Country superstar Toby Keith puts stock in daughter, helping others
Country superstar Toby Keith's life and career roll forward like tires on the beefy Ford trucks he promotes.
His 17th studio album — “Drinks After Work,” released in October — debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. He's taking his “Shut Up and Hold On Tour,” based on the title of an album single, around the country, including an Aug. 9 stop at the First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown.
Keith, who puts out an album every fall, is preparing to release his unnamed 18th one in November or December. The first single will release to radio in the next few weeks. His charity, the Toby Keith Foundation, opened the OK Kids Korral this year to help families of hospitalized children.
Meanwhile, Keith — who lives on his 160-acre ranch outside Norman in his native Oklahoma, with his personal fleet of seven Ford trucks — is watching the next generation follow his tire tracks, as his daughter, Krystal Keith, is opening for her father's concerts.
The younger Keith, 28, put out her first album, “Whiskey & Lace,” in 2013. She often hung around her dad's stages as a child, and sang as a teenager when the senior Keith appeared on the Country Music Association Awards.
“No one's surprised on our end,” Keith says of his daughter's success. “She's learned it, and she was raised in it.
“It came slow, but it came solid and honestly,” Keith says. “It's great having her out there. She's having the thrill of a lifetime.”
Yet, whether an artist is established or just starting, the music business has a cutthroat, political environment, and it can be notoriously fickle, Keith says.
“It's really not up to us,” he says. “In the end, it's up to these people who are music buyers and music fans. We just have to do the best we can.”
Having a famous father certainly can help a young singer, Keith says, but it could also be tough to break away from being seen as so-and-so's son or daughter, rather than an artist in his or her own right. And almost none of them — including Shooter Jennings and Hank Williams III — live up to the parent's standard, he says.
“I think you just have to live up to reality. ... If anything, you're going to have to work harder now,” Keith says. Fans “assume you're only doing it because your father got your deal for you.”
The older Keith entered the country-music scene with his self-titled 1993 debut album. Keith's career continued to bloom into the new millennium, with two volumes of greatest-hits collections, plus “35 Biggest Hits” in 2008, and two Christmas albums.
Keith's No. 1 hits include “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American),” “I Wanna Talk About Me,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “Made in America.”
Keith landed in the No. 1 spot on Forbes' 2014 Country Cash Kings list, which ranks the wealth of country singers. He's topped the list for two years in a row, and last year pulled in an estimated $65 million. Keith earns revenue from his albums and concerts, plus the I Love This Bar and Grill restaurant chain, an endorsement deal with Ford, his Wild Shot tequila brand and his Show Dog label.
The singer has given a lot of his money to charity, specifically the Toby Keith Foundation, an 11-year-old nonprofit that supports pediatric cancer patients and their families.
In the first three months after it opened in January, the OK Kids Korral, across the street from The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, served 100 families with free lodging and meals while their kids underwent cancer treatment at nearby facilities.
In June, the Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic fundraiser brought in more than $950,000 for the foundation.
Keith started his charity after the death of the daughter of Scott Webb, Keith's original guitar player from his garage band. Ally Webb died of cancer when she was only 2 years old. Keith sent her on a jet to Memphis, hoping to find additional treatments for her at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, but Ally succumbed to the cancer.
Keith says he thought about how much a service like OK Kids Korral could help distraught parents by giving them a comfortable place to stay without having to worry about money.
“That kid would be 14 or 15 today,” Keith says of Ally. “It's sad to see a 2-year-old suffer like that.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7824 or email@example.com.
Krystal shines on her own
Krystal Keith isn't just Toby Keith's daughter; she's a fan.
“He's an incredible artist, and he's a superstar,” says Krystal Keith, who is opening her dad's shows on his “Shut Up and Hold On Tour.” “I want his fans to be my fans. ... My dad's fans are incredible; they're incredibly loyal.”
Still, the younger Keith, 28, has been building her own fan base for the past few years. Her first album, “Whiskey & Lace,” includes the popular, sentimental song “Daddy Dance with Me,” which Krystal Keith introduced to her father at her wedding in 2010, as a gift to him. She went public with the song in 2013. The video has gotten more than 2 million views on YouTube and continues to thrive with fans.
“It's still kind of just living its own little life,” says Krystal Keith, who still gets a few messages a week from fans telling her how the song touched them. “It's really the gift that keeps on giving.”
Krystal Keith says the song's lyrics describe her relationship with her father. She says she was both a total tomboy and a girly-girl who was “rocking a muddy tutu.”
You won't see father and daughter on the stage together during the concert; there isn't enough time to fit that in, Krystal Keith says.
Waiting until she was a young adult to launch her singing career gave her a stable foundation, Krystal Keith says, because of “the fact that I'm a little older and a little wiser and have more life experience.”
“I've been really blessed,” she says. “I did not start out my music career at a young age. The fans haven't had to watch me grow up in front of them in the limelight.”
— Kellie B. Gormly