Are you ready for Garth Brooks mania to begin?!? I cannot wait for Garth to kick off his world tour in Chicago tonight, but let's take a moment to reflect on when our Garth love affair truly began.

Before he became "the G man," he was Troyal Garth Brooks, born on February 7, 1962 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played many sports in high school, and received a track scholarship to attend Oklahoma State University. He had been casually singing at family affairs through his childhood, played the Oklahoma bar scene in college, but it wasn't until 1981 when he first heard George Strait's "Unwound" that he decided country music was where he needed to be.

He moved to Nashville in 1985, released his debut album "Garth Brooks" in 1989, and our love affair began thanks to songs like "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "Unanswered Prayers," and "The Dance."

Now let's fast forward to 1997, the year Garth Brooks was last in Chicago. His album "Sevens" just came out, and we had never yet heard of "Chris Gaines." (Thank goodness) We also got a glimpse into the budding romance of Garth and Trisha Yearwood with "In Another's Eyes."

On October 26, 2000 Garth Brooks officially announced his retirement from touring and recording, promising an eventual return. It has been a long 14 years.

Welcome home, Garth. Welcome home.

Now...for the fun Throwback Thursday stuff. Here is the oldest performance picture of Garth I could find that I have access too. It is from 1993 when Garth performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXVII accompanied by Marlee Matlin with sign language translation.

George Rose, Getty Images


My, oh my that is a hot shirt, Garth.

Here he is performing at the Billboard Music Awards in 1998...


Frank Micelotta, Getty Images


Garth, we're smiling too. Can't wait to see you tonight.

Jackson Laizure, Getty Images

Steve Summers and I will recap all of tonight's excitement for you tomorrow morning starting at 5a.m. That is, if we survive our first all-nighter in many, many years.