Country Throwback: Story Behind Garth Brooks’ Timeless Hit ‘Friends in Low Places’

by Matthew Wilson

The genesis of Garth Brook’s iconic hit “Friends in Low Places” starts where else but a bar. Two songwriters and friends developed the idea for the song when they realized they didn’t have money to pay for their drinks.

Upon release, the song went No. 1 on the country charts and won an ACM and CMA Award. But the song origin had humble beginnings. Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee went out for drinks in 1989.

The Songwriters Wrote the Lyrics at a Party

They realized they didn’t have enough money to pay for their tab. But Lee said, “Don’t worry. I’ve got friends in low places.” He referred to a friend who worked at the place and could help them with their expenses.

The two quickly realized that would be a great idea for a song title. Months later they revisited the idea while at a party for another songwriter. The two felt inspired by the events of the party. And they began writing down lyrics to the song’s first two verses on napkins.

The Songwriters Approached Their Friend Garth Brooks to Demo the Song

The duo had known Brooks for years. When they first met him, Brooks wasn’t a big-time country singer. He worked as a shoe salesman, trying to break into the industry. But the three quickly became friends, and the two thought Brooks would be perfect for the song.

By the time they approached him about the song, Brooks had just recorded his debut album. He later said he wished could have included the song on that album. But he approached the pair about using the song on his second album No Fences.

For the song, Jim Garver added a reference to a bar called The Oasis he frequently visited in Kansas. Brooks also wrote the third verse of the song during the demo. To recreate the atmosphere of a party, the three invited their friends to the studio to record the song. This created a rowdy and chaotic element to the single. For instance, someone can be heard opening a beer in the song.

Upon release, the song helped Brooks sell 10 million copies of his album.

[H/T: Wide Open Country]