Boot Scootin Boogie
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

'Boot Scootin' Boogie': How Brooks & Dunn's Song Made Line Dancing Cool Again

The country music song "Boot Scootin' Boogie" is a staple in the country world. Texas honky-tonks in particular love to put on the song any time there's a bit of a lull in the crowd. (It works almost as well as a round of Johnny Walker.) Because as soon as they do, folks know exactly how to hit the dance floor.

But did you know the song synonymous with country duo Brooks & Dunn had a life before the duo? Or that there's actual choreography (and a real choreographer) to the line dance?

The song that reinvigorated line dancing in the 1990s has a pretty neat little history. And before long, it launched a global craze spanning multiple genres looking to cash in on club favorites.

Read More: 10 Best Line Dancing Songs of All Time

Ray Benson Loves to Boogie

Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson loves to boogie — there's no arguing that. Between their early songs like "Choo Choo Boogie" and "Bump, Bounce, Boogie" and one of their biggest hits, "Boogie Back To Texas," the band has the dance covered.

So you shouldn't be too surprised to learn Asleep At The Wheel actually released "Boot Scootin' Boogie" before Brooks and Dunn did. Yep, in 1989, as a matter of fact, for their 1990 album Keepin' Me Up Nights.

And that's the version that choreographer Bill Bader first heard — despite it never being a single. In Bader's own words, he bought it based on the title. "I bought the Asleep At The Wheel tape hoping that this song, with such a good name for a line dance, would be suitable for a line dance," he writes in a brief synopsis.

It turns out he was right — but it took a hot new country duo to bring it to life.

Brand New Boogie

Here's one of the more exciting things about the song. Though Asleep At The Wheel recorded it first, Brooks & Dunn had it first. That's because Ronnie Dunn is the sole writer on the tune, and he wrote it before the duo even existed.

Back in the 1980s, Dunn struggled with significantly moving the needle in his solo career, but still found success as a writer. When he eventually teamed up with Kix Brooks, the pair's chemistry and a handful of recorded demos landed them a contract with Arista Records.

They recorded "Boot Scootin' Boogie" for their debut album Brand New Man, and after three No. 1 singles, the pair released it as the fourth single in May 1992. It didn't take long to go No. 1.

And thanks to its official music video, the line dance caught on like wildfire, sweeping across honky-tonks.

Line Dance for the Common Man

In the 1980s, Urban Cowboy helped reinvigorate and spread the concept of honky-tonking. But all the dances seem far too difficult and far too choreographed for common folks. "Boot Scootin' Boogie" had such amazing success because of how simple it is.

It's called a "four wall" line dance with 32 counts. Aside from a few claps, your hands remain right by your hips, and your feet do all the work. Young folks, old folks, and everyone in between can do it.

So much so, that it was used every time to set the record for World's Largest Line Dance from 1996-2000. When Billy Ray Cyrus released the video for "Achy Breaky Heart" in the same year, it borrowed many steps from "Boot Scootin' Boogie." Together, the two songs helped spread western line dancing across the globe.

Suddenly, at the height of grunge and Generation X blasé, line dancing was cool again. Or at least popular.

An International Craze

Pretty soon, tons of genres started cashing in on the line dance craze. Arguably the most recognizable (and at the same time most hated) song of the 1990s, the Bayside Boys remix of "Macarena" features choreography inspired by the line dances that spread like wildfire a few years earlier.

Other dances that borrowed from the "Boot Scootin' Boogie" include the "Swamp Thang," which was basically the English EDM version, and "5, 6, 7, 8" by The Steps and the "Cha Cha Slide," which wasn't actually a Cha Cha. Even an ad by Gap couldn't kill the line dance craze.

Even now, line dances crop up in all kinds of ways.

Guess what, kids. You've been duped into doing the "Boot Scootin' Boogie" in some form or fashion. Don't believe me? "Cupid Shuffle" and "The Wobble" are two of the most popular group dance songs of the past 15 years. Their popularity draws back immediately to the early 1990s.

So thanks, Ronnie Dunn, for writing a song that sounded like something Bill Braden could choreograph a dance to. You gave millions of kids who don't know how to dance, a way to look like they know what they're doing at a high school prom.

In 2019, Brooks & Dunn re-recorded its dance hit with Midland for the collaborative album Re-Boot.

This story first ran in 2018.

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