Brooks was a neighbor of Johnny Horton, popular honky tonk singer of the late 1950's and first began singing with the country legend's daughter at age 12. He moved to Maine and performed in ski resorts and other local venues. He went to Nashville in the early 1980's and found success as a songwriter, producing hits for John Conlee, Highway 101, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, among others. He put out a self-titled album in 1989 which failed to make any ways.
Dunn, meanwhile, had been playing with a traditional string band since he was a teenager, but originally aspired to become a Baptist minister. He attended the highly conservative Abilene Christian University, but was kicked out for continuing to play music on the side in area bars. He decided to pursue music full-time and moved to Tulsa, where he led a house band and recorded for a local label. In 1988, he won a songwriting contest whose prize included a recording session in Nashville; the producer, Scott Hendricks, was impressed enough to pass some of Dunn's material on to Arista executive Tim DuBois. Tim had a feeling that Dunn and Brooks would complement each other well, and he introduced the two and encouraged them to write and record some demos together. When he heard the results, Tim signed the newly minted Brooks & Dunn duo to a record contract. Brooks & Dunn put out their very first album, Brand New Man, in 1991 and it was a hit. The title track, "My Next Broken Heart," "Neon Moon," and "Boot Scootin' Boogie" all became number one hits on the country charts, some say the latter song in particular kick-started the line-dancing craze that swept country bars across the nation. Brand New Man went on to sell over five million copies, and catapulted the country duo into real life superstars. Their follow-up, Hard Workin' Man, consolidated their success with a string of Top Five country hits: the title track, the number ones "She Used to Be Mine" and "That Ain't No Way to Go," and the number twos "We'll Burn That Bridge" and "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)." Hard Workin' Man sold over four million copies. The duo had released these two songs in 1994, Waitin' on Sundown. Five more Top Ten hits followed, including the number ones "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind," "Little Miss Honky Tonk," and "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" the others were "I'll Never Forgive My Heart" and "Whiskey Under the Bridge". Waitin' on Sundown went double platinum, confirming Brooks & Dunn's status as a blockbuster success story.For the rest of the 90's the duo continued to produce Top Ten hits, never quite reaching number one and in some cases failing to even go gold. Brooks & Dunn spent more time crafting their next album, 2001's Steers and Stripes. It helped restore their commercial fortunes with a trio of chart-topping singles: "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," "Only in America," and "The Long Goodbye." The following year, the duo issued their first holiday album, It Won't Be Christmas Without You.What makes Brooks & Dunn a winning combination? Neither had been able to break through as a solo artist in the biz, but combining the two you get a formula filled with rocked-up honky tonk, danceable beats and pop-tinged ballads. The combination made them the biggest-selling duo in country music history. They are still going strong a decade later doing tours and live shows.