The Person Who Made Me Love Country Music

I woke to the news this morning that Toby Keith had passed. What a loss.

I was a big Toby Keith fan. In fact, one of my tweets about him made national television on the Today Show in 2019.

Toby Keith is the person who made me appreciate country music. Before I found his work, I held the same lame attitude that too many people hold about the genre, thinking it is just a bunch of moaning and groaning about dogs dying and harvests failing. Man, what an obtuse view.

That all changed with Toby Keith. Long before I even listened to Kenny Chesney, I was all about songs like “How Do You Like Me Now” and “I Wanna Talk About Me.” Keith’s songs told a story and they were fun. Oh, and there was also his voice. But more on that in just a second.

I was saddened to hear of Toby Keith’s passing (photo courtesy of Chris Pizzello).

Even if his talent didn’t win you over as a full-fledged fan, there was no denying his greatest contribution to not just the country genre but American music in general: “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Perhaps one of the greatest karaoke songs ever and an anthem for all guys who wish they turned out just a little tougher, that song is legendary. I remember belting it out in the weight room with my high school football teammates and my memories associated with the song just multiplied from there.

Another talent of Toby Keith was his ability to create music videos you wanted to watch. “A Little Too Late” builds up and builds up until it turns into one of the most epic music video gags ever. Then you have “As Good As I Once Was” with the over-the-top and hilarious bar scenes. But the video that holds a special place in my heart, simply because it is tied to a memory, is “Red Solo Cup.” Watch the video and you will wonder yourself how many beverages in red solo cups that Toby and his crew enjoyed before/during the making of it 😂. I fondly remember on Thanksgiving when my family, aunt, uncle, and cousin watched that video and found ourselves rolling on the floor in laughter. We sang that song the rest of the long weekend.

Since I started listening to Toby Keith in the early 2000s, I desperately wanted to see him in concert. Known for his high energy and pyrotechnic-fueled shows, a live Keith concert was a bucket list item for any true fan. In 2011, I had my chance. I landed tickets for his “Locked And Loaded” tour as I attended his show at Northern Quest’s outdoor venue with my boss at the time and my brother. It was an awesome night as I watched a true entertainer rock the joint. Keith’s energy, charisma, and talent were on display the entire evening. When the concert ended, little did I know how much more memorable that night was about to get…

Rather grainy photo I took of Toby Keith when I watched him at Northern Quest in 2011 but I did my best.

After the show, I ate dinner in one of the Northern Quest restaurants with my boss and brother. It took a long time and after the check came it was late and most of the casino was cleared out. The three of us decided to take a stroll through the casino floor. As we walked, I noticed a large man wearing a cowboy hat at a Three Card Poker table. Sitting in a chair at the middle of the table was Toby Keith! My boss, brother, and I didn’t think twice—we went right over. My brother sat down and played with Keith while we stood behind him. After playing it cool for a couple moments, we started chatting with him. Keith was engaging and polite. The thing that stood out the most? That voice! Even though he was subdued and out of concert mode, his voice was unmistakable and rich. I became an even bigger fan that night.

Toby Keith was an incredible talent who elevated the profile of country music. He was also a man who stood for something. A patriot and relentless supporter of our troops, he wasn’t afraid to be outspoken about his pride for the United States of America. He was also a man of faith so this morning I pray that eternal rest be grant unto Toby Keith and that perpetual light shines upon him 🙏. Don’t Blink.

Leave a Reply