ENTERTAINMENT

Keith returns to Q-C for Mississippi Valley Fair

2013-07-25T04:30:00Z 2013-07-26T04:44:56Z Keith returns to Q-C for Mississippi Valley FairDavid Burke dburke@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

Of the 20 years that Toby Keith has been a force to be reckoned with in country music, this may be his busiest summer.

Both high and low points resulted from a single event when a tornado inflicted death and massive damage on his hometown of Moore, Okla., and was followed by a subsequent fundraising concert a few weeks ago that drew the likes of Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks to the stage.

Add to that a new single of his own, a new duet with Jimmy Buffett, his 10th USO tour and an appearance on the cover of this week's Forbes magazine, not to mention a growing chain of I Love This Bar restaurants, the success of his Wild Shot Mezcal liquor, the fact he is still running his own record label and there stands a performer who remains unstoppable.

Yet he's still keeping a busy road schedule, including the Tuesday night kickoff of the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport.

In a telephone interview from his Norman, Okla., home, Keith said worse tornadoes hit other parts of the state than his hometown, but the May 20 twister got more attention since it struck a school.

"Once they get the pieces picked up and moved on, they're OK," he said of the survivors. As for the rebuilding process, "they started that five minutes after it was over."

Keith, who recalled that his last Mississippi Valley Fair appearance in 1997 was disrupted by a tornado warning ("I remember sittin' on the bus and it started rockin'. I thought, 'Something ain't right.' "), said he knew something was happening when storm-chaser vehicles converged on his hometown. "You know the conditions are right for some serious weather," he added.

His July 6 concert also included Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Dunn and a satellite appearance by Carrie Underwood,

"We knew we were going to raise some money for them. I had family and friends affected by it," he said of the concert, which set an attendance record for the University of Oklahoma football stadium.

"We were kind of hoping ours would be a 'corner turner.' Let's turn the corner here and start working on a healing process. And by the way, here's some more money."

Keith released his 50th single, "Drinks After Work," last month, and it's already climbed into country's top-40 chart. A mellower sound extolling the joys of heading to a bar at quitting time, it was one of Keith's few hits not written by the 52-year-old singer.

"Four or five times in the last 20 years, somebody's brought me a song that's made me go, 'Wow, I need to cut that,' " he said. (The others, he said, were "I Wanna Talk About Me," "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action" and "Red Solo Cup.")

"You hear something that fits you," he said. "This was such a different sound, and it was pretty cool. For the first time, I cut an outside song that I didn't know if I could sing. It was out there."

The song is "just that feel-good thing you want to hear on Friday when it's 4 o'clock and you've got an hour to go," he added.

It'll be part of an album, as yet untitled, that will be released this fall. It was neck and neck for early release with a song titled "Before We Knew They Were Good," which is likely to be the second single from the album.

The album itself is recorded, he said, but he still needs to finish a couple of tracks for bonus editions offered by some retailers.

On top of that, Keith partners with Buffett for the single "Too Drunk to Karaoke," the video for which premiered online Tuesday.

"I always talk about Willie and Hag (Merle Haggard) and people like that. Guys like Jimmy Buffett were just as big of an influence on me growing up as anybody," Keith said.

Keith, who recorded the albums "Unleashed" and "Shock'n Y'all" in Buffett's Florida studios, said he offered "Red Solo Cup" to the Margaritaville singer as a duet in 2011, but then went on with it himself. Buffett reached out to Keith for "Too Drunk to Karaoke."

"To me, to work with Jimmy Buffett is a feather in my hat. I think the guy's brilliant in what he does," Keith said.

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Keith made the Forbes magazine list of most successful moneymakers in show business. With estimated earnings of $65 million, he's the 43rd-most successful, behind author E.L. James and ahead of author James Patterson.

But he ended up on the cover of the magazine, which talked about his music, bars, Mezcal and other ventures.

"I was so reluctant to even talk about success," he said. "Finally, my publicist said, 'This is freakin' Forbes!' "

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There's one goal that remains for Keith, he said. Five to six years ago, he got a call from the broadcast music rights organization BMI, saying that he'd hit 50 million record spins. He said he didn't realize until the presentation in Nashville that it put him in the rare company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Billy Joel and the Bee Gees.

"Right there, I went 'Wow,' " he said.

"I was discovered because I wrote songs. I'm a songwriter," said Keith, whose last count was 82 million spins, 6 million alone for his inaugural hit, "Should Have Been a Cowboy," in 1993.

His goal now is 100 million spins, based on radio station airplay.

"I don't know if there's anybody else in my industry that's had 20 or 30 million, ever," he said.

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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