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Ronnie Dunn is a native of Coleman, Texas. (Special to the American Press)

Ronnie Dunn is a native of Coleman, Texas. (Special to the American Press)

Dunn’s plans to become Baptist minister took detour

Last Modified: Thursday, November 08, 2012 3:55 PM

By Cliff Seiber / American Press

Rnnie Dunn, the latest big-name headliner to perform at the L’Auberge Events Center, began his career as a closet country music performer while in college.

Dunn will be onstage at L’Auberge at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

A native of Coleman, Texas, near Abilene, he and some friends started playing music together in the stairwell of the dorm at Hardin-Simmons University “because it had a great reverb effect.” Dunn majored in theology at the Baptist-affiliated university with plans to become a Baptist minister.

The student music group won a talent contest at the university, and that was Dunn’s first taste of success. He snuck away from his friends on weekends to play bass guitar with country groups at VFWs, Moose lodges and the like.

“Country music wasn’t popular with the college crowd in those days, so I kept it secret” Dunn told the American Press in a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn.

Later, while a student at Abilene Christian University, a school with Church of Christ history, he was given a choice of quitting his gigs at honky-tonks or leaving the college. He chose his music.

In August he performed a benefit concert in Abilene.

“It sure has changed,” he said.

Dunn said his father always wanted a career in music, but he worked all his life in the oil fields. Ronnie attended 13 schools in 12 years because of his father’s frequent job location changes.

“When I started thinking about a music career, my grandparents said “No! Don’t do it.” Dunn said.

But Dunn ignored the advice.

Through a stroke of luck and the wisdom of a record producer, he hooked up with Shreveport native Leon Eric (Kix) Brooks, and the Brooks and Dunn duo was an instant success. Their first single, “Brand New Man,” debuted on the country charts and soared to No. 1 in 1991.

The song became the title track of their first album, which went to platinum in 1992. Over the next 20 years, the pair of songwriters-vocalists was a consistent chart topper and Grammy winner.

They retired from Brooks and Dunn in 2010. Ronnie Dunn spent some time in reflection, doodling with songs when his wife would tell him to go out to the barn and think things over. The “barn” is a man cave, recreation center and recording studio on the couple’s ranch in Nashville. After weighing his options and deciding what he wanted for his future, Dunn set to work and recorded his self-titled album, which met with great success in June 2011.

Dunn has three albums in the works waiting to be cut after some turmoil in the recording industry settles, he said.

“The labels are restructuring,” he said.

His solo career “half sucks and half doesn’t,” he joked, referring to the difficulties with the recording business.

He is enjoying his live performances.

“I am really in it for the music,” he said. “I am enjoying this (solo career) more than anything I’ve ever done,” he said.

If you go

Ronnie Dunn concert at the L’Auberge Lake Charles Events Center at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

Tickets start at $55 and are available at 800-745-3000, Legends memorabilia shop at L’Auberge or the L’Auberge Business Center.

Must be 21 or older to enter.

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