Toby Keith Biography

Toby Keith Covel, 8 July 1961, Elk Town, Clinton, Oklahoma, USA. This highly popular honky-tonk country artist grew up on an Oklahoma farm listening to his father’s favourite, Bob Wills, and finding his own hero in Merle Haggard. He tested broncs and bulls for a rodeo during his summers in high school. Oil was found in Elk Town and Keith worked as a roughneck and then an operational manager. This experience inspired ‘Boomtown’ (the title track of his second album), of which he says, ‘The wells ran dry. The rich people got rich by saving their money. The fools who spent it were broke.’ Keith formed the Easy Money Band, originally playing Alabama hits but then widening the repertoire as they accumulated new and better equipment. Keith, who during this period also played semi-pro American football, recorded for independent labels before being signed to PolyGram Records by Harold Shedd, who produced his 1993 debut, Toby Keith. It included a tribute to the film stars of yesteryear, ‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’, a number 1 country record that also became the anthem of the Dallas Cowboys football team. The album included further hits with ‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now’, ‘He Ain’t Worth Missing’ and ‘A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action’. Billboard magazine named Keith the Top New Country Artist of 1993.

The country chart-topper ‘Who’s That Man’, included on Keith’s second collection Boomtown, started as a joke: ‘You know the old one that goes, “What do you get if you play country music backwards? Answer: your wife back, your dog back, your house back and your car back.” I was kicking that idea round as a fun song when I hit upon the line, “Who’s that man running my life?” It dawned on me that it would work better as a serious song.’ In 1995, Keith released a sentimental seasonal album, Christmas To Christmas, which featured songs from the cream of Nashville’s songwriters. The following year he had a major country hit with ‘Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You’ and released the bestselling Blue Moon. The following year’s Dream Walkin’, produced by James Stroud, featured the hit single ‘We Were In Love’ and a duet with pop star Sting, ‘I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying’.

Keith subsequently followed Stroud to the DreamWorks label, contributing to The Prince Of Egypt - Nashville collection and releasing How Do You Like Me Now?! in 1999. The title track became a crossover hit when it entered the pop Top 40. Keith hit a new commercial peak in September 2001 when Pull My Chain entered the Billboard country chart at number 1, and also broke into the mainstream Top 10. The following year’s Unleashed featured the hit single ‘Courtesy Of The Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)’, an ultra-patriotic song written in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September that warned ‘they’ll get a boot in their ass, it’s the American way’. The album not only hit the US country chart at number 1, but showed just how important new country music is by making the same impact on the national Billboard album chart, putting Keith in a similar league to Garth Brooks. The next year’s follow-up Shock’N Y’All repeated the feat. Keith made his acting debut in the movie Broken Bridges in 2006.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.