The Garth Brooks Hit That Almost Wasn’t

When His Side Hustle Was Singing Demos

Garth Brooks has got friends in low places, alright. Starting with George Strait and Mark Chestnutt.

The first single off Garth Brooks’ second album No Fences came with its own kind of backstory, and on the next CMT Hot 20 Countdown, Brooks explains how things went down back in 1990. When Brooks’ was writing his book The Anthology, he tells Hot 20, he just tried to tell the good and the bad and stay honest about it. All the way back to the beginning.

“We were so busy out on the road, moving around doing stuff that I had no idea,” Brooks tells CMT about the years that led up to “Friends in Low Places.”

Brooks had recorded the demo for the song that Dewayne Blackwell and Earl “Bud” Lee wrote — back when he was a shoe salesman, and his side hustle was singing demos — so he knew it well. So well that he started playing it during his live shows every night. Strait had said, “No, thanks,” on the tune, so Brooks put it on hold. And he left it there for a year.

But when he was finally ready to record it for his second album, Chestnutt had already cut it for his Too Cold at Home album. The only way Chestnutt would let Brooks cut it too was if he guaranteed that he’d make it his first single. And the rest is pretty much history.

(In his book, Brooks also tells the story about hearing it on the radio at 2 a.m. and thinking about that old Adam and Eve joke when Adam looks at Eve and says, “Stand back, I don’t know how big this thing gets.”)

You can catch CMT Hot 20 catching up with Brooks backstage on the opening night of his string of shows in Nashville, which was the last stop on his world tour that kicked off in Chicago on Sept. 4, 2014. The Brooks interview airs at 9 a.m. ET Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 6-7).

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