Garth Brooks knew he was recording a hit when he first sang “Friends in Low Places,” even though he had no idea the hit would be for him. Brooks first sang the song when he was a session singer, singing songs for songwriters with the hope of having them recorded by an artist — in this case, George Strait.
“’Friends in Low Places,’ I [sang] the demo for that,” Brooks tells Billboard. “They were pitching it to Strait, and all I know was I did demos sometimes five, nine, a day, and this was the one I couldn’t get out of my head for months. It just kept circling back in. I never [could] believe that me as an artist would take that song on. And now I can’t imagine being the artist that I’ve got to be without that song.”
The song was written by Earl Bud Lee and the late Dewayne Blackwell, who passed away on May 23. Blackwell, who also penned songs for The Fleetwoods, Conway Twitty and more, left an indelible mark on Brooks’ life and career.
“What we lost when we lost Dewayne Blackwell was someone who truly was a craftsman, not a settler,” Brooks shares. “He would not settle. If everything lined up, it would take you five minutes to write a song; if things didn’t, it could take you five years to write a song. He was not one of those guys that would let anything pass. He did it for the sake of the song and for the sake of entertainment. He understood that.”
Brooks also got to write with Blackwell, an experience the Country Music Hall of Fame member says forever changed how he writes to this day.
“While I [was] forming my writing habits as a young writer, [manager] Bob Doyle teamed me with Larry Bastian and Dewayne Blackwell,” Brooks recalls. “Both are pure rhymists, and they won’t allow a non-pure rhyme in. So the crazy thing to think about is the next time you’’re hammered and you’re doing karaoke and you’re singing what could possibly be the most sung party song on the planet, know that ‘Friends in Low Places’ has pure rhyme 100 percent through it. Isn’t it amazing? The song that’s probably the most slurred is a pure rhyme. That’s crazy.”