On This Day: Brooks & Dunn Release ‘My Maria’ in 1996

by Jim Casey

Brooks & Dunn had come a “long, long way” when they released their new single, “My Maria,” on March 24, 1996.

By the start of 1996, Brooks & Dunn were already the darling duo of country music. They had released three highly successful albums and scored more than a dozen hits, including “Brand New Man,” “Neon Moon,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” and more. They were also packing their trophy cases with multiple CMA Awards and ACM Awards, as well as a Grammy for “Hard Workin’ Man” in 1993.

Ronnie Dunn brought his golden voice and interpretive skills to the table, while Kix Brooks clearly had an ear for a song and a bold sense of showmanship. The duo’s Hall of Fame career was in full swing.

Brooks & Dunn Take a Risk

Kix and Ronnie were both struggling singer/songwriters in the 1980s when a mutual friend suggested they meet each other. By 1991, they were signed to Arista Nashville and calling themselves Brooks & Dunn.

One of the reasons the duo was so successful from the start is that both Ronnie and Kix had songwriting chops. Kix and Ronnie had a hand in writing almost every song on their first three albums. And while their 1996 album, Borderline, followed suit, the duo took a risk with lead single, “My Maria.”

Co‑written by B.W. Stevenson and Daniel Moore, “My Maria” provided Stevenson with a Top 10 pop smash in 1973. Brooks & Dunn were releasing a cover song? Say it ain’t so.

Have no fear. Ronnie started things off on a winning note with his sweet falsetto, before the duo joined forces to slay the song. With all due respect to B.W. Stevenson—because his version is beautiful—Brooks & Dunn had made the song theirs.

“We’d never done a cover and that scared us,” said Kix to Country Weekly magazine in 1997. “Covering something that has already been a hit was a gamble. But it came from a culture I was into in the ’70s Austin scene.”

‘My Maria’ Soars

Of course, like many of their singles at the time, “My Maria” ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in less than two months. The duo’s fourth album, Borderline, which dropped in April 1996, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and spawned additional hits “I Am That Man,” “A Man This Lonely,” and more.

“My Maria” also earned Brooks & Dunn their second Grammy Award in 1997 for Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.