Toby Keith: Good As Ever

In the world of country music, the names don't get any bigger than Toby Keith.

Over the last 12 years, the native of Clinton, Okla., has sold more than 25 million albums, had 19 No. 1 singles, won countless awards, and brought his unique, down-home style of country music to a worldwide audience.

He also has gained the reputation as a bad boy of country music.

His latest CD, "Honkytonk University," his 13th, has topped the Billboard country charts for four weeks. for the new album: "Honkeytonk U" is a reference to the nightclub his grandmother once owned in Fort Smith, Ark. Keith says he first became interested in music as he watched the musicians who worked at his grandma's place.

In The Early Show's Summer Concert series, Keith his new hit single from "Honkeytonk U," "As Good As I Once Was."

He told co-anchor Hannah Storm it's his favorite song on the new CD: "When I wrote that song, I really liked it. I knew the night we wrote it, as many as I've written in my career, the second you (write it), you know."

He also fan favorite "Stays In Mexico," from his "Greatest Hits 2" CD.

Fresh off performing with the USO for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Keith is in the midst of his "Big Throwdown II" tour, which started June 10 and runs through September.

It wasn't his first USO tour of those two nations: "Last year when I was over there, I didn't feel like it was anything we could ever win. But this year ... four out of five of the Iraqi people would wave at the choppers (that his group flew around in). Iraqis want our great boys and girls over there. They're tasting freedom for the first time."

What's the best part about doing a USO tour? "Just being able to bring a part of America over to them," Keith responds.

Keith says he finds inspiration while on the many long bus trips his tours entail.

Before hitting it big, Keith worked in the oil industry, was a rodeo hand, and played defensive end for the Oklahoma City Drillers of the old United States Football League.

He started out playing music fulltime with the band Easy Money. It played the honkytonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas.

The singer is also a prolific songwriter, known for penning tunes about everything from politics, to relationships, to drinking. Not to mention, "stuff we can't even sing about here," Keith reminded Storm, to wild cheers from the audience.
  • Brian Dakss

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