Garth Brooks Once Signed Autographs for 23 Hours Straight to Prove a Point to His Label

by Jennifer Shea
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

That’s one way to send a message to your record label.

Country star Garth Brooks once spent 23 hours signing autographs. He took no breaks. And he did it, he says now, because he wanted to prove a larger point about who really makes country music tick.

In a Tuesday interview with the Set It Straight: Myths and Legends podcast, Brooks dished about his marathon autograph session. He also discussed his recent decision to cancel some shows on his stadium tour.

Garth Brooks Reportedly Sat for 23 Hours Without a Bathroom Break

Brooks went to Nashville’s Fan Fair for the autograph session in question. And he had his reasons for sticking around so late.

“I’d love to tell you that it was just done out of love and stuff but the real story behind it was we had a new regime at the label come in,” Brooks recounted. “There were rumors that older acts were going to go out [and] new ones were actually going to come in and replace them. Which is normal always at labels but one of the older acts was me.”

So Brooks showed up at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds on June 11, 1996. And he made an unannounced appearance at one of the fairgrounds’ livestock buildings, according to Rolling Stone. There he sat for 23 hours and 10 minutes while fans braved the rain and traffic to get to him.

“That boy ain’t got bladder problems,” a Fan Fair security guard later told the Tennessean.

Brooks Never Forgets Who’s Really Running Country Music

While Garth Brooks’ marathon autograph session surely got his record label’s attention, it also sent a message, he said. And that was that the heart of country music is its fans.

“Our bosses are not the record labels,” Brooks told Set It Straight. “Our bosses are not country radio or the CMAs. As much as I love those people, our bosses are those people on the other side of radio. Those people that show up in those seats. I said, ‘Let’s go see what the bosses think.'”

Brooks added that his everyman appeal has been an asset in country music, and the same cannot be said of other genres. Country is unique because it celebrates the guy next door, he said. There’s less emphasis on artifice and more brownie points for approachability, which is why his efforts at Fan Fair went over so well.

“The cool thing about country music is they want you to be as normal, as regular as you can be,” Brooks said. “But at the same time, they’re going to give you numbers that can compete with any pop act that’s ever walked on stage. So I love the fact that we’re in that beautiful, really kind of honest thing.”

And Brooks was nothing less than honest in his explanation for canceling five stadium shows recently. He explained that earlier this summer, he thought the pandemic was over. But with the rise of the delta variant, he grew concerned for his fans, and he knew he had to “do my part” to stem the tide of new infections. After all, Brooks never forgets who’s in charge of country music.