At the CMT Music Awards last month, Kix Brooks accepted the Group Video of the Year trophy for Brooks & Dunn’s hit “Indian Summer” — alone.
Partner Ronnie Dunn, he explained to the crowd in Nashville, Tenn., “has gone to the restroom — in Sante Fe, N.M.” Then, with a smirk — and understanding laughs from the audience — Brooks noted that, “This is just the kind of thing that will make him think we’re breaking up the duo.”
But Brooks and Dunn are, in fact, breaking up the duo.
The two country singers and songwriters announced their decision to split after two decades and 11 albums together last Aug. 10, with a statement on their website that read, “After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it’s time to call it a day. This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed ... We owe it all to you, the fans. If you hear rumors, don’t believe them, it’s just time.”
There’s no doubt, however, that Brooks & Dunn are riding into the sunset as winners.
They are roundly considered the most successful duo of all-time, in any genre of music. Since merging their two separate careers in 1990, Texas native Dunn and Louisiana-born Brooks have sold more than 30 million albums and had 23 No. 1 country hits. They’ve also won more than 80 industry awards, including a 15th Top Vocal Duo trophy from the Academy of Country Music earlier this year.
They’re going out in a big way, too. Their final album, last year’s “#1’s...and Then Some,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and launched a pair of Top 20 hits in “Indian Summer” and “Honky Tonk Stomp,” the latter featuring ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. They made a final TV appearance on the star-studded “Brooks & Dunn — The Last Rodeo in Las Vegas,” which aired in late May on CBS, and they’re currently on “The Last Rodeo” tour, which will take them up to a final blowout scheduled for Sept. 2 in Nashville.
And while Dunn, 57, has said that he was willing to put the act to rest without any hoopla, Brooks, 55, felt it would not be right.
“We wanted to go out and make sure that we said goodbye to the people that have given us this wonderful ride, and make sure that anybody that wants to come party with us one last time would get the opportunity,” he told United Stations Radio Networks. “We’re gonna try to wrap this thing up as cool as we can.”
Those differences of opinions are what ultimately did the duo in, they’ve said.
While the teaming worked well at the beginning — Brooks & Dunn’s debut album, “Brand New Man” in 1991, went six-times platinum with four No. 1 hits, including the signature “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” — by the late ’90s they were working separately, recording their individual songs separately, and with different producers.
“We’ve both been making solo projects, kinda every record,” explained Brooks, who referred to he and Dunn as “hard heads.” “Then we come back and I’ll sing on his and vice versa. And we get together before it’s a Brooks & Dunn CD. But it’s not like we do everything together and we grow together. We continue to grow and make music and as things start going in different directions it gets harder to pull it back and go, ‘OK, this is mine and this is yours.’
“That’s when you just finally go, ‘Let’s just work in different directions if that’s what we’re gonna do,’ and after 20 years that’s kind of what it’s come down to and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Dunn, in fact, has said he’s responsible for the ultimate decision to split up, saying he quit the group over disagreements he and Brooks were having over what songs to include on their next studio album — which, of course, was never made and became the “#1’s...and Then Some” collection. And Brooks considers that account accurate.
“I’m the first one to say what a great singer Ronnie is and everything like that,” he said, “but I mean, hell ... He’s got his mind set on exactly what it is he wants to do, what he wants to sing, but (feels) ‘Kix has this piece of real estate over here and I’ve got to give him some of that.’
“So, for 20 years, we’ve been doing that ... For a couple of hard-heads like us to compromise basically what it is you do, which you do have to, and (in) a marriage ... you got something between you that keeps you together when you’re compromising and whatever. Ronnie and I ain’t got that, you know? It’s just you’re constantly giving up and generally, I think, probably way more than you take from a relationship like that, no matter how successful it is.”
Nevertheless, Brooks said he and Dunn take considerable pride in what they’ve done together.
“We’ve given, we’ve taken, and we’ve made it work,” he explained. “We’ve overcome on numerous occasions our egos and our whatevers, you know, for a lot longer than most bands or duos have, and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and all of the amazing times we’ve had on stage.”
What’s next? Both men plan to resume their solo careers; Dunn in fact, is already working on an album he plans to release in 2011, while Brooks, who hosts the syndicated radio show “American Country Countdown,” is beginning to think about what he wants to do.
“As far as a solo album, that’ll depend on my record company, I guess,” Brooks said. “But I’ll keep making music, and if I make an album’s worth of music that I think’s really good (we’ll) see if they want to do some business with it.
“There’s plenty of music at (Dunn’s) house and there’s plenty of music at my house,” Brooks said, “and it’s hard to believe at some point those things aren’t gonna turn into projects.”
Brooks & Dunn, Gary Allan and Tyler Dickerson perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $59.75 and $39.75 pavilion, $29.75 lawn with a $90 lawn four-pack. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com
Send your thoughts and comments to