BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – One of the Crystal Palace’s most distinctive features is its roster of larger than life bronze statues of country music greats. Well, that roster of statues is about to drop by one. Hurt as it might, it’s for all the right reasons.
Garth Brooks will soon be coming to Bakersfield – sending his team, anyway – to permanently adopt the bronze symbol of one of his life’s most memorable moments.
As celebrity marriage proposals go, his was right at the top — the “Friends in Low Places” superstar and fellow superstar Trisha Yearwood, country music royalty if there ever was such a thing, on stage before 7,000 screaming fans on May 25, 2005.
Yearwood probably figured she was in Bakersfield simply to witness the Legends In Bronze concert and dedication at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace – the unveiling of nine larger-than-life statues of nine country music giants – 10 statues, technically, including one of the host, forged a few years before. Sculptor Bill Rains had produced – foot likenesses of Buck Owens, Garth Brooks and eight others: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Strait and Bob Wills.
Jim Shaw, the Buckaroos’ longtime keyboard player and Buck’s right hand man – still, to this day, 17 years after Buck’s death – said it all came down like this:
“I had the artist, Bill Rains, do sketches of all the statues (to show) what they were gonna look like,” Shaw said. “And he did a nice rendition of Garth where he was holding his hat in front of him like he was at the end of his show, y’know, very humble, and sent it off to Garth and said, ‘Here’s what your statue’s gonna look like.’ Garth says, ‘Well, that’s good, I like that. But would you mind if I flew up to Billings, Montana, where (Rains lives), and pose?”
Brooks – the youngster among the group of honorees– had a secret plan: Have Rains put a bronze engagement ring on Bronze Brooks’ finger, unveil the statue and let the magic happen. As long as Buck doesn’t inadvertently spoil the party, that is.
“I had to keep that secret for a long time,” Shaw said. “I couldn’t tell Buck. ‘Cuz I knew Buck couldn’t keep a secret.”
Then, that fateful day in Bakersfield. Buck, Garth and Trisha took center stage. The curtain dropped from around Brooks’s statue.
“Then (Brooks) dropped down to his knee and the crowd went crazy,” Shaw said.
Owens made a promise to Brooks that day. After he’s gone, if Brooks still wants it, Owens was willing to bequeath the bronze statue – worth an undisclosed many tens of thousands of dollars – to his friend, who had, after all, kicked in significantly on his statue.
“We’re gonna honor that agreement,” Shaw said.
Bill Rains, whose work can be seen in places like the old home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, Graceland, and the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, died in August 2021 at age 84.
Owens is almost two decades gone now, Brooks and Yearwood are still happily married, and Brooks has a nice, cozy place for that statue.
That’s right – the joyous, welcoming statue of Garth Brooks that has greeted visitors at the entrance to Buck’s museum and dinner club for almost two decades, will play that same role at Brooks’ soon-to-open, four-story bar and honky-tonk on South Broadway in Nashville: Friends in Low Places. An LLC linked to Brooks bought the building for $48 million in December 2021.
Brooks is expected to open the club with a concert Nov. 24 but nothing official has been announced. A Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Department of Transportation sidewalk closure permit for the property expires Oct. 30 but a permit extension, for a covered pedestrian walkway, runs through February 2024. The old, renovated historic building has been under construction for two years.
The honky-tonk will be laid out like this, according to Brooks himself: First floor, bring your helmet. Second floor, a little more calm, but hang on to your helmet just in case. Third floor, Trisha Yearwood classic cool. Fourth floor, up on top, The Oasis, where the party’s at. And next door? An adjacent Metro Nashville Police Department substation.
Notably, Brooks’ bar, at 411 Broadway, is next door to the now-closed iconic Ernest Tubb Record Shop, a Nashville country music institution for more than 70 years.
And, addressing the recent controversy, Brooks says, yes, you can get Bud Light at his bar.
Brooks joins Dierks Bentley, John Rich, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Justin Timberlake and Eric Church as yet another celebrity lending his name — and financial support — to new bars on the iconic Broadway stretch in Music City.
We haven’t been told exactly where the bronze of Garth will go, but we know this – it won’t be in Bakersfield.
Bakersfield’s loss? Maybe, but as Tennyson aptly put it, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”