Like most musicians, Garth Brooks had humble beginnings for his first gig. Before he elevated country music to the mainstream, the icon played in Oklahoma venues near where he grew up.
If you’re wondering where this mainstay met those friends in low places and got his start, we’ve got you covered.
So come along as we explore the college town that helped launch one of the most successful artists ever.
About Troyal Garth Brooks
Troyal Garth Brooks was born in 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Named after his father, Troyal Raymond Brooks Jr., he grew up in Yukon as the youngest of six children. Music ran in the family, and his mother worked in the industry and recorded country songs with Capitol Records. His family had weekly talent nights where each person played skits or songs.
The country music icon started playing gigs while he attended Oklahoma State University on a track scholarship. While he studied advertising, he developed the ability to sell himself on stage. The intimate spaces helped him understand exactly what his audience wanted.
After graduating, Brooks moved to Nashville to pursue a record contract. He was rejected time and time again by all the labels. Eventually, one of the executives who denied him saw him live at the Bluebird Cafe. That’s when his luck finally changed.
Along with producer Allen Reynolds, Brooks released a string of successful albums, each performing better than the last. His third album reached the No.1 spot on Billboard’s Top 200, a first for a country artist.
His success helped country music move into the mainstream. Throughout his career, he’s earned almost every award for his work. He’s also among the best-selling artists ever, topping out many other great musicians, including Elvis and Michael Jackson.
From the Muse: Get to know Garth Brooks better in Why Isn’t Garth Brooks on Spotify?
Where Did Garth Brooks Get His Start?
While attending OSU, Garth Brooks played his first public gig in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He started at Willie’s Saloon, a full-service bar with live music four nights a week. Willie’s has been a mainstay of the main drag near the university since 1974.
Brooks garnered the attention of Dallas-based entertainment attorney Rod Phelps. The lawyer helped fund the musician’s early demos and encouraged him to relocate to Nashville to launch his career.
Stillwater is no stranger to music. The red dirt genre, a mashup of folk, rock, country, and blues, came to live here. It also has a reputation as one of the friendliest towns in the South. Willie’s Saloon is just one of a few places where you can see great bands trying to make a name for themselves.
Can You Visit Garth Brooks’ Old House in Stillwater, Oklahoma?
For years, you could drive down Duck Street to see where Garth Brooks lived when he played his first gig. The home had a sign out front boasting he’d lived there from 1987 to 1988.
But in 2020, the house was demolished. The property manager, who has the sign hanging in his office, said it was because it had unfixable structural problems. If you saw it from the side, it had a backward lean.
Despite the necessary reasons for demolition, locals are sad to see it go. Brook’s former home had become a popular roadside attraction over the years.
Cool Things To Do In Stillwater
While Garth Brooks’s old house is gone, there’s plenty to do in the college town where he played his first gig. You can enjoy downtown Stillwater or check out the Strip and Campus Corner, where the college kids hang out. Plus, there are plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy.
Eat at Eskimo Joe’s
Even if you’ve never heard of this place, there’s a good chance you’ve seen someone wearing the T-shirt. It features the giant, toothy smile of the mascot, Eskimo Joe, and his dog Buffy. While the logo and name are controversial, the restaurant is legendary for its cheese fries and delicious burgers.
The juke joint is the perfect locale to catch OSU games on the little screen or to stop and celebrate after a home game. It’s a stone’s throw away from Boone’s Pickens stadium and right down the block from the university.
Relax at Lake McMurtry
Stillwater has some beautiful outdoor activities to help you connect with nature. You can enjoy over 50 miles of trails, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Lake McMurty is one of the best spots for a little of everything.
Just ten miles outside of town, this quiet area is perfect for the whole family. You can shoot 18 holes or give their disc golf course a go. It’s also a great fishing spot. You can also stay on-site at their RV park or campgrounds.
Best Places to Stay In Stillwater
You don’t have to go camping to enjoy this beautiful college town. The home of Garth Brooks’ first gig has plenty of finer offerings that work for any budget.
The Atherton Hotel
This hotel is located right on campus for easy access to the Strip. If you’re there for the music, you won’t find a more convenient location.
The university initially built the Union Club shortly after World War II as a place for student housing on campus. It also offered a practical experience for people studying hotel and restaurant management.
After extensive renovations, the university changed the lodging’s name to the Atherton Hotel in honor of one of the alums. It offers modern amenities like high-speed internet and cable TV. You can also enjoy fine dining in the restaurant.
Cottonwood Inn Bed and Breakfast
Just off campus, this old-fashioned bed and breakfast offers eight lodgings with private bathrooms. The shared spaces let you connect with friends and strangers staying at the Inn.
The property is on 12 acres with large, beautiful trees. In fact, each of the unique rooms represents the different species of trees. You can explore each room’s pictures and details before booking your stay.
This Inn is popular with parents of students. It offers easy access to OSU, the stadium, and the nearby wrestling museum.
From Humble Beginnings to Country Stardom
This legendary country star helped change the face of music, but he doesn’t stray too far from his roots. Garth Brooks still keeps a house in Oklahoma, just a short ride from where he played his first gig.
And while he was arguably the top artist of the 90s, he still produces hit records and tours globally. If you’re a big fan of his work, consider visiting Stillwater. You can find some college-town vibes and see artists working to break into the industry.
What’s your favorite Garth Brooks song? Let us know in the comments!
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
I am a big fan i have loved ure music for ever thank you for so much