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KEITH, TOBY (1961- )

The 2003 and 2004 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Entertainer of the Year, Toby Keith, was born Toby Keith Covel at Clinton, Oklahoma, on July 8, 1961. When Keith was young, his parents, H. K. and Joan Covel, moved to Moore. After graduating from high school in 1979, Keith worked in the oil fields. As the oil market dissolved, Keith began playing semiprofessional football for the Oklahoma City Drillers but by the mid-1980s focused on music. His Easy Money Band traveled a bar circuit throughout the region, playing small venues until a 1992 debut album produced the number-one country song, "Should've Been a Cowboy."

Influenced by Merle Haggard, Keith wrote many songs that reflect his upbringing and perception of Oklahoma culture. Unlike many successful Oklahoma musicians, he has made the Sooner State his headquarters, living near the town where he was raised. Under Mercury Records he had a modestly successful 1990s career, but it skyrocketed after he changed to the Dreamworks Records label. By 2004 he had sixteen number one Billboard Country hits, with eight from the Dreamworks period. He has earned numerous honors from the ACM, Country Music Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, People's Choice Awards, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International Awards.

SEE ALSO: COUNTRY MUSIC, MERLE HAGGARD, HANK THOMPSON.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Richard Carlin, Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Routledge, 2003). Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 25 March 1993. Kathryn Jenson White, "Oklahoman of the Year, 2003," Oklahoma Today 54 (January/February 2004).

Larry O'Dell

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