Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Brooks & Dunn, “Brand New Man”

“Brand New Man”

Brooks & Dunn

Written by Kix Brooks, Don Cook, and Ronnie Dunn

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

September 7 – September 14, 1991

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 23, 1991

The biggest duo in country music history has arrived.

The Road to No. 1

Brooks & Dunn are a music industry creation that sang and wrote their way right into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The experiment succeeded because of the unique strengths both individual artists brought to the table.  Kix Brooks had recorded a solo album in 1989 with little fanfare, but had been a very successful songwriter for the entire decade leading up to that project.  Ronnie Dunn had also been paying his dues as a singer, and had earned a songwriting credit in 1990 with Asleep at the Wheel, who were the first artists to record “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”

Dunn had won a singing contest that earned him a recording session with producer Scott Hendricks, who recommended Dunn to the head of Arista’s new Nashville division, Tim DuBois.  The label head thought Kix Brooks would be a good songwriting partner for Dunn, but when he heard their demo recording of one of their first songs, he sensed they could work well together as a vocal duo.

Their first single, “Brand New Man,” launched them to immediate stardom.

The No. 1

Try to go back and hear this one with fresh ears.

Brooks & Dunn’s sound has been so established for so long, and imitated by so many other artists, that it’s easy to forget how unique they were out of the gate.

“Brand New Man” is a fantastic record, with a driving energy that showcases Dunn’s Haggard-influenced vocals.  Brooks & Dunn won Vocal Duo in a walk for the better part of two decades,  but it’s worth noting that Dunn could’ve given any of the Male Vocalists from that same era a run for their money, and there were a hell of a lot of great male singers in the nineties.

Brooks is easily overlooked in this pairing, and often taken for granted. Heck, some people even think he’s short, looking at him next to Dunn.  (Brooks is 6′ 2″.)  But that driving energy I mentioned earlier? Brooks is its engine, creating an urgency to their rave-ups the way that Dunn brings high and lonesome to their ballads.

“Brand New Man” kicks off a legendary career, and sets a highwater mark for the duo that they’d match only a handful of times during their run.

The Road From No. 1

We’ve got three more No. 1 singles on deck from Brand New Man, including one more before the end of 1991.

“Brand New Man” gets an A. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Hal Ketchum, “Small Town Saturday Night” | Next: Tanya Tucker, “Down to My Last Teardrop”

5 Comments

  1. My high school friend, and life-long fishing buddy since 1992, shredded his cassette copy of this album listening to this song in his Mazda MX-3 when we were juniors in high school. This album single handedly put him on the road to country fandom.

    This song will always represent for me the wonder of having music move and change your habits and expectations for the first time, of being open to something new and unexpected. For me it represented the thrill of having somebody else pick up what you feel you have been throwing down your whole life. Country music was cool and people wanted to share in that coolness with me when music mattered most in our young lives. This had never been the case before.

    This song, perhaps, more than any other captures the potential energy of nineties country. People were eager and willing to listen to music that delivered the goods as explosively as Brooks and Dunn did out of the gates.

    Because of this song, and the album it was on, he would come with me to see artists as varied as Garth Brooks and Dwight Yoakam.

    The energy and kick of “Brand New Man” still threatens to overwhelm you all these years later. It’s a beast of a debut.

    This song was the light, baptism, and fire for so many new country fans.

    This is an A+ with Honours and Distinction!

  2. This is yet another song I can’t believe is turning 30. There’s just so much energy, passion, and excitement in the production and vocals, and even though I’ve heard it a million times already, this is one of those songs that I simply could never get tired of. It still gets me just as pumped and excited and in a good mood whenever it comes on. Always loved Ronnie Dunn’s spirited performance, complete with his signature growling, plus the energetic production with the powerful drumming and Bruce Bouton’s steel playing. Mix that with a melody and hook that’s catchy as hell, and you’ve got one of the most irresistible hits of the decade. Besides the song itself, heck, I can’t believe Brooks & Dunn have been around for that long now…

    Brooks & Dunn was actually one of the new acts at the time whom I hadn’t quite put the name and faces with the songs just yet for the first 2-3 singles. I liked the songs, but somehow never caught who sang them, perhaps I missed hearing the DJ say who they were. I specifically remember hearing “Brand New Man” on a couple occasions while riding in the car with my step dad and really enjoying it despite not knowing who was singing. That would change around early 1992 while we were looking in a music store at the mall one day, and he decided to check out their debut album (the title of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” really caught his eye when he was reading the track list). The two men on the cover definitely looked familiar to me, and I remember thinking they had a pretty cool look going on, and I especially loved the flame patterned boots Kix was wearing. When we popped it into the stereo, and “Brand New Man” came out of the speakers, I remember I was suddenly like “Hey, I love that song! Oh, I do know these guys songs!” I instantly fell in love with their style, and that has been another one of my all time favorite early 90’s country albums ever since. I had also found yet another new favorite artist and I pretty much enjoyed nearly all of their other singles for the rest of the decade.

    With “Brand New Man,” “Small Town Saturday Night,” “She’s In Love With The Boy,” “Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and other classics all hitting number one around the same time, it seems that the Summer of 1991 was when 90’s country had truly arrived in a big way.

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