The son of a country music enthusiast, Dunn was born in Coleman, Texas, and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Playing in bands since his teens, he briefly studied psychology and theology at Abilene Christian College. Expelled from the school for "performing in honky tonks," he continued to attract attention with his Tulsa nightclub performances. Although Dunn recorded several tunes for Churchill Records in 1983 and 1984, none provided a breakthrough. He fared much better four years later, when an appearance in the Marlboro National Country Music talent contest led to an opportunity to record in Nashville. Brought together with Brooks, who despite writing songs for Crystal Gayle and the Oak Ridge Boys had found little success with his own recordings (by Tim DuBois), Dunn finally discovered a formula for success.
Brooks & Dunn’s 1991 debut, Brand New Man, was a hit right from its release, launching a career that proved to be one of the most successful in contemporary country music. Ronnie Dunn played with Kix Brooks for nearly two decades, and during that time they were always at the top of the country charts, racking up an astonishing 20 number one singles during that time. The duo announced an amicable split in 2009 followed by a farewell tour in 2010. Dunn was the first of the pair to launch a solo career, releasing a self-produced eponymous solo album in the summer of 2011. Ronnie Dunn debuted at number one on the U.S. country charts and had a Top Ten single in "Bleed Red."