Garth Brooks, ‘The Thunder Rolls’ — Story Behind the Lyrics
Twenty years ago, Garth Brooks exploded on the country music scene, making history with his debut album, ‘No Fences.’ That record would go on to sell 17 million copies and win Album of the Year from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.
On October 17, 2010, Pat Alger was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Among the artists who paid tribute to the tunesmith that night were Tanya Tucker, T. Graham Brown, Jim Lauderdale, Jimmy Wayne and Garth. When Garth took the stage to pay homage to Pat, he recalled the day he sat down with him to write ‘The Thunder Rolls.’
“Pat [was] sitting with his pen and his paper, poised. I’ve got a little rubber ball that I’m bouncing off the wall right above his head, back and forth, crawling underneath the chairs and desk like you do when you’re five years old — because that’s what I do. Alger’s sitting there about ready to kill me, coming up with all these wonderful lines, thousands of ‘em that you never use.”
“But that’s Alger’s thing,” Garth continued. “Alger understands the craft. That’s what I love about Pat Alger. Pat Alger doesn’t care how or when it gets done. I might go as far as saying, not even if it does get done. The cool thing is just to capture that moment. And that’s what Pat Alger does.
“It’s the first time I was ever in a record label. I was scared to death. Pat was kind of like my mentor/buddy — who was scared to death, too, if the truth be known.”
Garth also remembered the two of them felt “pretty cool” when they finished writing their song, put together a demo … and went to meet record producer, Jerry Crutchfield … who was interested in recording it with Tanya Tucker. But Jerry informed Garth and Pat that he didn’t consider their song finished.
“Alger, as sweet as he could, looked across that desk and [said], ‘What the hell you mean this ain’t finished?’” Garth recalls. “[Jerry] said, ‘I wanna know how it ends.’ Alger looked at him and goes, ‘No, you don’t.’ They had a great rapport with each other. I’m mortified. I’m sitting there going, ‘Well, there goes my first cut out the window.”
Garth and Pat, of course, ended up writing that notorious third verse. Tanya Tucker cut the song but never released it. When Garth got his record deal, he recorded the song without the extra verse. The accompanying music video was a huge success and Garth finally recorded the complete version of the song for his 1998 live album, ‘Double Live.’