WASHINGTON (AP) _ Garth Brooks brought his famous cowboy hat to the Smithsonian Institution on Tuesday as he donated mementos from his singing career.
But once he finished signing autographs and taking pictures, he was more interested in seeing Patsy Cline's performance costume and Ray Charles' tuxedo.
Brooks' trademark black Stetson Tyler cowboy hat, a stage outfit of Wrangler jeans and black cowboy boots, and a guitar he smashed on stage at a Dallas concert in 1991 will soon join the artifacts of other musical greats at the ``Treasures of American History'' exhibit.
``I see these things in here and all I can think of is what the hell am I doing here? It's amazing,'' Brooks said. ``Hopefully, time will answer that question. It always does.''
Among the 10 items Brooks donated are the first gold record and cassette he received for his self-titled 1989 debut album, handwritten lyrics from the song ``Beaches of Cheyenne'' and the massive award plaque he received this year as the nation's top-selling solo artist _ having sold 123 million albums.
Brooks, 45, retired from touring in 1998 to become a stay-at-home dad. He planned to fly back home to Oklahoma on Tuesday in time to pick up one of his daughters for her Christmas recital.
He ended his nine-year touring hiatus for several benefit concerts this year, including one for a national memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington. He has upcoming concerts Jan. 25 and 26 in Los Angeles to raise money for victims of the California wildfires.
The Smithsonian initially went after Brooks' cowboy hat. But when it heard he had a gold record and recent award from the Recording Industry Association of America, Dwight B. Bowers, a curator in the museum's division of music, sports and entertainment, said, ``We were salivating.'' An exhibit on Brooks' career can help visitors understand the importance of country music, he said.
``The fusion of the new and the time-honored is central to the music of Garth Brooks, which blends the rhythms of rock with those of traditional country music,'' Bowers said.
Brooks' ability to relate to people is also part of his legacy, museum director Brent Glass said. Most stars who come to the Smithsonian whisk through without talking to visitors.
Glass said the museum seeks objects that ``amplify and animate'' the nation's musical heritage. ``In many ways, American music is the soundtrack of American history,'' he said.
Brooks said he thinks of country music in layman's terms as ``the 6 o'clock news put to music.''
A partial display of the Brooks items will be placed on view in January at the National Air and Space Museum while the National Museum of American History undergoes a major renovation.
Glass invited Brooks to return for the museum's reopening next year to sing the national anthem. Brooks said he'd be glad to do it but that his wife, singer Trisha Yearwood, would be much better.