Showing posts with label toby keith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toby keith. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

2024 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

Rarely does the Country Music Hall of Fame announcement pass by without my comment. I've been a bit distracted by other projects, but that doesn't mean I didn't notice. Truly, though, last week's announcement was neither surprising nor particularly interesting. 

As you no doubt know, three individuals (or duos, groups) are inducted into the HOF each year, based on the following categories:

Modern Era ~ an artist is eligible twenty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

Veteran Era ~ an artist is eligible forty years after they first achieved national prominence. 

The third is a rotating category, consisting of either a recording and/or touring musician, a songwriter, or a "non-performer" (generally a music executive). Since a songwriter was inducted in 2023 (Bob McDill), this year was a musician's turn.

The problems with these arcane rules are obvious. First of all, the "electors" are completely anonymous. This naturally leads to suspicion about campaigning. And campaigning absolutely happens. It's widely known that Keith Whitley was chosen a few years back because his widow, Lorrie Morgan, campaigned hard for him to be elected. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does things differently. It creates a list of nominees based on "historians'" recommendations. Again, we don't know who these people are and what exactly qualifies them as historians. Shoot, I could be a historian ~ you don't know that I'm not. Then the winners are voted on by "an international body of some 500 rock experts". However, fans are now also able to vote for up to seven artists from this list. This comprises the "fans' ballot", although it's unknown how much weight those votes are given. 

Generally, anywhere from six to a dozen artists are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame each year, compared to three (one a non-artist) for the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Three. Know how much of a backlog this creates?

The CMHOF claims that this keeps the process "exclusive". Oh, it does. It excludes an artist who has died (and there have been many) from celebrating their eventual induction. It's shameful. Jerry Lee Lewis was lucky, I guess. He was finally inducted at the age of eighty-eight and died only a few months later. I'm dubious that any of the rock and roll inductees refused their award because it wasn't "exclusive". Yet, despite numerous calls for the process to be revised, the cabal remains recalcitrant. It seems that they are the ones who want to remain exclusive.

All that said, my quibble with the 2024 inductees is not with who was elected, but with who wasn't.

Modern Era

An artist is not eligible for election within one year of his or her death. As it happened, Toby Keith was voted in before his untimely death in February. No one can say he's not deserving. He scored a total of twenty number one hits and several top tens. Pretty good career.

Though his music mostly wasn't to my taste, millions upon millions of fans loved him. And, as I wrote before, he was by all accounts a good man.

Which other artists were eligible? Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Tracy Lawrence, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Lorrie Morgan, Steve Wariner, Trisha Yearwood, among many others.

Clearly, the one overlooked (again) is Dwight Yoakam. I don't know any artists that the others on the list may have influenced, but there is no denying that Dwight influenced a bunch. He is uniquely Dwight. The open secret about the HOF, however, is that it is very Nashville-centric. It's a wonder that Merle Haggard and Buck Owens got in. My prediction is that Yoakam will never be elected, unless the process is radically changed. The cabal simply doesn't want him.

Veteran Era

I like John Anderson; love a couple of his hits. When he was still being played on radio, no one had to hear a song and wonder, "Who's singing that?" Anderson's voice is unmistakable. That said, he only had five number ones. It wasn't so much the quantity, but their ubiquitousness. Who in God's name hasn't heard "Swingin'"? I bought exactly one John Anderson album, just as I purchased one Toby Keith album. That shouldn't be confused with dislike. 

The veteran era category is the one most backlogged ~ criminally backlogged. Many, many deserving artists will never be inducted. This era encompasses decades, from the nineteen forties and forward. And let's face it; artists get forgotten.

The list is far too long to enumerate, but here are a few of the eligible artists:

Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton, Eddie Rabbitt, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Lynn Anderson, Gene Watson, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Rodriguez, Gary Stewart, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

As I said, artists (and apparently history) can be forgotten. From the late sixties to the mid-seventies, there were three female artists who dominated country: Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Lynn Anderson. Look it up. I don't know why Lynn has been overlooked (not saying it's because she began her career in California. Not not saying it's because of this.) Nevertheless, it's tragic that the HOF has swatted her away. 

Like Dwight, I don't believe that Lynn Anderson will ever be elected. I can't put my finger on exactly why. I was semi-kidding about the California bit. It certainly can't be that toward the end of her chart-making days, she had veered into pop-country. Plenty of other artists with similar repertoires have made it in. Perhaps if some current star scores a hit with a remake of Rose Garden, similar to how Luke Combs resuscitated Tracy Chapman's legacy, the HOF deciders' memories would be jogged.

Recording/Touring Musician, Songwriter, Non-Performer

(They really need to come up with a better moniker.)

When I hear the name James Burton, I think, "Oh, the Elvis guy." Sure, he was a member of Rick(y) Nelson's, Emmylou Harris's, and John Denver's bands, but other than Emmylou, the others aren't (weren't) exactly bastions of country music.


Hmm, who's that fat off-key singer behind him? 

