Exhibit opens August 9th with artifacts including dozens of awards presented to the duo
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will tell the story of the best-selling country duo of all time, Country Music Hall of Fame members-elect Brooks & Dunn, in the exhibition Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon. The exhibit encompasses the duo’s early solo careers, the circumstances that united them as performers and their innovative approach to stage production and touring. Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon opens August 9th and runs through July 19, 2020.
Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn rocketed to stardom in the 1990’s, and for two decades, they remained leaders in country music, with hits including “Neon Moon,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “My Maria” and “Red Dirt Road.” Throughout their career, Brooks & Dunn consistently sold out their arena tours, scored hit after hit (including 20 No. 1’s) and won two Grammys, 19 CMA awards and 24 ACM awards.
“The combined talents of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have left an indelible mark on country music history. For nearly three decades, the duo’s skillful songwriting, dynamic recordings and rowdy performances have made Brooks & Dunn an enduring success with lasting influence on the genre and its contemporary hit-makers,” says Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “The museum looks forward to exploring the journey of two struggling solo artists brought together by fate and creative vision to become country music’s best-selling duo of all time.”
On their own, Brooks and Dunn achieved minor success, but their lives changed when Arista Records executive Tim DuBois suggested they form a duo, Brooks & Dunn. Their songwriting skills gave them strong material, and their experience in front of crowds allowed them to create an entertaining and dynamic show. Their 1991 debut album, Brand New Man, updated honky-tonk rhythms with classic rock guitar riffs and dynamic musical arrangements. Four consecutive No 1’s — “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart,” “Neon Moon” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” — pushed album sales to more than three million copies in the first year.
Brooks & Dunn’s momentum continued as they consistently delivered at least three Top 10 songs every year from 1992 to 1998 and performed to increasingly larger audiences. In the early 2000’s, the duo pumped life into their concert tours by creating a carnival atmosphere. Their groundbreaking Neon Circus & Wild West Show (2001 and 2002) included confetti cannons, fireworks, hot air balloons, midway exhibits and sideshow acts.
When Brooks & Dunn announced a hiatus in 2010, their career statistics included 41 Top 10 hits, 26 million records sold and a record-setting number of vocal duo awards. In 2014, the duo reunited and announced a Las Vegas residency with longtime friend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Reba McEntire that continues today.
In 2019, Brooks & Dunn released Reboot, an album that features their collaborations with contemporary country artists on new versions of some of the duo’s hits. This collaboration project debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, marking the first time the duo has topped the album chart since 2009. The album earned the duo their 10th Billboard 200 Top 10 album, the most of any country duo or group in the chart’s history.
On March 18, 2019, the Country Music Association announced that Brooks & Dunn were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The duo will be inducted in October.
“It’s so cool to have an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” Dunn states. “When you’re reminded that what you have created is part of history like that, it’s beyond humbling. I’m so, so proud.”
“Ronnie and I are really fired up about having an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” adds Brooks. “We’ve shared some of our favorite things with the museum over the years, and it’s going to be really special for us to revisit those moments from our career, especially in a format like the Hall that reaches all generations of fans.”
Items featured in Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon include awards, custom-built instruments and personal artifacts, include: Dozens of awards presented to Brooks & Dunn between 1992 and 2006, including Grammys, CMA and ACM awards; Neon Circus & Wild West Show-themed Les Paul electric guitar, built for Brooks by the Gibson Custom Shop’s Master Luthier, Bruce Kunkel, in 2001. The instrument features rope-shaped binding and ornamentation; a hand-carved and painted cowgirl on the lower bout; carved volume and tone knobs in the shape of horned toads; mother-of-pearl cowgirl inlays on the fingerboard and headstock and a sterling silver pickguard engraved, “Brooks & Dunn, Neon Circus and Wild West Show;” Red cowboy boots decorated with steer’s head inlays, worn by Dunn when he was around five years old; Hand-tooled leather guitar strap made for Brooks by Hutch’s Custom Saddlery and embellished with oak leaf and acorn imagery and the names of Brooks’ wife, Barb, and their children, Molly and Eric; “Neon Moon”-themed archtop electric guitar with custom blue finish and crescent moon inlay, presented to Dunn in 2001 by the Gibson Custom Shop; Racing suits with steer’s head logos, worn by Brooks and Dunn when they drove 5/8th-scale Legends race cars in the 1990’s; Early draft lyrics to “Red Dirt Road,” written by Dunn.
In support of the exhibition’s opening, the museum will host a conversation with Brooks & Dunn in August called Proud of the House We Built: A Conversation with Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn and manager Clarence Spalding. The event will be held Saturday, August 24th at 2 pm Central at the CMA Theater. During this conversation, Brooks, Dunn and Spalding will discuss their careers and share personal stories and memories associated with the artifacts included in Brooks & Dunn: Kings of Neon. Tickets will be available here, beginning Friday, July 19th at 10 am Central. Tickets include museum admission.