Sitting at her computer Friday waiting to buy tickets to the first Garth Brooks concert in Champaign in two decades, Starr Carroll of Beardstown was reminded of the time she met the country music star.
Not in a large arena in Champaign.
Right here, in Jacksonville.
While a city 120 miles to the east can lay claim to hosting the last Illinois stops in Brooks’ world tour, Jacksonville helped introduce him to the world.
As his career took a meteoric rise after the release of his debut album in April 1989, Capitol-EMI Manufacturing workers were busy making, packing and sending out millions upon millions of his albums and cassettes.
Brooks made several visits to the plant to say thanks.
“I worked at EMI and every time he came to town, I made sure I was there,” Carroll said. “It didn’t matter if I had to work or not. Several people were like that.”
Workers would come in early or go home late to see him, she recalled.
“He was one of those types of men who would stay to sign the very last autograph,” Carroll said.
The autographs are nothing compared to the time she was on the receiving end of a kiss to the cheek.
“Getting a kiss on my left cheek was a very memorable moment,” Carroll said. “I think I made a lot of girls there a little on the jealous side. Many got a picture of the kiss, but none of them wold give me a copy of it. I didn’t wash it for a week.”
Carroll presented Brooks with a plaque she made featuring two aces, with two other cards representing his two daughters at the time, and one laid down to represent any future children.
“It was just a gift,” Carroll said. “I gave it to him and he smiled and gave me a kiss on the cheek.”
Now that Brooks is within a two-hour trip, Carroll said she’s going to do what it takes to be in the audience.
“I don’t want to miss this concert,” Carroll said. “I love to listen to him and he’s had a lot of songs that are just real.”
She’s not alone. State Farm Center officials quickly added a second show and demand was so heavy the system was unable to handle sales and had to be shut down. Some fans were able to get tickets, but sales were suspended for both the April 28 and April 29. It is not known when tickets will go on sale again.
Brooks was pleased with the response, tweeting “Illinois thank you for showing up in a BIG way! The new on sale will be announced soon! We promise #garthinchampaign will be a BLAST.”
Tom Cisne of Jacksonville, who worked at Capitol-EMI Manufacturing in Jacksonville for 43 years, remembers Brooks as being personable when he visited the factory four times between 1989 and 1995.
It’s the March 10, 1995, visit Cisne remembers the most.
Cisne said he came that day for recognition of the 50 million recordings of his music that had been produced at the Jacksonville plant.
“I remember there was a lot of security that day for crowd control and for all the state politicians who came to see Garth,” Cisne said.
In a ceremony at the factory, EMI officials presented Brooks with a plaque in recognition of the milestone.
“After that ceremony and a meal, which 1,500 people attended, Brooks stood in line from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., signing scraps of paper, guitars, pictures and who knows what else,” Cisne said. “He also made a point of hugging all the ladies and girls.”
Cisne was one of hundreds of people who got to meet Brooks and get an autographed photo of the star.
“Garth was very personable and very thankful for the quality of the work we did for him,” Cisne said.
The Jacksonville EMI plant became a distribution center in the mid-2000s and closed in 2009.
Greg Olson can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1224, or on Twitter @JCNews_greg.
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