As viewers of A&E's two-part documentary Garth Brooks: The Road I'm On learned, Garth Brooks' mom had her own country music career in the 1950s. The former Colleen Carroll appeared on the influential television show Ozark Jubilee and recorded several sides for different labels, including her son's future employer, Capitol Records.
The limited examples of Carroll's work making the rounds online include "No Tellin'" and "Blue Bonnet Waltz," the two songs off a 1955 release by Kansas City, Mo.-based Cardinal Records. "No Tellin'," a biting takedown of a would-be suitor, falls in line with the stand-up bass-driven "hillbilly" stompers of the time. "Blue Bonnet Waltz" is a sentimental dance tune written by Al Clauser, a guitarist and songwriter sometimes credited with coining the term Western swing.
Carroll's last bow as a country singer came on her daughter and former Brooks bassist Betsy Smittle's 1994 album Rough Around the Edges. The song "This House" teamed the mother and daughter duo for a performance that makes listeners wonder if, with a few lucky breaks, the whole family might've been regulars on the CMA red carpet alongside Brooks and future in-law Trisha Yearwood.
Although Brooks' story gets told as if he stepped away from sports during college and picked up a guitar for the first time as an adult, the country superstar already performed the music he'd learned to love as a little baby with his parents and siblings.
"Friday and Saturday nights at the house, Jerry played guitar, Jim played the harmonica, Mike played guitar, Betsy played guitar, and, of course, Dad played guitar," Brooks told Playboy in 1994. "Mom sang her butt off, Dad sang, Betsy sang, Jerry sang, Jim sang, Mike sang. Kelly and I played the wax comb."
Carroll passed away in 1999 from throat cancer. Brooks' 2014 album Man Against Machine includes a song titled "Mom." Its lyrics, written by Wynn Varble and Don Sampson and previously sung by Bonnie Tyler, may shed some light on a sentimental son's memories of his mother: "You'll never have a better friend, or a warmer touch to tuck you in. She'll kiss your bruises, your bumps and scrapes. And anytime you hurt, her heart's gonna break."Brooks performed it on Good Morning America in November 2014.
Carroll's legacy as a singer lives on in part through her namesake, Brooks' talented daughter Allie Colleen.
This story originally ran on Dec. 4, 2019.