Oklahoma-born country music sensation Toby Keith, who was responsible for the hit single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” in 1993, has become a mentor to up-and-coming acts in the industry and a living legend who has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.
The former NFL hopeful, rodeo rider, and oil worker is also best known for his shows to US military personnel serving in the Middle East. His warlike, nationalist and militaristic hit “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” from 2002, inspired by the September 11 attacks, was an unofficial anthem for the troops.
Toby Keith was born on July 8, 1961, as Toby Keith Covel in Clinton, Oklahoma, the son of his parents Hubert K. Covel, Jr. and Carolyn Joan (née Ross). He is the second of three children; he has an older sister named Tonnie and a younger brother named Tracy. As Keith grew up, the family moved around a lot. He lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas for several years before moving to Moore, Oklahoma.
He attended Highland West Junior High and then Moore High School where he graduated. After playing football in high school, Keith did not go straight to college like his peers at the time. Instead, he chose to work with his father in the Oklahoma oil fields.
Before he went into the oilfields, Keith had already fallen in love with music. He started playing instruments at a young age and owned his first guitar at the age of eight. He got further inspiration from musicians who played in his grandmother’s club. While doing odd jobs at the club, Keith usually asked to come on stage to play with the band. Once he got a taste of show business when the band at the time let him play on stage after work.
Keith formed a band with some of his friends during his high school days, but at that time he decided to earn his living by working in the oil fields rather than actively pursuing a musical career. He rose to the level of the plant manager. His passion for music while still working in the oilfields led to the formation of the Easy Money Band, which Keith formed with some of his colleagues and friends. The band played in local bars and was occasionally invited as openers for larger country bands.
When Keith became unemployed due to the rapid decline of the oil industry in the early 1980s, he resorted to his “part-time” music career. He had some success in 1984 when his band was invited to perform in the Honky Tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas. He managed to make ends meet, but he still tried to get a contract. From time to time he traveled to Nashville to distribute his demos in the hope of getting a contract.
His big breakthrough came in the early ’90s when the managing director of Mercury Records, Harold Shedd, heard his demo and decided to sign him with a record deal. Keith signed with Mercury Records and released his self-titled debut album in 1993. His debut single “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, which was the most played song of the 1990s, went straight to number 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. The album produced three more top 5 hits in the country charts and went platinum.
Toby Keith had further successes with his follow-up works; “Boomtown” 1994 (Certified Platinum), “Blue Moon” 1996 (Certified Platinum), and “Dream Walkin” 1997 (Certified Gold). Here he teamed up with Sting to record “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying”. The recording earned him a Grammy nomination. In 1999, “How Do You Like Me Now?!” followed before “Unleashed” was released with the hit duet “Beer for My Horses” with Willie Nelson in 2002 and sold over 3 million copies.
Keith has now also tried his hand at acting and has started his own record label as well as other businesses including a clothing line, bars, grills, and restaurants.
Toby Keith’s Family – Wife and Daughter
Toby Keith is married to Tricia Lucus. The couple married on 24 March 1984 and have three children, two daughters, and a son. Their first, Shelley Covel Rowland, was born in 1980. She is Tricia’s biological daughter from a previous relationship that Keith adopted. Her second child is Krystal LaDawn Covel Sandubrae, born in 1985, and then Stelen Keith Covel, born in 1997.
Keith’s second daughter, Krystal, follows in her father’s footsteps and becomes a country music star. She has a record deal with Show Dog-Universal Music and has released an album called “Whiskey & Lace”.
Height and Other Facts
Birth Name: Toby Keith Covel
Date of Birth: July 8, 1961
Birth Place: Clinton, Oklahoma, U.S.A
Height: 6 feet 2 inches (1.89m)
Weight: 82 kg (181lbs)
Occupation(s): Singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer