), Kent Blazy (“If Tomorrow Never Comes”) and Victoria Shaw (“The River”). The night was originally billed as a benefit show supporting the Recording Academy’s nonprofit MusiCares program.

“It’s all about the songwriters,” Brooks said in a Facebook Live chat before Monday’s surprise Bluebird set. “It’s all about the songs. That’s what absolutely just makes me love this town.”

Earlier that morning at the Tennessee State Capitol, Gov. Bill Haslam issued a proclamation naming Brooks a Tennessee ambassador of goodwill, honoring his seventh diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.

Last month, the RIAA confirmed that Brooks’ 2007 album The Ultimate Hits has sold 10 million copies, the threshold for a diamond award. He previously received diamond certifications for Garth Brooks, No Fences, Ropin’ the Wind, The Hits, Double Live and Sevens.

A free celebration event with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is set for Oct. 24 at the Ascend Amphiteater. Tickets will be available using codes on the TDTD’s new Snapchat account @Tennessee.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.