The 9pm show last night was the final of nine shows that Garth Brooks put on in Nashville to benefit flood relief. Around 160,000 tickets were sold and five million raised. Add to that the economic impact of Garth’s shows which is estimated to between 10 and 15 million dollars. That would be, according to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, the largest December ever in the history of Nashville. Thanks to the power of Garth, Nashville has had a huge economic boost and an entertainment event that none may rival. Quintessential Garth.
I’m glad I purchased tickets and had the opportunity to see the master at work. His ability to engage a crowd ranks up with the greatest entertainers of all time. I’ve seen countless numbers of his shows and each one of them is like he is giving his last.
I was in Nashville attending Belmont College when his first single “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old” was released in 1989. The first time I saw him play was at the Bluebird Cafe where they were having an “Oklahoma Writers Night” with fellow Okies Vince Gill, Mel McDaniel and Becky Hobbs. It is also where I first met him and had the chance to talk about Oklahoma and our Nashville adventures. I was an immediate fan of him and his music. I still think “Much Too Young” is one of his best songs.
Not long after that I attended a TNN taping where Garth performed cuts from his debut album. It was then “If Tomorrow Never Comes” was just taking off and the rocket ride for him was beginning. I again visited with him and wished him well as a fellow Okie.
My financial woes and tumultuous Belmont College tenure had led me back to Oklahoma as I tried to figure out exactly how to make my dreams happen without imploding. I was fortunate to get a shot with the #1 radio station in Tulsa, K95-FM. Starting out as a part-time weekend jock I moved up to other positions in my three years there and was involved in so many great shows and events. One of them was a concert benefiting Oklahoma farmers in 1991 called Farm Fest held in Oklahoma City. I enlisted the help of my brother Chris and we loaded up a K95 John Deere tractor to get signed and hauled it to OKC for the show that featured several Oklahoma artists including Vince Gill, Joe Diffie and Restless Heart.
During the event we hung out backstage, drove the tractor around and had the opportunity to speak with Garth. He remembered me from both previous encounters and was genuinely interested in what was going on in my life. At least he was great at making it look that way. I came away more impressed and a bigger fan than ever. Garth has that way with people, which is another important part of how he successfully engages with his fans. (For an example watch this video from Fan Fair 1996 when he was still at the pinnacle of his career and signed autographs for 23 consecutive hours.)
During my radio career in Tulsa I attended two more shows and then again after moving to Nashville at one of the three Texas Stadium shows in 1994. The event sold out in 92 minutes, with over 65,000 tickets and breaking the previous sales record held by Paul McCartney. Two more dates were added and an NBC special created. It was quite a phenomenon.
Little did I know that moving to Nashville I would be working the better part of seven years at MCA Nashville with his future wife Trisha Yearwood and then also on the Garth Brooks Tour with Trisha. Again, he was nothing but gracious to each and every fan I ever saw him come in contact with and every person walking out of the shows would feel like Garth waved or looked at them.
What I witnessed last night was a culmination of all of those years, shows, events, songs, and entertainment. I was brought back to all of the previously mentioned shows and I could not help but smile at it all. I was a fan again. Garth is still the master of working a crowd of nearly 20,000 into a frenzy and making it feel like an intimate performance. He knows that the fans are what it is all about and he gives them what they want and more…..but still leaves them wanting more. It’s not a complicated system really, but he is so excellent at execution and timing that he appears a marketing genius.
Whatever you think of him, you have to agree what he gave to our community in December of 2010 was astounding. So, thank you Garth (and Trisha) for your time and execution of nine amazing shows that brought in the masses from all over the country to help Nashville and middle Tennessee get back on it feet. And for reminding us at how excellent you are at what you do.