This year is proving to be a memorable one for Brooks & Dunn. The legendary duo will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame® in October, and Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn recently topped the charts again when Reboot, featuring B&D dueting on their iconic hits with Luke Combs, Kane Brown, Kacey Musgraves others, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in April. The good times continued Thursday night (Aug. 8) as they celebrated the opening of Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon, an exhibit spotlighting the duo’s accomplished career.
Following an introduction by Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Brooks & Dunn stepped up to the podium in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s rotunda to thank those in attendance and share their thoughts on the honor.
Brooks spoke of how they were initially reluctant to form a duo when Arista Records executive Tim DuBois first introduced them and suggested they work together. “We’d both been around the block for a long time but we were also pretty broke, and when somebody throws any kind of opportunity in front of you in the music business, you generally take it and try to make the best of it, ” he said. “That same week we met, we wrote our first two No. 1 records.”
When Dunn stepped up to the microphone, he looked happy to see so many longtime friends and supporters. “I look around the room and I see faces,” Dunn said, stopping to note that one member of the crowd “might have carried me comatose over the Canadian border a couple times. Some of y’all scare me to death because you know way too much. At the same time, so far you haven’t ratted us out.”
Dunn acknowledged that many people played a part in their success over the years, saying there had been “such a big machine. . .of support, of people that put us here.” He singled out clothing designer Manuel and said, “I stumbled into your place. We had to have some Manuel clothes and we got ‘em, thanks to you. We didn’t have a dime and you were cool about it. It’s hard to stand up here and take a whole lot of credit.”
The duo’s illustrious career is well chronicled in Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon, which will be on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum through July 19, 2020. The exhibit shares memorabilia from their early solo careers as well as spotlighting their achievements as Brooks & Dunn, including an impressive display of dozens of awards presented to the duo including Grammys, CMA and ACM awards. There are handwritten drafts of such Brooks & Dunn hits as “Red Dirt Road” and “Only in America.” There are several favorite instruments on display, including the Neon Circus & Wild West Show-themed Les Paul electric guitar, built for Brooks by the Gibson Custom Shop’s Master Luthier Bruce Kunkel as well as the “Neon Moon”-themed archtop electric guitar with custom blue finish and crescent moon inlay, presented to Dunn by the Gibson Custom Shop.
The exhibit also includes an adorable pair of red cowboy boots, worn by Dunn when he was around five years old as well as some of their most iconic stage outfits. It also features racing suits with steer’s head logos worn by Brooks and Dunn when they drove 5/8th-scale Legends race cars back in the 1990s.
There’s a letter from Arista Records president Clive Davis from 1993 congratulating them on their accomplishments and saying, “Since I don’t get jaded at this point, neither of you had better. Enjoy!” Fans viewing the exhibit will also see the sculptured steer head used in the music video for “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)” and the camouflage jacket Brooks wore when performing on a 2010 USO Holiday tour. The exhibit includes Dunn’s award from his induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and a there’s also a copy of the February/March 2019 issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine, which features a photograph taken by Dunn.
“It’s really mind-boggling to see that in one place,” Brooks said after viewing the exhibit. “It’s all a byproduct of this amazing experience that we got to have.”