True Westerners

A Man That Won't Bend

Royal Wade Kimes' success shows why sometimes the outlaw wins.

Royal Wade Kimes' success shows why sometimes the outlaw wins.

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Being an outlaw is no way to win a popularity contest.

Royal Wade Kimes was with buddy Garth Brooks and his dad. Ray Brooks pointed toward Kimes: “You know who that is?”

“Well, sure, Dad,” replied Garth. “That’s Wade.”

“No, that’s a Kimes,” said the elder Brooks. “And they’re all outlaws. Better watch your back around him.”


Being an outlaw is no way to win a popularity contest. Nashville tends to shun Kimes because he bucked the system. Some in the Western music genre think he’s a sell-out because of his close association with Garth Brooks. Stories circulate of artists who won’t appear on the same bill or CD compilation with Kimes. His take on it: “It gives me drive. Besides, I don’t hold truck with some of them, either.”


The Kimes

“Men that wouldn’t bend.” That’s what old-timers in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma say about the Kimes family. Just look at Matt and George Kimes, who fought the Great Depression the only way they knew how—robbing banks and stores, sometimes with Ma Barker and her boys. The law caught up with them and put the Kimes brothers in prison for a time, but they never changed their ways. Same was true for several of their kin, some of whom also rode the outlaw trail.

One of their modern-day relatives, Royal Wade Kimes, has got more than a little of that renegade spirit in him. And he’s finding sweet success in molding a music career based on an unbending vision and determination.

It’s sort of a classic story—kid grows up on a ranch in Arkansas, learns how to handle cattle and horses, and gets familiar with guns and hard work. But he also loves music, Country and Western music, and he starts writing songs by the age of 14. He has to keep day jobs while he hones his craft—cowboy, sawmill operator, that sort of thing. And then, one day, he’s “discovered.”

Country legend Eddy Arnold “found” Wade Kimes and his music talents during a chance meeting in Nashville in the 1980s.  The star helped the greenhorn get his foot in the door as a songwriter—and sharpen his craft as a singer, too.

Kimes tried to do it “their way.” He worked within the Nashville music industry, looking to make a buck and get some recognition. He cranked out the songs—and some of them became hits for other folks, the biggest being “We Bury the Hatchet,” a tune he wrote with Garth Brooks that appeared on Brooks’ 1991 multi-million seller Ropin’ the Wind. The song made for a big payday for the guy from Arkansas.

By 1996, Kimes got his big break. Warner/Asylum Records signed him up as a singer-songwriter, and he came up with his first album, Another Man’s Sky. The company promised they’d push it to the hilt ... and then changed their minds, throwing their marketing weight behind a more established act. Kimes’ record actually spawned a couple of radio hits,...

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