‘Next George Strait’ prediction for Garth Brooks was on target

Garth Brooks performs during the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards on April 19 at AT&T Stadium.

Kirk Dooley - Dallas Morning News

Published: 18 September 2015 09:12 AM

I got a phone call from my friend Will Francis back in August 1989. He had a new singer he wanted me to hear.

My ears perked up because Francis was always ahead of the pack in his musical discoveries. He had turned me on to unknowns Seals and Crofts, the Marshall Tucker Band and Blood, Sweat and Tears before they were big. And he had changed my life when he introduced me to a new duo called Loggins and Messina.

How did he discover these acts before they got big? Skill? Magic?

So when he said I needed to go see “the next George Strait,” my first reaction was that there could never be another. But having Francis as my own personal Bud Buschardt, I had a small window to music history.

This new act was following the rodeo circuit and it detoured to play in Dallas at a country and western club called Borrowed Money on Park Lane at North Central Expressway. We took our wives and met up with some fellow Walt Garrison Rodeo committee members. The show was phenomenal. The singer had a combination of energy, charisma and talent that we had never seen before. We walked out of the club dazzled, knowing that we had seen the future of country music.

That was my introduction to Garth Brooks.

Bruce Hardy met Garth in 1991 when they were planning a huge concert and TV special at Texas Stadium. Hardy was the general manager of the stadium and says that to this day he’s never met a nicer guy.

“Garth is the most down-to-earth person I’ve ever known,” Hardy said. “He’s a friend and I don’t think there’s a better person in the world. While planning the Texas Stadium concert, he sat in half the seats to get a feel for the fans’ perspective. He cares about people that much. He loves his fans.”

Hardy was one of the few people who worked for the Cowboys regimes of both Bum Bright and Jerry Jones. He was instrumental in transforming Texas Stadium — and then AT&T Stadium — from a football mecca to an all-purpose entertainment venue that has set new standards.

If it weren’t for multiple sclerosis, Hardy would have ruled over the stadium forever. But when his illness dictated his retirement earlier this year, there was a party for him that people still talk about today.

Brooks was performing in Detroit that weekend. But he took a break, grabbed a private jet, flew to Oklahoma City, picked up John McBride (husband of Martina), and the two of them flew in to Dallas to surprise Bruce Hardy at his retirement party.

Garth Brooks loves his fans — all 100,000 in Dallas this week — but he loves his friends, too.

Kirk Dooley is a University Park writer. Contact him at kirk@texmexbook.com.