"If you know which one is Brooks and which one is Dunn ... you might be a redneck."
A long-lasting Country Music
duo composed of Leon Eric "Kix" Brooks and Ronald Gene "Ronnie" Dunn, Brooks and Dunn is arguably the
definitive country music duo. After several years as struggling solo singer-songwriters
, the two were paired at the suggestion of Arista Records executive Tim DuBois. And all was good. Their first album, Brand New Man
, launched four consecutive #1 hits with its first four singles, and went on to sell five million copies. Those first four songs are still considered among the duo's Signature Songs
, most notably "Boot Scootin' Boogie", which sparked a renewed interest in line dancing.
Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the duo was no stranger to country music radio, racking up a total of twenty Number One hits and fifty chart singles overall. They were also a shoo-in for the Country Music Association's Duo of the Year award (winning it from 1992 through 2006), as well as an Entertainer of the Year award in 1996 after the smash "My Maria", which was also the biggest country hit of that year. The duo started to slip into more of a pop sound, maintaining the hits for the time being but losing its critical acclaim. Come 1999, the duo hit its first commercial low point, as the album Tight Rope
produced only one big hit and disappointing sales. Montgomery Gentry — who was only two singles into its career
at that point — got the 1999 Duo award at the Academy of Country Music.
Only two years later, Brooks & Dunn got back on track, launching that year with "Ain't Nothing 'bout You", the biggest hit of the duo's career and
the biggest country single of 2001. The hits kept on coming for the next few years, but following a second Greatest Hits album, they started to fade away again. Hillbilly Deluxe
did account for the duo's last #1 hit in "Play Something Country" and the signature song "Believe", but Cowboy Town
sold poorly (even if it produced three Top 10 hits). Kix also found work as a radio host, succeeding Bob Kingsley on the countdown show American Country Countdown
In 2009, Kix and Ronnie announced that they would be retiring as Brooks & Dunn. This retirement was led off by a comprehensive #1s... and Then Some
compilation, which included two new low-charting singles. Afterward, both members began solo careers on Arista. Dunn released his self-titled album in 2011 and charted in the Top 10 with "Bleed Red", but abruptly left the label in 2012. Kix's New to This Town
followed later in 2012.
- Brand New Man (1991)
- Hard Workin' Man (1993)
- Waitin' on Sundown (1994)
- Borderline (1996)
- The Greatest Hits Collection (1997)
- If You See Her (1998)
- Tight Rope (1999)
- Steers and Stripes (2001)
- It Won't Be Christmas Without You (2002)
- Red Dirt Road (2003)
- The Greatest Hits Collection Volume 2 (2004)
- Hillbilly Deluxe (2005)
- Cowboy Town (2007)
- #1s... and Then Some (2009)
- Book Ends: The first and last song they ever performed together was "Brand New Man".
- Drowning My Sorrows: The central topic of "Neon Moon".
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: Occurs on "Indian Summer." It's a slow, wistful song about a schoolgirl who was impressed by a football player's skillful performance at a hometown game, and ended up sleeping with him, only to have her life ruined when he bragged about it to his friends afterwards. This is, of course, fatal to one's reputation in a small town, and she ended up having to drop out and move across the country to start over. At the end, the singer regretfully admits that he was the Jerk Jock and now, looking back on it, he wonders if things might have been different had he acted differently. Fade out... a perfect place to end. And then it jumps back in with a strong guitar slide and one last exultant rehash of the chorus, about how cool the whole experience was.
- Follow the Leader: Once Brooks & Dunn got hot, the market was suddenly flooded with singer-songwriter duos who were paired willy-nilly by record execs. None of them went anywhere.
- Foregone Conclusion: For all of the 1990s, Brooks & Dunn was untouchable in the Duo category; if any country music award had "Duo" in the name, it invariably went to them (except in 2000 when Montgomery Gentry got Duo of the Year instead). Even the few duos that weren't manufactured by record execs (see above) never seemed to catch on — literally no other duo had so much as a Top 5 hit for most of Brooks & Dunn's tenure, so absolutely no one was a threat until Sugarland lost its third member in 2005 and suddenly caught momentum.
- Gratuitous Spanish: Present in "My Heart Is Lost to You".
- Greatest Hits Album: The duo's final compilation album was titled #1s... and Then Some, with the "then some" being popular non-#1 hits and two new songs.
- New Sound Album: Steers & Stripes and Red Dirt Road were both critically acclaimed for their more muscular, energetic production. Over time, though, the sound started to slip back to the slick, commercial sound of the duo's mid-nineties albums.
- Nice Hat: Kix frequently wears a cowboy hat.
- Not So Different: The subject matter of Ronnie's first post-Brooks & Dunn single, "Bleed Red".
- One-Book Author: "I'll Never Forgive My Heart" is the only writing credit for Ronnie Dunn's wife, Janine.
- Record Producer: The failure of Tight Rope could be attributed to Don Cook's production getting a little tired (Byron Gallimore, with whom the duo had never worked before, did some production as well). Starting with their critically-acclaimed comeback Steers & Stripes in 2001, they began working with Mark Wright, so maybe such a change was in order. They switched again to Tony Brown, best known for his work with George Strait, on their last two albums.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: At least in live settings. Kix was the more active and energetic of the two, while Ronnie was more straightforward and less showy.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Out of 50 singles, Kix got lead on six: "Lost and Found", "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)", "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone", "Mama Don't Get Dressed Up for Nothing", "Why Would I Say Goodbye" and "South of Santa Fe". The last of these peaked at #41 and was supposedly pulled because program directors didn't want another Kix song.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Present in the re-recorded version of "Cowgirls Don't Cry" that features a guest vocal from Reba McEntire. The song comes to a dead stop for a few seconds and jumps up a fifth for the end; even worse, the music just sounds like it was artificially pitched up on this version. Neither the key change nor the dead stop are present on the original, Brooks & Dunn-only version.