One of Louisiana Tech’s most accomplished and supportive alums, the singer-songwriter-entertainer is still learning – and always singing Tech’s praises.
Title: Singer, songwriter, entertainer, disc jockey, wine industry businessman
Resides in: Nashville area
Degree: speech communications, ’78
Talk about your “retirement” from Brooks & Dunn: “I don’t know who was the first to use the ‘R’ word, but Ronnie and I both continue to make music. We’re still the best of friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another CD down the road. But we’re two grown men who worked together for 20 years without a break. We never used the ‘retire’ word; we just said we need a break from this and people started burying us. We might not ever work together again. But we might…Ronnie and I have been blessed with more success than we’d ever dreamed of,” Brooks said. “It was a partnership. Now, it’s refreshing to make music and not have to run it by anybody.”
You seem to really enjoy the annual Bradshaw/Brooks Golf Tournament at Squire Creek Country Club that raises money for Tech athletics: “I want to thank everybody for their support; it’s always great, getting together at Squire Creek. Supporting Louisiana Tech is something we’ve all got to remember to keep doing. The older I get, the more I appreciate my school and realize how much I love it, and that’s the truth.”
It took you a year after high school to make it to Ruston: “I went to SMU in Dallas for a year but I wasn’t cut out for it. It didn’t fit my lifestyle. Tech did. Me and some friends got a house out on Cooktown Road… I wasn’t in a big city. Pickup trucks and country roads. That was more like it.”
You left school for a year to work with your family on the pipeline in Alaska for $800 a week, a ton of money back then. Would you encourage students to do that? “For me it was a no-brainer. I needed to make some money. If you have focus, you’re not going to be afraid to work a year if you need to. I never had the intention of not going back to school. I wanted to buy a new guitar and a car and get back to school work.”
You’ve said you learned the more intricate parts of music – arrangements and progressions and the ‘serious side’ of sheet music – at Tech. “The things I learned at Tech helped me my very first day in the recording studio, and they still do…My teachers had patience and confidence in me; that helped give me confidence in myself.”
What advice do you have for the next Tech students who wants to be a professional singer, songwriter and performer: “People don’t realize how competitive this business is. A bull rider wrote me on Facebook and wanted to know how he could break into the songwriting business. I wrote back, ‘How do I break into the bull riding business?’ I’d guess the answer is you’ve gotta start riding bulls. Hang out at corrals. Every chance you get, you gotta get on a bull and get thrown down in the dirt.”
Editor’s Note: Katie Robinson, former director of Tech’s School of the Performing Arts and now director of the School of Humanities at Penn State Harrisburg in Middletown, Penn., is a longtime friend of Brooks’. Though she was first his instructor, she quickly became a fan. She shared several stories with us about one of her prized former students…
“Kix walked into my office one day early in my teaching career and said that he heard he could get a Speech degree with me. I told him he could earn one. We laughed and became fast friends. He didn't really care what degree he had, but he had promised his dad, Leon, that he would get a college degree. For Kix, the theatre seemed to be a great alternative to singing in the choir and playing in the marching band, as were required of a music student.
“Immediately I realized that Kix did not fit into the mold of a Tech theatre (or music) student. However, I could sense something remarkably intelligent and creative--and wild-- in this young man. He participated in the theatre and its classes with the commitment to his dad not far from the surface. And, at times, a true talent was revealed. For instance, in The Time of Your Life Kix played an old man who thought he was Kit Carson. Embroidered by his unique storytelling talents and inherent charm, Kix convinced audiences that Kix was truly old Kit.
“Realizing that his perspective on the world was far beyond that of most of us, I encouraged his creativity. His final directing project was an original improvisational multi-media autobiographical fantasy musical he wrote, directed and starred in called The Late, Late Show. (The title is a result of having waited too long to book the theatre, so curtain time was 10 PM as I recall.) The play concerned a musician desperate to make it in the music business while pursuing the girl of his dreams. The finale (a happy ending) featured a chorus of dancing hot dogs and buns. Need I say more…..
“Personally, it was a joy to work with Kix. He always committed 100% to anything he pursued: music, theatre, fun, friends, family, etc. And, I always found it wonderful that regardless of any negativity around him, I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He is humbled by his talents and good fortune.
“As an artist, Kix has always been at the cutting edge. For instance, beginning with his work at Tech, he foreshadowed the music video by including film in his play using an avante garde methodology called laterna magica. (He must have been listening in theatre history class.) As the “Brooks” of Brooks and Dunn, he anticipated the increased use of elaborate production values which he used and expanded as his touring became more lucrative. Eventually, the walls of the concert halls couldn’t hold his performances and so his performances exploded beyond the arena into the walkways, parking lots and beyond. To Concertgoers, their event no longer included only the formal performance once the lights went down in the theatre. They could now be entertained with games, mechanical bulls, street performers, barbeque feasts and more for hours prior to the concerts proper.
“Those contributions pale, however, when compared to the impact Kix has had on country music itself. With a fusion of rock-and-roll and traditional country, Kix (and Ronnie Dunn) brought country into the mainstream. The crossover appeal of their music created a genre of music that reflects the demographic and emotional lives of active, vibrant, real people of the nation and beyond.”