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ENTERTAINMENT NOTES: Brooks & Dunn split near, NLR stop significant to fans

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published August 19, 2010 at 4:47 a.m.

— Their boots will soon scoot separately.

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, the most successful duo in country music history, are parting ways. The two singers have stated that, like many couples who separate, the split is an amicable one.

A year ago, the official Brooks & Dunn announcement stated: “After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it’s time to call it a day. This ride has been everything and more than we could have ever dreamed; we owe it all to you, the fans.If you hear rumors, don’t believe them, it’s just time.”

And so, “The Last Rodeo” tour announcement came next, and the touring, like the summer of 2010, is winding down. Six shows remain after their central Arkansas concert this weekend, with the finale set for Sept. 2 in Nashville, Tenn.

With more than 22 million albums sold in the United States, Brooks & Dunn have been honored by the Academy of Country Music as the best-selling duo in country music history. A spring special on CBS recognized the duo for its 26 Academy of Country Music awards - including Entertainer of the Year three times and 15 awards for Top Vocal Duo, with eight of them consecutive, from 2000-2007.

They both plan to relaunch the solo careers that they had been pursuing before 1990, when Arista Records executive Tim DuBois decided to put the two men together. Brooks, now 55, grew up in Shreveport and Dunn, now 57, was born in Texas and grew up in a variety of locales, attending 13 schools in four states in 12 years, including El Dorado, where he played saxophone in the school band.

After Dunn graduated from high school, he enrolled at Abilene Christian College, intending to become a Baptist preacher, but he was asked to leave the school after he was seen playing music in bars. From there he went to Tulsa and then on to Nashville. Success was not overnight but it came quickly. When the two men combined their talents and ambition with a debut album in 1991, the album contained four songs that hit No. 1: “Brand New Man,” “My Next Broken Heart,” “Neon Moon” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”

When they released their fourth album in 1996, their version of B.W. Stevenson’s “My Maria” reached No. 1 and was the most-played song of that year. A year later, they collaborated with Reba McEntire on an album that contained a No. 1 hit, “How Long Gone,” written by Perryville native Shawn Camp.

The Arkansas Music Hall of Fame inducted Dunn in 2005.

Opening act Miranda Lambert, the 2010 Academy of Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year, is having a memorable year. Her hit single, “The House That Built Me,” spent four weeks at No. 1 earlier this summer, becoming her first No. 1 single (although three of her four albums have debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart). On May 9, she became engaged to fellow country musician Blake Shelton, whom she has been dating for four years.

The 26-year-old Texan found her career path when her parents took her to a Garth Brooks concert when she was 9. By the time she was in high school, she was singing in the house band at a Longview, Texas, ballroom - the same place where Brooks & Dunn got their start as a bar band.

Her third-place finish on the 2003 season of Nashville Star led to her recording deal, which opened the doors to touring with Keith Urban, George Strait, Dierks Bentley and Toby Keith. Her most recent central Arkansas appearance was a year ago, when she and Lady Antebellum opened for Kenny Chesney on his Sun City Carnival Tour.

Brooks & Dunn Opening act: Miranda Lambert 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Verizon Arena, East Broadway and Interstate 30, North Little Rock Tickets: $69.75, $49.75, and $35; “Rodeo” seats are $25 each, four for $75 (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmas ter.com

Weekend, Pages 34 on 08/19/2010

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