12/30/1991 at 01:00 AM EST
He's an Oklahoma homeboy who fancies 10-gallon Stetsons, pressed Wranglers and country ballads. None of that, however, kept Garth Brooks, 29, from two-stepping right over the toes of rock's heavy-metal heavies this year as he muscled country music straight into the pop-culture mainstream.
With the release of only his third album, Ropin' the Wind, Brooks accomplished what no Nashville performer had ever done before. The record debuted at No. 1 on both country and pop charts, pushing the drawling singer hat and shoulders above the likes of Hammer, Metallica and U2. Besides an estimated $14 million in earnings from royalties and road shows, Brooks also corralled five Billboard Music-Awards and practically needed a pickup to haul home the trophies from Nashville's music associations.
The son of a petroleum engineer-draftsman and a mother who once warbled as a country singer, Brooks had first come to Nashville as an unknown in 1985, naively expecting to find open arms and a quick recording contract. What he got was a cold shoulder and an even quicker trip back home to Yukon, Okla. Returning two years later, he was called as a last-minute fill-in at a nightclub, where he was seen and signed by Capitol Records. With his teddy bear physique and strong-as-a-mule-team tenor, he now reigns as music's everyman, a performer fans see "as a real person, as the guy next door," he says, "and as evidence that the American dream is very much alive, that you can go from a man that holds only a dream to one that feels like he holds everything."
Which, in Brooks case, is just about true. He and wife Sandy, 26, have now moved into a royal 6,700-square-foot manse on 20 acres outside Nashville, where he is currently plotting his next moves: a new album (due in September), a network TV special (to air in January), a U.S. lour this summer and a European tour for 1993.
To Brooks, all the success is really no mystery. "People are listening to what feels good to listens to, no matter what category that music falls under," he says. "I've always described myself as no more than the newsman at 6 o'clock, just put to music. All I'm doing is just reporting real life, and real life is sad and tense...and sometimes funnier than hell."