Toby Keith, Popular Country Music Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 62 – PPT News

Inspired by Merle Haggard and other artists of a populist bent, Mr. Keith made music reflecting his roots in the working-class, post-Dust Bowl culture of the southwestern United States. In recognition of this kinship he was presented with the 2020 Merle Haggard Spirit Award by the Academy of Country Music.

Toby Keith Covel was born on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Okla., the second of three children of Carolyn Joan (Ross) and Hubert K. Covel Jr. His father worked as a derrickhand in the oil industry. His mother was an aspiring singer who abandoned her musical pursuits to become a homemaker.

Mr. Keith grew up primarily in Moore, Okla., a suburb of Oklahoma City. He got his first guitar at the age of 8, and later spent summers with his grandmother in Fort Smith, Ark., doing odd jobs at her supper club and occasionally sitting in with the house band.

After graduating from high school he worked alongside his father in the oil fields, eventually becoming a supervisor. At 20, he and several friends formed a group called the Easy Money Band and started playing in local bars before graduating to the Texas and Oklahoma roadhouse circuit.

Mr. Keith’s first foray into the Nashville music scene found him busking on street corners and knocking on doors, to no avail, along the city’s Music Row. It was not until a fan who worked as a flight attendant slipped his demo tape to the producer Harold Shedd, known for his work with stars like Reba McEntire and Shania Twain, that he secured a contract with Mercury Records. His debut album for the label, titled “Toby Keith,” produced four Top 10 country singles and was certified platinum for sales of one million copies.

Determined to have a stronger, more indelible stamp as a performer, Mr. Keith nevertheless grew restless, moving from one subsidiary of Mercury to another before finding a home in 1998 with Nashville’s newly minted office of DreamWorks Records. The change proved auspicious, with Mr. Keith establishing a more robust, if fractious, image as 11 of his next 13 singles, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” and “I Wanna Talk About Me,” reached No. 1.

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