It was a windy day when our plane landed in Salt Lake City. The sun was shining, but there were storm clouds in the distance, so it was going to rain…we just hoped it wouldn’t interfere with the concert. The storm began as I drove to the venue. But as I got off the interstate, and traveled the local streets to the amphitheater, it started to clear up. It was still a little windy, but the rain was over.
I pulled into the artist entrance, saw all the buses and trucks, and knew I was at the right place. The guard had my name on his VIP list, so I parked the car and went to find the folks from Toby’s record label. In addition to Toby’s manager, ShowDog had sent the West Coast regional and the VP of National Promotion to make sure all went well. We met up outside the door to one of the backstage lounges. They were getting it ready to become The Thirsty Monkey, Toby’s exclusive backstage experience for a small group of contest winners.
They had instruments set up, couches, chairs, and a table with refreshments. Off to the left was a road case with a couple of framed documents given to Toby by the Marines during his recent trip to Iraq. We were about two hours before show time, and soon, the contest winners would arrive for a private pre-show party with Toby.
About a half hour later, the winners arrived, escorted by on-air folks from the area radio stations. They came in, sat down and got ready for an exclusive pre-concert concert. Several other artists from Toby’s label were there. Carter’s Chord, The Trailer Choir, and Toby’s longtime back-up singer Mica Roberts. The last to arrive was Toby Keith himself, dressed in a white sweatshirt, cargo shorts and a baseball cap. He welcomed everyone, and then sat down to play a song from his new CD. The told the group about meeting one of his heroes, Eddy Raven. The two wrote a song for Toby’s new CD called “Cabo San Lucas,” and Toby played it for the crowd. Then Carter’s Chord, The Trailer Choir, and Mica Roberts each got a chance to sing a song. After that, Toby signed autographs and posed for pictures.
After the Thirsty Monkey show, we followed Toby to his bus for the CCUSA interview. Toby’s bus is a huge black rig with extensions on the sides that allow for more interior room. On one side was a huge flat screen TV, where Toby was watching a college football game. On the other was a booth where Toby & Lon did their interview. It had been about a year since their last conversation, and there was a lot to cover. Toby’s second movie, “Beer For My Horses,” was released in August. He’d had another incredible trip to Iraq. And he’d completed a new CD called “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.”
The first order of business was to talk about the tour. Toby’s Biggest & Baddest tour was wrapping up this weekend. He’d been out all summer with Montgomery Gentry. They first met during Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Circus tour in 2001. Toby told Lon that despite the high price of gas, his fans had come out in record numbers in 2008. The next subject was Toby’s movie, “Beer For My Horses.” Toby said it was a pleasure to make the movie. When asked if he’d do another one like it, Toby said, “Beer for My Horses was my baby, and it may be my only kid!” However, he’s reading scripts for parts in other movies, perhaps for 2010.
The main subject for the conversation was Toby’s new album, “That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy.” In addition to this weekend’s edition of Country Countdown USA, Lon also hosted a world premiere of the album, which is airing on radio stations all this week. They talked about most of the songs on the CD, including Toby’s current #1 song, “She Never Cried In Front of Me,” and the new single, “God Love Her.” Toby described the new song this way: “I wanted to write about a preacher’s daughter baptized in dirty water. This is my kind of song, about a bad boy on a motorcycle and the girl who loves him.” Lon & Toby also talked about Toby’s 11 year old son, Stelen, this year’s USO Tour, and an upcoming Christmas Special with Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central.
The interview ended just in time for the show. We left the bus, and on our way to the amphitheater, we ran into Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry, who was getting ready for the show. Eddie & Lon chatted for a bit, and then Eddie got the call to go on stage. Lon brought his wife, so they went to their seats. I went to the sound board out in the middle of the amphitheater. It was the final night of the tour, so there were a few pranks. During Montgomery Gentry’s set, someone from Toby’s band came up dressed like Eddie. Then during Toby’s show, Eddie himself came out to join Toby on “Get Drunk & Be Somebody.”
It was a great show, with Toby running through all of his hits, including a few that he hasn’t done in a while. You can share in all of our experiences with Toby at our web site: http://www.countrycountdownusa.com/ There are audio clips from the show, as well as pictures and video. Plus you can enter to win a 2009 Ford F-150 and go on the road with Toby next year. Our thanks to Toby, his management, and his record label for all their help in bringing this experience to the fans. This is Toby’s 15th year as a recording artist, and we’ve been there from Day one. We look forward to at least 15 more years with Toby in the future.