Things You May Not Know About Brooks & Dunn

How much do you know about this iconic duo?

Things You May Not Know About Brooks & Dunn
Brooks & Dunn; Photo courtesy of The Greenroom PR

It’s hard to think about country music without thinking about Brooks & Dunn. Hailed as the best-selling country duo of all time, Brooks & Dunn have been releasing hit songs and entertaining audiences since the early ‘90s. The duo brought their success into the 2000s, and although they went their separate ways in 2010, they came back together in 2015 for a Las Vegas residency with Reba McEntire. In 2019, the duo released Reboot, a duet album of their hits sung with modern artists. Soon, the duo will take to the road for their headlining Reboot Tour, marking their first nationwide trek in 10 years. The movement further cements their mark on the legacy of country music. Here are 10 things you may not know about the iconic duo, Brooks & Dunn.

  1. They were both pursuing solo careers before becoming a duo.

Before Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks were Brooks & Dunn, they were two artists pursuing their own separate music careers. Brooks had previous success writing songs for other artists, including John Conlee’s “I’m Only in It for the Love,” the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Modern Day Romance,” Highway 101’s “Who’s Lonely Now,” and more. He also released a few of his own singles, some of which cracked the top of the Hot Country Songs chart. Dunn also released his own singles in the early to mid ‘80s and saw moderate success. He then won a talent competition sponsored by Marlboro, which introduced him to producer Scott Hendricks and eventually led to the forming of the duo. While both men were impeccably talented on their own, it wasn’t until they got together that their careers started heating up.

2. They were “set up” by a record executive.

These days, most duos and music groups are formed by the people actually in them, but in Brooks & Dunn’s case, they were set up by a record exec who thought they’d do well together. Dunn’s prize for winning the talent competition was a recording session in Nashville with an established music producer. That producer was Scott Hendricks, who brought Dunn’s name and recordings to Arista Records executive Tim DuBois. DuBois thought Dunn and Brooks would sound good together, so he arranged for them to write and record some songs together. Once he heard what they created, DuBois signed them to Arista Records as Brooks & Dunn.

3. Brooks’ name isn’t really Kix.

Kix Brooks’ name is an easy one to remember thanks to its uniqueness, but did you know “Kix” isn’t his real name? Brooks was born Leon Eric Brooks III, but his parents gave him the nickname of “Kix” because of how much he kicked while he was in the womb. The nickname stuck, and it turned out to be a fitting name for the singer who is known for his energetic antics on stage.

4. Brooks got his career start in some interesting places.

Brooks grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and was a neighbor to famous musician Johnny Horton. Horton somewhat inspired Brooks’ career path, and the singer would often perform with Horton’s daughter as a teen. This experience started his music career, but before he moved to Nashville, he lived in a couple of interesting places. As the son of an oil company engineer, Brooks lived in Alaska for a period where he worked on the Alaskan pipeline. He also lived in Maine, where he would play music at ski resorts and other venues. He finally made the move to Nashville in the early 1980s.

5. Dunn originally wanted to be a minister.

Ronnie Dunn eventually made his way to Music City as well, but he pursued a different dream before music. Although Dunn had also been playing music since he was young, his first career choice was to become a Baptist minister. The Coleman, Texas native attended Abilene Christian University to make this dream a reality, but he was kicked out for performing music in bars in his free time. Dunn then decided to make the shift to pursuing music and moved to Tulsa, and eventually, to Nashville.

6. Brooks & Dunn were responsible for the ‘90s line-dance craze.

The ‘90s were a time filled with fun dances to go along with popular songs. These dance trends spread like wildfire despite the lack of social media, and memorable examples include “The Macarena” and “The Hammer.” Western line dancing was also renewed during the decade thanks in part to Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” The song simply sounded like it was made for a line dance (the chorus almost spells out the dance itself) and line dancing was shown in the music video, so it made for the perfect song to kickstart the craze. Soon after the release of this song, Billy Ray Cyrus released his “Achy Breaky Heart,” which only added to the already-on-fire trend.

7. They are one of the best-selling duos of all time.

It’s no secret that Brooks & Dunn are, by far, the best-selling country duo of all time, but they’re also one of the best-selling duos in all genres of music. In 2019, Sony Music lauded the group as the best-selling duo of all time, and while some sources cite Hall & Oates as the top duo, there’s no denying Brooks & Dunn are at the very top of the list, outselling legendary acts like Simon & Garfunkel. The release of their Reboot album in 2019 certainly helped to propel the group’s best-selling status.

8. They both have other creative and business ventures.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are busy, to say the least. Not only do they commit endless time and energy to their music careers, but both artists also have their own creative and business ventures. Brooks, first of all, is also an established radio personality, having hosted the syndicated countdown show, American Country Countdown, since 2006, as well as a show called Kickin’ It With Kix. Brooks was honored with the CMA National Broadcast Personality of the Year Award in 2009, 2011, and 2013. Brooks also owns a vineyard outside Nashville called Arrington Vineyards.

Dunn also has creative ventures of his known. He’s been known to refurbish Airstream trailers, and renovated one for Reba McEntire. Dunn is also a talented photographer and often captures photos showing Western landscapes and portraying Western cowboy culture.

9. They have alter-egos.

Since the beginning of their career, Brooks & Dunn’s albums have featured a fun tradition of short stories about two cowboys named Slim & Howdy in the liner notes. The cowboys were fictional versions of themselves, and the duo even worked with author Bill Fitzhugh to write a book called The Adventures of Slim & Howdy, released in 2008.

10. They both give back to charity.

Brooks & Dunn have had incredible success in their music career, but they also make sure to give back to charity. Both artists have been involved in multiple philanthropic pursuits, with Brooks giving back to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, The Monroe Harding Children’s Home, and the CMA Foundation. He also founded the Keep The Music Playing program, which enriched music education in Tennessee schools. Dunn has given back with his “Rock the Barn” charity show, which has raised funds for organizations such as Gilda’s Club and the St. Thomas Breast Cancer Center.