Toby Keith Recalls Career-Changing ‘Day of Reckoning’
Toby Keith will release his 15th studio album, 'Clancy's Tavern' on Tuesday (Oct. 25). It's the superstar's sixth CD on his own label, Show Dog-Universal Music. The new set of tunes has caused the Oklahoma native to reflect on his nearly 20-year career, and the big risk he took, which obviously paid off very well.
Releasing his self-titled debut album on DreamWorks in 1993, Toby enjoyed more than 30 Top 20 singles in rapid succession, including the No. 1 hits, 'How Do You Like Me Now?!' and 'I Wanna Talk About Me.' But having grown increasingly unhappy with some of the decisions his label was making, the singer-songwriter asked to be released from his contract.
"It was the day of reckoning," he recalls of the meeting with his then-label head, Luke Lewis (quote via GMA News). "People asked me 'What makes you think you can run a label?' I told them, 'Because I've seen the people who do it and I'd put a bullet in my mug if I couldn't do as good a job as they do! And here we are, six years later, still kicking and rocking."
Kicking and rocking indeed. In addition to signing artists such as Trace Adkins and Joe Nichols to his label, Toby has reaped his own rewards, with each of his albums on Show Dog-Universal sailing to the top of the charts (with the exception of the first, 'White Trash With Money,' which landed in the No. 2 slot.) But it's his new album, and the lead-off single, that the Oklahoma native is anxious to discuss.
The title track, which will be released as a single on Monday (Oct. 24), tells the true story of Toby's grandmother, named Clancy. "Her husband died and left her with three kids, four and under," he explains. "She left them with her parents and went to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where she worked as plant manager for the Dixie Cup Factory. It was unheard of for a woman to do that in the 1950's."
Toby's grandmother also worked part-time at Billy Garner's Supper Club, a venue she eventually purchased, and the place Toby credits with developing his love for music. Not only does the tune tell the story of his beloved grandmother, but the rest of the song rings true for the singer as well. "The characters are real -- like there was a black dude named Elmo who cooked in the kitchen, and Clancy's best friend, Lillie, took over her old job. The song is true, right down to her taking her pistol and the money to the bank."
The multi-tasking performer, whose other ventures include his chain of 'I Love This Bar & Grill' restaurants, as well as his own line of mezcal, Wild Shot, available across the U.S., landed at the top of Forbes magazine's list of top-earning country music artists, with an estimated $50 million in earnings. And, he insists, he's earned every penny.
"I've not come up for air since 1993. I've not missed a tour, I've not missed putting out an album, I've not taken time off. That's why we are in Forbes, because of that work ethic," he notes. "My family knows of the sacrifices we've all made in order for me to be in this position, the time away from each other, and me being busy."
Toby will head to the U.K. for a series of shows overseas beginning Oct. 30. Keep track of his world travels here.