Happy 58th birthday to Mr. Toby Keith!
For the past quarter century, few have had more success in country music. Of his 64 hit singles, twenty have reached the number one spot. But, there is so much more to Toby Keith than the music. The songs of Toby Keith will outlive him on this earth, as will the tremendous work that he has done for others.
In 2013, after years of raising money for children battling illness through the Toby Keith Foundation, he opened the OK Kids Korral, a twenty million dollar facility next door to the Oklahoma Health Center campus in Oklahoma City. It is designed to be a haven for families with children battling cancer. The 25,000 square foot facility provides daytime and overnight lodging for pediatric patients and their families. It also includes a community indoor and outdoor dining area, a game room, movie theater, indoor playroom, family resource room, reflection room, an outdoor play area and a garden. Mr. Keith says, “outside of my family, this is probably the most important thing I’ll ever do.”
Very few people have done more to actually support our active military men and women, veterans, and their families. He has played over two hundred shows in Afghanistan and Iraq for American soldiers. He also founded an organization called “Pros for Vets” which recruits professional athletes and coordinates appearances and charity work they can do for veterans.
In April of 2008, he played 18 shows for soldiers in the Persian Gulf. During one of them, the show had to be stopped because of mortar fire. When it stopped, Mr. Keith got his band back up on stage and finished the show.
Like his music, or not, he is a first class human being.
If you never heard or read the story of him helping out Merle Haggard as Mr. Haggard’s life was nearing the end in 2016, read below.
This is an excerpt from a post on Facebook by actor and musician W. Earl Brown:
“It was Super Bowl weekend. Merle had already cancelled months of shows, but this particular booking was a big payday. Merle had to pay his band and crew, so there was no calling in sick for this gig.
Toby Keith was in town with his wife to watch some football and have some fun. Toby got word that Merle was in Vegas, so he went to see him… Merle was in bad shape. He needed to be in a hospital – not on a stage; but The Show Must Go On. Merle would not take charity from anyone, but he did turn to Toby and say, “How songs of mine do you know?”
“All of ’em” answered T.
“All of ’em?”
“Yep. And I won’t need a teleprompter.”
“Well, stay nearby.”
After four or five songs, Merle’s infected lungs were spent. He couldn’t draw enough air to sing any longer. “We’ve, uh, we’ve got a special guest here tonight…” Toby came out and sang the rest of the show. Merle gave his last concert. The Strangers got paid. And the audience, while not realizing it at the time, saw something special.
Never speak ill of Toby Keith to me; thanks to him, Merle exited the stage with his dignity intact.”
photo credit: Rare Country
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You might also like the story of how an appearance by Johnny Cash in front of Prisoner Merle Haggard turned his life around: