During an appearance on Apple Music Country's The Ty Bentli Show, Toby Keith discussed the beginning of his lengthy friendship with another '90s country star who's remained in the mainstream spotlight, Tim McGraw.
The story predates both artists' self-titled debut albums from 1993.
"Tim McGraw... he's probably the first artist I ever met when I came to Nashville," Keith recalled. "Neither one of us had a record deal. We were at Skull's Rainbow Room down on Printer's Alley. Skull was a famous character that always wore like overalls with pins all over him and a goofy hat... First time I came to Nashville, I brought my six-song demo, and I had a meeting in the morning at 10:00 with Capitol. He said, I got another artist or two is going to get up. And some other guy got up there. I remember him saying like he's from Louisiana and he's in town looking for record deal, getting close to getting signed. And then the guy got up there and sang. And then I got up and sang, and we said, 'Hey, what's up? Good luck' and went on.
"Well then Tim came out with 'Indian Outlaw,' he came out smoking," Keith continued. "Then we ran into each other somewhere. And he said, 'you remember the night we were at Skull's Rainbow Room. And he called me and you up, and we both got record deals?" And it dawned on me right then that I do remember the night, but I just didn't realize that's who it was. It was Tim. So we probably go back to the farthest. We see each other. We're still good friends."
Keith appeared on the show to promote his new album, Peso in My Pocket.
"(At) Staples Center one year, where the Lakers play, years ago, I'm up there jamming, and it came in my ear monitors they said, 'Jerry Lee's here. And he wants to come on stage'," Keith said. "I had my stage look like a big bar. And there was some swinging doors that we walked in through to get on stage. And I kept waiting for him. And all of a sudden I heard this voice go 'I'm over here, killer.' Over around the piano he took off with "You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain," and the crowd when completely batshit crazy.
"And then Haggard was there that night," Keith continued. "I mean the front row was fricking Stallone, maybe Khan and Burt. There was a lot of celebrities there. Carrot Top was there. It was really Hollywood. And I remember him going '(The Hag) is here,' and he wore round John Lennon-blue sunglasses, and a beat up old hat. And he walked out there with a Telecaster and we sang two or three songs. And then he walked back through the swinging doors, and I just looked at the crowd and I said 'Only in Hollywood!' It doesn't get bigger than that."
Keith also spoke glowingly of the late John Prine, whose John Mellencamp co-write and Bruce Springsteen duet "Take a Look at My Heart" got covered for Peso in My Pocket.
"His pictures he painted were so vivid, and in color, the way he ties them together," Keith explained. "And the melodies make them make sense. It's like having a puzzle in front of you, and none of the pieces actually fit together. But when you step back from them and look at it, it's a work of art."
Enjoy all things country?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.