What Garth Brooks’ Book Taught Me

The Things I Never Knew I Never Knew

Garth Brooks’ new book The Anthology: Part 1 starts 32 years ago.

His first chapter is titled “Late Summer, 1985,” and it begins with Brooks’ pre-Nashville days. His band at the time — a cover band that played all over Oklahoma — was called Santa Fe. But a couple years later, he packed up his Oklahoma life and moved to Nashville, and got a job at boot store in a mall north of the city.

And that’s just what happens on the first page.

This book, which is the first in a five-part series, is one I couldn’t put down. It looks more like a lovely coffee table book. And yet, the day it came, I stayed up for hours learning about what life was like for Brooks before I even knew he existed. (That would not happen until about 1990 when I first heard “Friends in Low Places, ” and I never listened to another genre again.)

There are about 230 pages in the book, and so many are filled with pictures of Brooks at the start of his career, and of the places he played, the song lyrics he scribbled down, and the fans he met. But on the pages he filled with words about the songs he found or the ones he wrote, that’s when I learned the things I never knew I never knew.

Like how Brooks discovered “The Cowboy Song” on a cassette tape in his manager Bob Doyle’s office during their first meeting, and then spent five years trying to track down the writer so he could cut the song.

Or how collaborator Kim Williams worried that Brooks would never be able to sing “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” because he wouldn’t be able to breathe between the machine-gun rhythm of the lyrics.

Or the way he asked his co-writer Jenny Yates on “Standing Outside the Fire” to read him all the different dictionary definitions for “abide,” which shows up in the bridge of the song.

Or how he had to rewrite “That Summer” because his producer Allen Reynolds didn’t like it at first — “He hated it,” Brooks recalls — and now it’s one of the songs that gets the biggest response from his fans.

Or how an episode of Oprah about what turns husbands on inspired Brooks to write the sexy opening lyric of “Somewhere Other Than the Night.”

Or how Brooks met Victoria Shaw at the annual Country Radio Seminar, they wrote “The River” shortly after that, and that even though he didn’t have a record deal at the time, he could already see people holding up their lighters and singing along.

The list goes on an on like that.

For as thoroughly as I thought I’d studied Brooks’ career, this book taught me that he still has so many untold stories yet to tell. And that this is the best $30 a Brooks’ fan will ever spend.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.