A SMALL CROWD GATHERS ROUND THE barbeque at a parking lot in L.A. As the charcoal hisses, Terry Currier, a Portland, Oreg., record-store operator, unwraps Garth Brooks’s hit CD Ropin’ the Wind and plops it on the grill. “Oh, this one’s warping up real good,” he says, turning the: CD with a spatula. “What say we fry up The Chase?”
Welcome to the traveling Garth Brooks Barbeque for Retail Freedom, courtesy of Currier, Fred Seegmuller and Bill McNally, who run two Music Millennium stores. Their first BBQ, in Portland on July 9, was such a hit that they have taken their act on the road—at last count firing up the barbie in nine cities from Seattle to San Diego. What inspired the protest was Brooks’s decision early last month to stand by his label, Liberty Records, and refuse to send his upcoming release, titled In Pieces, to stores selling used CDs.
Brooks—who has been joined in his crusade by only one other artist, Paul Anka—says that used CDs, which often sell for half price, cut into the sale of new ones and the artists’ royalties that go with them. “I’ve just done a huge deal with my label.” Brooks told Billboard magazine, “and I need to do all I can do to make a profit, and used CDs aren’t going to do my label s—-.”
In L.A., country music’s darling doesn’t get much sympathy. “Garth is just cutting his own throat,” says Criss Crass, a musician formerly with a rock group called the Muffs. “Saying you can’t buy used CDs is ridiculous. It’s like saying you can’t bin a used car.” Adds Jef Piehler, assistant manager of L.A.’s Rockaway Records: “Garth has turned his back on the middle-and working-class people who are otherwise his biggest following.’ ”
So far, Brooks—who began his national tour in Cheyenne, Wyo., on July 30—isn’t cowing to the barbeque backlash. But that hasn’t deterred the CD chefs. They hope to grill their way across the U.S.A. until the record business listens. “When you’re two little stores, you don’t really have a chance,” says Currier. “But if you get to the public, the labels will think, ‘Well, the public might rebel against this.’ And (hen the might be susceptible to change.” One place the trio is going to avoid, however, is Brooks’s home slate, Oklahoma. Says Currier: “I have the feeling if we look this show into Oklahoma, we’d get mugged.”