By Matt Kelemen
There can’t be a better time to catch country singers performing than when they are at the top of their game. Toby Keith is flying high this summer after his ode to handheld house party tumblers, “Red Solo Cup,” received double-platinum certification status. That’s 2 million downloads to you and me—a huge figure but just slightly above par for the 51-year-old star. The real reason Keith has something to celebrate is that it’s the best-selling single of a nearly two-decade recording career that has already yielded 20 No. 1 hits, and he shows no sign of slowing down.
The unapologetically patriotic Oklahoma native’s career came full circle with his latest album Clancy’s Tavern, the title of which was inspired by the bar his grandmother owned in Fort Smith, Ark. The musicians who played there made a big impression on young Toby Keith Covel, who was brought onstage at age 8. His destiny was sealed by then, but he had to break a promise to himself to quit the business if he hadn’t made it by 30. Good thing, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have been named Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards in November.