While he acknowledges that his first and foremost job is that of “hillbilly singer,” Kix Brooks of superstar country duo Brooks & Dunn is wading into unfamiliar waters this month with his new job as host of ABC Radio Networks’ venerable syndicated show “American Country Countdown.”
He replaces the show’s host of 27 years, Bob Kingsley, who has already launched a new country countdown show to compete with his old one. While Brooks says he had “no desire” to go head to head with Kingsley, whom he describes as “a dear friend,” ABC made it clear Kingsley was being replaced, whether it was with Brooks or someone else.
“ABC told me they were wanting to do something different and they wanted to try an artist’s perspective on the business [focusing on] how the music is made and what goes on on the road.”
After finishing a yearlong stint as the volunteer chairman of the board for the Country Music Association last November, Brooks quips that he found himself with “all this free time on my hands,” and turned his attention to radio.
Actually, the offer from ABC took him by surprise. And with U.S. sales of nearly 20 million albums, he hardly needed the gig. But after consulting his musical partner Ronnie Dunn, Brooks decided to accept the challenge.
“I’ll be the first to say I’m not a DJ and I don’t have a great radio voice or impeccable timing,” he says. But listening to Kingsley and other countdown show hosts through the years, he has often realized he had a great story to tell about the writer or artist of a song being featured.
“Most artists on that [countdown] list I know something about that’s interesting.” He says he has often thought, “I heard that song before it got recorded and passed on it, and I’d love to tell [the audience] why.”
On the four-hour, weekly “American Country Countdown,” Brooks promises a healthy dose of that kind of behind-the-scenes peek. This will include a look at his own life on the road.
“That’s the kind of stuff I want to bring to the show,” he says. “If I was retired this opportunity wouldn’t be near as exciting to me. It’s not like I’m talking about the good old days. We’re right in the middle of it.”
He also will not be shy about putting on the air his celebrity friends who, he says, range from “former presidents to Dr. Phil” to such sports stars as Terry Bradshaw and Karl Malone. “I want to interact a lot with this incredible world that I’ve had access to,” he says.
Meanwhile, ever mindful of the importance of wide exposure as an artist, Brooks’ contract with ABC stipulates that he is free to appear as a guest on all the rival countdown shows, including Kingsley’s.
While Brooks & Dunn are usually referred to in the same breath, only Brooks was asked to host “American Country Countdown.” That was just fine with Dunn, who wished him luck on the new job. “Ronnie loves to write songs and loves the studio and performing. I don’t think week after week getting geared up for doing a radio show is something he’ll enjoy very much.”
The Brooks-hosted version of “American Country Countdown” debuts the weekend of Jan. 21. The show will be taped at the studios of “American Country Countdown” affiliate Cumulus Media near Music Row. He opted not to have a studio built in his home, saying that might make him “lazy. I need to be upright.” On the handful of dates on which tour plans conflict with the show’s Tuesday tapings, Brooks will record the show in an affiliate’s studio on the road.
“It’s going to be fun work,” he says, “but it will be work.” And a learning experience.
“For [ABC] to gamble on me gives me a tremendous amount of confidence. They know a lot more about radio than I do and they have a lot more at stake than I do. I already have a job.”