Music superstar Garth Brooks says he's "a walking tribute to the people I grew up on", citing influences ranging from Billy Joel and Queen to George Strait and Merle Haggard. And when he hit the scene in the late Eighties, the singer's modern take on song writing helped usher the Country and Western genre into a new era.
"From about 1975 on writers just thought honky tonk was about the guy losing his wife at the truck stop or his dog got run over by a tractor," says Garth. "And that's not what country music is."
Born February 7, 1962, in Tulsa Oklahoma, Garth was raised along with his five siblings by father Ray, an oil engineer, and late mum Colleen Carrol, a Capital Records country singer turned housewife. Aged 18 he went off to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, a track scholarship and a job as a bouncer helping fund his quest for a degree in Advertising and Journalism, which he received in 1984.
The aspiring songwriter chose his life path after he failed to qualify for a major track championship in his final year at university. He recalls: "I'm laying there on the high-jump mat, just disappointed as hell... And that's when a big bell went off and said, 'Hey, man, you're terrible at athletics, you're terrible at college. But the one thing you're proud to put your name to is your music. Maybe that's what the good Lord wants you to do'."
Aged 24, Garth went to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue his dream, but returned home a day later after getting snubbed by every agent with whom he'd made an appointment. "I didn't think I'd have to work to break in," he explains. "I came out here thinking there was nobody that was as talented as I was It took me a trip out here and a very embarrassing 23 hours to realise God may have given you the gift but that doesn"t mean you can do nothing and get away with it."
Garth married his university sweetheart Sandy in Oklahoma, and the couple returned to Nashville for a second try, finding the music biz experience "a total shock". "I thought it was going to be a bunch of cowboys going out to honky-tonks ever night, and that was as far as it could be from reality," he says. "It was a bunch of guys in suits and ties talking strategy." He got into the game, signing a songwriter's contract to get his work published and gaining a manager in 1987. The following year he inked a contract with Capital Records, releasing a self-titled debut album in 1989. Garth Brooks went on to become the most successful country album of the Eighties.
Since then, only the Beatles and Led Zeppelin have sold more albums Stateside, with legends like Elvis Presley selling fewer than the star's 105 million copies in the US. His legions of fans have followed him for the last decade and a half, even through his 1999 phase as fictional alter ego Chris Gaines also known as a rock'n'roll singing Garth wearing a wig and soul patch.
Garth announced he was taking a break from the business in December 2001, one week after his latest album Scarecrow debuted at the top of the charts, making him the only artist to have seven straight albums enter the US pop charts at number one. "I am going out on my terms, and that's a gift I feel very thankful for," he says. "This page is closing and the next page is opening up for me."
Divorced from wife Sandy (their 14-year union came to an end in 2002), he popped the question to fellow country star Tricia Yearwood in 2005. And the apples of Garth's eye are his three daughters Allie, August and Taylor, all born two years apart beginning in 1992.