Garth Brooks walks off stage after seeing a woman with a sign

Music can help us even in the darkest and most difficult times, and many singers and musicians are well aware of this. Garth Brooks knew exactly what was going to happen when the panel was read to the woman in the class.

In 1985, Brooks began his professional music career, singing and playing guitar in Oklahoma clubs and bars, including Wild Willie’s Saloon in Stillwater. Through his older siblings, Brooks was exposed to a wide range of music. Although he listened to country music, particularly that of George Jones, Brooks enjoyed rock music the most, citing James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and Townes Van Zandt as major influences. In 1981, after hearing “Unwound,” George Strait’s debut single, Brooks decided he was more interested in country music.

In 1985, entertainment attorney Rod Phelps came from Dallas to listen to Brooks. Phelps liked what he heard and offered to produce Brooks’ first demo. With encouragement from Phelps, including a list of Phelps’ contacts in Nashville and some of his credit cards, Brooks traveled to Nashville to pursue a record deal; he returned to Oklahoma within 24 hours. Phelps continued to urge Brooks to return to Nashville, which he did. In 1987 Brooks and his wife Sandy Mahl moved to Nashville and Brooks began to make contacts in the music industry.

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