On This Day: Garth Brooks Played ‘Saturday Night Live’ as Chris Gaines in 1999

by Clayton Edwards
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Let’s get in the country music time machine and travel all the way back to 1999. The internet was just starting to flourish, the century was coming to an end, and we were all living in the future. At the same time, the threat of the Y2k collapse and Garth Brook’s weird alter ego loomed heavy in the shadows of our collective mind.  

On this day, 22 years ago, Garth Brooks hosted Saturday Night Live. Instead of taking the stage to perform “Long Neck Bottle” or another cut from his 1997 record Sevens, he performed as Chris Gaines. This left a nation of Brooks’ fans shaking and scratching their heads.

Now, it must be said that Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines was pretty successful. According to Taste of Country, it sold over two million albums and gave Garth his first pop hit. It was just a major turn away from what fans could usually expect from Garth. Imagine walking into your local big-box retail store and seeing huge posters of this Chris Gaines fella who looks an awful lot like Garth in a black wig and eye makeup. 1999 was a strange year.

Garth Brooks’ fans poked plenty of fun at the country superstar. However, he never heard any of it. This was in the halcyon days before social media gave us all instant access to the artists we admire. However, just because he didn’t hear it from millions of fans didn’t mean that Garth lacked self-awareness. In fact, in a skit between him and comedian Tracy Morgan, we can see just how aware he was of the criticism. Check out the skit below, it has some coarse language but it’s downright hilarious.

Garth Brooks Had A Sense of Humor About Chris Gaines

Garth Brooks was able to play along with the SNL skit above because he didn’t seem to take his alter ego too seriously. Sure, he put his all into making the music on the album, that’s just what he does. However, as far as the character went, Garth had no problem laughing at himself.

In a 1999 appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show, Garth Brooks talked a little about how the character came about. In the beginning, he wanted The Life of Chris Gaines to be a movie. However, he didn’t want the lead role. Brooks told Conan, “I was not my first choice. Basically, I wanted someone that was thin, beautiful, and [had] lots of hair.” He said the first person he called was Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.

“He was busy. He was sweet, but he was busy,” Garth Brooks said of Tyler. He continued, saying, “Then we asked everyone else on the planet. And, uh, there was only one guy left that was, like, open.” So, Garth took on the persona, for better or worse.

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