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Garth_FANtasizer
11-05-2001, 12:33 PM
Bill Ellis: Writers behind Brooks hits to perform on Beale

Songwriter Tony Arata remembers the first time he met Garth Brooks.
It was the mid-'80s and the Savannah, Ga., native had moved with his wife to Nashville to break into the music business.

"The only thing we had going on was going out to these open-mike shows, and you'd sign your name on a list, and then somewhere in the night you'd get to sing your one song," says Arata. "And at one of those shows, there was a young man sitting in a striped shirt and a big white cowboy hat. He was singing a song that he put on his first album called I've Got a Good Thing Going. We struck up a conversation. We were probably the only two people that would talk to each other. One, there wasn't that many people in the club and, two, nobody knew who anyone was."

Arata gets to remember that night every time a royalty check arrives in the mail: his song The Dance became one of Brooks's first and biggest hits.

That tune is also one of 16 featured on "In the Beginning: A Songwriter's Tribute to Garth Brooks," an album of Brooks hits performed by the musicians who wrote them.

With Brooks set to release a new album, "Scarecrow," on Nov. 13 - a record he says will be his last - the writers behind many of Brooks's hits have jumped in to remember the way it was, before sales of 100-million-plus made the country music titan the top-selling albums artists in U.S. history, according to industry bellwether Billboard.

Arata - a regular at Memphis institution, the Keith Sykes Songwriter Showcase - will be one of four songwriters to perform a special "In the Beginning" concert 7:30 p.m. Thursday at 152 Beale. Joining him will be another Sykes pal, Pat Alger, plus Kent Blazy and Kim Williams. The show will benefit Play It Again Memphis, the program started by Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and Ticketmaster in 1997 that puts musical instruments in the hands of needy children and school bands. Tickets are $12.50 advance or $15 day of show and can be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 525-1515.

Alger is best known for writing The Thunder Rolls with Brooks. The country composer also produced the tribute album with Blazy, who penned If Tomorrow Never Comes with Brooks as well as co-writing Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?) - Brooks's new duet with George Jones - that features fellow scribe Williams (Papa Loved Mama and three other Brooks No. 1 hits).

If it sounds like these songsmiths have something of a clique happening, you'd be right. You'd be wrong, however, to think it were anything close to calculated.

"I met all these guys and gals, including Garth Brooks, when nobody had anything going on," says Arata. "He too was just a songwriter trying to get something happening at that time. Nobody was really famous. We were all in the same boat, and we were all broke, and the only people we were usually playing for was each other."

Arata says he was even advised not to let Brooks record The Dance, which came out on his 1989 debut. The song, one of seven by Arata that Brooks has recorded, ended up being the Academy of Country Music's song of the year.

"It was a song that had been turned down by everybody," says Arata. "I was encouraged to not let a new artist have the song, that there were people who thought it was bigger than he was, and that it probably wouldn't do very well and you would have wasted (The Dance). What they didn't realize was that I knew him and had come up through the ranks with him in these songwriter venues. And I knew how much songs meant to him. I still think of him in this capacity, as a songwriter."

Alger says he and his fellow writers saw something appealing in Brooks the artist but never expected his career to take off the way it did.

"The biggest thing we were dreaming of was getting a platinum record," says Alger. "That's as far as songwriters allow themselves to dream. Most of our songs are heard the day they're written and never heard from again."

Brooks echoes the sentiment in the tribute album's liner notes: "None of them were the songwriters at the time who were hugely successful. Most of them, when I met them, were way behind on their payments. . . . Now that they're hopefully ahead of the game, they're exactly the same people they were. That's my favorite trait about them. . . . I hear people condemning the artist, Garth Brooks, and I hear them saying that marketing was why they made their 100 million mark. It ain't. It's these songwriters and their songs."

Arata and his cohorts have been touring their songwriters stage since "In the Beginning" came out in April on Nashville indie VFR Records. The idea for the tribute came about in February of last year when the four musicians did a special show at Nashville's legendary songwriters venue the Bluebird Cafe. Brooks showed up and joined them on stage, sharing stories and tunes.

Making an album seemed a logical extension, says Alger - first, to celebrate in the writers' own way the 100 million sales mark met by Brooks, but to put it in proper perspective as well.

"All of us were awestruck by (the sales) - and thankful," says Alger, whose No. 1 hits written with Brooks also include Unanswered Prayers, That Summer and What She's Doing Now. "That was the other part of this. Over the years, we've all been interviewed and misquoted. It's been kind of frustrating communicating that thanks in a way that would be meaningful. And one of the reasons everybody wanted to do this was to have a chance to set the record straight about some of the crazy things that get said about people who get that famous. I've heard several guys, meaning well, come up to me and say, 'Hey, yeah, here's the guy that made Garth's career.' Well, that doesn't reflect the way it really was. I think our CD tells the real story about writing the songs."

Brooks isn't the only star to have profited from these songwriters' talents. All four have written numerous songs for other performers from Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire to Patty Loveless and Diamond Rio, and the show's second half will focus on the non-Garth material.

So when the folks behind the song curtain take center stage, know that they're some of the most successful (and no doubt wealthy) wallflowers you're likely to hear in one room. Who needs the face of celebrity when songwritng residuals last longer, the kind of beginning that has no end in sight.

"It's a middle-aged field of dreams for us," says Alger. "We get to go out and see what Garth fans are really all about. Then we get to go back and be anonymous afterwards."

- Bill Ellis: 529-2517

November 3, 2001

~Ann~

Hawk7lte
11-05-2001, 10:53 PM
Ann,

That is a good article. Well worth reading. Insight into the hearts of the songwriters.

Thanks for posting it,

Hawk

ProducerJ
11-05-2001, 11:48 PM
What a cool article! Thanks for sharing!
J.

RckyMtnGirl@hrt
11-06-2001, 12:43 AM
Great article! Thanks Ann :)

CC

GRTH FAN
11-06-2001, 01:27 AM
Those Good Ol' "FIELD OF DREAMS"
Great Article!!
Donna :)

jstensig
11-06-2001, 12:13 PM
Nice article.:)

Jakob