Toby KeithBy 2002, Toby Keith had pretty much established himself as the 'angry American' when he topped the charts with 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,' which was subtitled -- in case the point had not been made clearly enough -- 'The Angry American.' But before he had even released his first single, 'Should've Been a Cowboy,' in 1993, Toby would establish himself in one single, heated moment as a peacemaker, in the eyes of a man who would one day co-found a major record label with him.

The man is Mark Wright, the new label president of Show Dog-Universal Music, the result of the recent merger of Toby's Show Dog Nashville with the Universal South label. Toby and Mark go back nearly 20 years, when Mark was a songwriter, penning such hits as Mark Chesnutt's 'Your Love Is a Miracle,' George Strait's 'Today My World Slipped Away' (which was also a hit for Vern Gosdin) and Alabama's 'Take a Little Trip.'

Back then, Mark was totally knocked out by the songs Toby was writing.

"We hit it off for different reasons," Toby tells GAC. "There was an artist in this business -- I'm not gonna name his name -- but we were all at CRS [Country Radio Seminar] one time, and Mark was kinda gravitating toward my side of the room. And this other artist was more in bed with him [in business] and was mad that he was hanging out with me more, and asked Mark why he never did like him. And Mark said, 'Cause you never could sing.' And they got in a fight."

With a laugh, Mark recalls, "I didn't take the first swing -- I think my words may have been the first swing!"

"So I kept these two apart," Toby continues, "and we became better friends."

Mark and Toby's Show Dog-Universal Music label brings together such acts as Joe Nichols, Phil Vassar, Carter's Chord, Trailer Choir and the Eli Young Band. Their merged label's first signed artist was Trace Adkins.