LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Country music duo Brooks & Dunn, whose honky-tonk bravado catapulted them to the top of the charts for almost two decades, said on Monday they would break up after a farewell tour next year.
Singer/guitarists Kix Brooks, 54, and Ronnie Dunn, 56, said in a statement that "it's just time" for the split, which surprised music industry observers.
"After 20 years of making music and riding this trail together, we have agreed as a duo that it's time call it a day," they said.
"This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed.... We owe it all to you, the fans. If you hear rumors, don't believe them, it's just time."
Dates have yet to be announced for next year's concert outing, dubbed The Last Rodeo Tour. It will be preceded next month by a hits record, "#1 ... and then some."
Brooks & Dunn first hit the charts in 1991, and went on to become the biggest-selling duo in country music history. They sold 22.3 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks retail sales.
They topped the U.S. country singles charts 20 times with such tunes as "Brand New Man," the title track from their debut 1991 album; and "Only in America," a patriotic 2001 anthem used by both parties during election campaigns. Brooks & Dunn performed at various Republican events, but only Dunn was outwardly a supporter of the party.
The duo also won two Grammys, and dozens of honors from both the Country Music Association Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Louisiana-born Brooks, the duo's lively mustachioed half, and Texas-born Dunn, the goateed half and primary singer, joined forces in 1990 at the behest of a music-label executive after struggling as solo artists.
"Both of us had been kicked in the head so many times," Brooks told Billboard magazine in 2003, referring to his modest expectations for the duo.
But country fans quickly warmed to their repertoire of hard-charging tunes and wistful ballads, all delivered in energetic shows.
The debut album "Brand New Man" peaked at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and went on to become their best-selling release with U.S. sales of 3.9 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It yielded four No. 1 singles on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
Five of their 10 studio albums hit No. 1, although their last release, "Cowboy Town," stalled at No. 4 in 2007, and failed to generate any chart-topping singles.
Their on-stage bonhomie appeared to carry over into real life, with Dunn once likening themselves to brothers. Brooks said their relationship did not "need a lot of maintenance."
Asked in the same 2003 Billboard interview how much longer they would continue, Dunn indicated there was no end in sight.
"I have enough money, but what else am I going to do, golf? I don't think so. There's nothing I like better."
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Doina Chiacu