Who was Chris Gaines? Technically, who is Chris Gaines is a better question, because Garth Brooks' alter-ego (for lack of a better descriptor) never died. The country superstar just gave up on the experiment after crafting a wildly complex, fictional backstory and convincing legit superstars to play along as if it were all real.

This episode of the Secret History of Country Music comes 20 years after Brooks dropped his Garth Brooks ... In the Life of Chris Gaines album. In a vacuum, the album was Brooks' first pop album, and fans and critics agreed, it was decent — in a vacuum. The issue was everything Brooks surrounded it with and the speed with which fans were asked to consume it.

The album was billed as a greatest hits collection culled from Gaines' six previous albums, none of which actually existed but were said to have sold 50 million copies worldwide. Gaines himself (who was, for the most part, just Brooks 40 pounds lighter in a dark wig) was a 30-something slightly more lovable than Kanye West and very prone to tragedy. A real Behind the Music episode on VH-1 told Gaines' story and includes actors plus real journalists, singer Billy Joel and producer Don Was adding commentary with straight faces. Twenty years later, it can only be described as fantastic and ambitious, or perhaps insane. The line between is very thin.

This first of a two-part episode of the Secret History of Country Music focuses on Chris Gaines, the man and musician. Ep. 2 will look at the project, its impact, legacy and why Brooks wanted to do this in the first place. Don't feel bad if you get lost between the layers of every character big and small in this summary — host Ania Hammar has added a "real" and "fake" button to help you parse truth from fiction.

That's especially helpful when talking about songs like "It Don't Matter To the Sun" which was really part of the album released in 1999, but built on a fake backstory about how Gaines' father would sing it to his mother before he died on Nov. 15, 1990. Yes, the details were so granular that one can learn exactly when the fictional Gaines' fictional father died and why his fictional mother adds perspective.

The Secret History of Country Music is a new weekly series hosted by Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar. We'll go deeper inside the stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and figures. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.

Garth Brooks is currently out on the road on his Stadium Tour, which is set to last for three years.

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