Garth Brooks made country music history this week when his new single "More Than a Memory," debuted at No. 1 on the R&R Country chart on Wednesday (Sept. 5). It became the first country single to ever do so. The prior highest debut had come the previous week, with Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink" entering the chart at No. 16.
At R&R, Brooks' single tallied 36.3 million radio impressions, more than 3 million more than Rodney Atkins' "These Are My People," which kicked down from No. 1 to No. 2.
Brooks first burst onto the country scene in 1989 with "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)." That was quickly followed by his first No. 1 single, "If Tomorrow Never Comes." He went on to sell, according to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), over 100 million albums and singles.
His sales began to erode in the late 1990s, and he often hinted at retirement. Finally, in October of 2000, Brooks officially announced his retirement, saying he would stay retired until his daughters grew up.
In 2005, he signed an exclusive sales agreement with Wal-Mart, in which the retailer would sell re-issued packages of his previous recordings. Later that year, he performed at several charity functions, at the Grand Ole Opry's 80th birthday show and in Times Square during the CMA Awards show.
In 2007, Brooks announced that his exclusive agreement with Wal-Mart had come to an end, and he unveiled a distribution and promotion deal for his own Pearl Records label with Nashville's Big Machine Records (also the recording home of Brooks' wife, Trisha Yearwood). He said the first project would be a boxed set titled The Ultimate Hits, with four new songs, videos and 30 Brooks hits. The first single release from that set was "More Than a Memory."
Brooks has frequently hinted about embarking on another tour. Chicago radio station US99 recently gave away tickets to a mystery Garth Brooks concert, to be staged on an unannounced date in an unannounced locale (although some sites hint broadly at Kansas City as the location).