Toby Keith's new song "That's Country, Bro" is the musical equivalent of a "listicle." The country star rattles off dozens of his favorite legendary singers and television characters in a celebration of country music's roots and cultural reach.
Read on to learn a little about Keith's reference points, from the genre's earliest influencers to cultural icons from the singer's childhood.
“The Singing Brakeman” normalized the idea of solo country stars in his short (1927-1933) yet prolific career, spanning from the famed Bristol Sessions -- that also introduced the Carter Family -- to his untimely death at age 35.
The singer of “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” needs no introduction for any fan accustomed to classic country playlists or Nashville’s music tourism destinations.
It’s not a name-dropping song without ol' Hank, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you needed a 20-word summary of the greatest country singer of all time.
As an early face and voice of the Grand Ole Opry, Acuff captivated audiences with performances that often left the singer in tears.
The “Battle of New Orleans” singer innovated country music and rockabilly throughout a career cut short in a 1960 traffic accident.
Monroe earned his “Father of Bluegrass” moniker by innovating and popularizing a roots music offshoot, later taken to new heights by Flatt & Scruggs.
Yes, he’s folk and not country, but Guthrie’s love of regional songs and his radio show accomplished immeasurable good for Keith’s genre of choice.
Wills’ name and skill as a fiddler remain synonymous with the jazz-influenced Western swing style that spread from the Lone Star State’s dance halls to California.
Like Wills, Cooley contributed to the Western swing genre as an influential figure, and also served as an actor and television personality. Perhaps he shouldn’t be celebrated in song, however, considering the fact that he murdered his wife Ella Mae Evans in 1961.
Country’s first long-term female star is best remembered for “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” a biting answer to Hank Thompson’s sympathy toward cheating husbands in “Wide Side of Life.”
The “Big Bad John” singer and sausage company namesake’s biggest contribution may have been a ‘60s television variety show that introduced country music and the Muppets (Rowlf the dog was Dean’s comedic sidekick) to a broader audience.
Before Shania Twain, the Singing Ranger’s run of hits, including the namedropping gold standard “I’ve Been Everywhere,” made him America’s biggest Canadian-born country music star.
Like Hank, we know Dolly on a first-name basis. No intro necessary.
You don’t have to like country music to love the Man in Black.
The Wagonmaster was more than Parton's duet partner. His impeccable fashion taste, bizarre album covers (look up The Bottom of the Bottle) and mighty voice make him an all-time great.
A nickname for Merle Haggard, who has been a clear influence on Keith's material long before he released this newest track.
Young’s crooner-worthy voice suited country music’s move uptown in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
This honky-tonk singer-songwriter defined how a country singer’s supposed to sound during a career that lasted from the early ‘40s until the mid-‘70s.
As an ace vocalist, lyricist and guitarist, Miller offered more to popular culture than several albums’ worth of well-aged novelty songs.
The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” singer is more than a living legend. She’s still a force on stage and in the studio.
Few knew how to make listeners feel the struggles and triumphs of the characters in their songs quite like Wynette.
If you think Owens is just some guy from Hee Haw, check out his Capitol Records output, featuring all-time-great sideman Don Rich.
Country music’s first long-term African-American star remains one of the genre’s greatest ambassadors.
This NASCAR driver and country music legend introduced Hawaiian and Spanish influences to mainstream country while taking narrative-driven songs about the Old West to new heights.
"The Possum" is known for a lot of things, from dubious tales involving riding lawnmowers to that early ‘80s comeback that brought us some of the greatest songs of the past 40 years.
Before becoming the godmother of Americana, Harris brought a touch of class to the country charts through her explorations of bluegrass, country and singer-songwriter traditions.
It’s easy through 21st century eyes to view Twitty as a guy with a perm and a closet full of sports coats, although he was a well-rounded artist who capably changed country music for the better.
This songwriter to the stars turned chart-topper poked fun at his own speech impediment in a way that was more inspiring than insulting. Keith follows suit in this tribute, paying homage to "M-M-Mel Tillis."
Loretta Lynn’s sister became a crossover pop-country star in her time, introducing her ankle-length hair and gorgeous vocal delivery to a worldwide audience.
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings
Together, these two legends changed how country stars looked, sounded and carried themselves as the spokesmen of the outlaw movement.
Coe’s ongoing, oddball career is probably best remembered for the singalong hits you’ll hear shouted at every fraternity house between Dallas and Atlanta.
This recently-deceased legend wrote some of the biggest hits of the ‘80s, a time when Keith played honky-tonks in Texas and Oklahoma with the band Easy Money.
As the writer of Elvis Presley’s “Kentucky Rain” and the singer of a lengthy list of country hits, Rabbitt deserves more credit as one of the best lyricists of his time.
Back when the likes of Alabama and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band ruled the charts, Shenandoah entered the country band fray, introducing us to its lead singer Marty Raybon.
Alabama’s Southern rock meets country tradition formula surely impacted quite a few creative decisions across Keith’s 25-year mainstream career.
The reign of country music’s undisputed king predates Keith’s mainstream career, and it shows no signs of slowing.
It’s easy now to lose sight of how different Travis’ traditional country formula sounded from his mainstream, pop-friendly peers. A stalwart traditionalist, he battened down the hatches of country's roots during a time when fashion was taking the genre in a much different direction.
While describing Hee Haw, Keith calls Samples, a comedian portrayed as a quirky redneck, the series’ true star.
Although he’s referencing a better time for rural-based TV shows, Keith alludes to a talented country artist, Dukes of Hazzard co-star John Schneider.
This actor, guitarist and singer transcended country music as one of the stars of the Smokey and the Bandit movies.
“The Mouth of Mississippi” won over country audiences with his hilarious tales of rural living.
To Keith’s generation, Campbell’s more than a country singer. He’s also a variety television regular and John Wayne’s co-star in the original True Grit.
Despite being lumped in with Keith’s Western heroes, Rogers deserves a shout-out for a Country Music Hall of Fame career that blurred the line between film soundtracks and commercially-viable hits.
John Wayne, Marshall Dillon, Andy Griffith, Festus and the Cartwrights
These big- and small-screen sheriffs and do-gooders point back to Keith’s first hit, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Still, Ken “Festus” Curtis and Ben Cartwright actor Lorne Greene proved to be gifted country singers.