I like this one better:

Again, what will it take to get Don Rich into the hall of fame? As Saving Country Music wrote: "There was arguably never a side player more important to a superstar than Don Rich was to Buck Owens."

Face it, Buck Owens wasn't exactly a powerhouse. He had goofy mannerisms and he claimed credit for songs he didn't write. Still, he was huge, and in large part that was due to Don Rich. Not only a virtuoso guitarist, but an accomplished fiddler, and a harmony singer beyond measure. Does the cabal hold Rich's home base of Bakersfield against him? Hmmm...

Another musician will not be eligible until 2027. I hate to say it, but the inductee won't be Don Rich.

I suppose these announcements hold some modicum of interest. I do at least know who the artists are, as opposed to today. But seriously, hall of fame, you guys need to get your act together.



Thursday, February 8, 2024

Toby Keith

There's much to be said for being a good man. By all accounts Toby Keith was a good man. Imagine an entertainer still being married to his first spouse! Imagine doing eleven overseas USO tours.

It seemed like Toby Keith was always around. His 1993 debut single, "Should've Been A Cowboy", shot straight to number one. All told, he scored 20 number ones and several top tens. 

For me, who considers the nineties the best decade in country music, Toby didn't resonate strongly. I thought several of his hits were "fine" and I even purchased his first CD. I preferred his more introspective tracks, like "Wish I Didn't Know Now", and found his bombastic tunes, well....funny. (There's something to be said for funny.) And c'mon, "put a boot in your ass" has gotta evoke a chuckle. I realize "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" was supposed to be serious, but that line...

I SO admire Toby for taking on those bitter wenches previously known as The Dixie Chicks. And he definitely could push their buttons. Androgynous Natalie Maines even wore a "FUTK" t-shirt to an awards show. I bet that really made Toby sob into his pillow. 

And the tall tale about Toby and Kris Kristofferson's little spat has since been debunked. Kristofferson is a master songwriter, but if this incident had actually occurred, sorry, I would be on Keith's side.

He also got knocked for playing at Trump's inaugural, as if that was the mortalist of mortal sins. Good on Toby! I bet he reveled in the criticism.

One thing Toby possessed was an ear for catchphrases. "How Do You Like Me Now", "I Wanna Talk About Me", "Who's Your Daddy?"

“I write about life, and I sing about life, and I don’t over-analyze things,” Keith told The Associated Press in 2001.

While there were many artists I would place above him, the fact remains that he was an original and most importantly, a decent guy.


I saw this on X a while back and found it sweet. (His Uber driver had a karaoke machine in his car.):

 Toby is going to be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Toby Keith.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Reviewing The Top 10 Hits From This Week In 2002


I more or less stopped listening to country music in the year 2000 (thanks, Faith Hill), but I still had a toe dipped in the world of country radio. It's only fair that if I review "new country" I apply the same standard to the country music of twenty years ago.

My rule of thumb is, I review the tracks as if this is the first time I've ever heard them, and in some cases, I actually haven't heard them before (or I don't remember them from merely their title).

What the weekly charts prove is that hits are fleeting. One would assume that if a track makes the top ten, the song will be memorable. That's hardly true. Often even the artist isn't memorable. And often the artist has since become a household name, but the song on the charts is subpar -- simply another notch in their belt of hits -- a minor notch.

I will state for the record that country began its downhill slide at the turn of the century and has not (yet?) recovered. I was right to abandon it.

So, without further a-DOOOO....

#10 ~ The Cowboy In Me ~ Tim McGraw 


This is not a bad song (the live concert video kind of ruins it). I will try to ignore the video and concentrate on the song. This is definitely country, in the vein of George Strait. In fact, George must have turned this one down, although his arrangement would have been more pleasing to the ear. I was curious and looked up the songwriters: Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson, and Craig Wiseman (thus ushering in the needless practice of requiring three people to write a song). Steele actually did write a Strait hit, the misspelled, Love's Gonna Make It Alright; while the other two writers have penned numerous hits. The message of The Cowboy In Me follows the time-worn tradition of the cowboy as a maverick, a loner.  It's a pleasant song, although I would not lay down money for it.



#9 ~ I Wanna Talk About Me ~ Toby Keith

This track was hard to get through, but I promised I would listen to the entirety of each song, so I did. It's not that I'm offended by the message, like some of a particular political persuasion no doubt are. It's just that it's boring and repetitive. It's a novelty song. And the rap does it no favors. Needless to say, I wouldn't purchase it, because I have better taste than that.



#8 ~ The Long Goodbye ~ Brooks and Dunn

(no live video, apparently)

Immediately I'm struck by the awful arrangement. But aside from that, this is certainly not country, unless one considers a Jimmy Webb song country. I checked and neither Brooks nor Dunn wrote this, and it shows. I doubt that the duo includes this one in their concerts, but who knows? Apparently they like it or they wouldn't have slapped it on an album. The guys should stick with country music.



#7 ~ Bring On The Rain ~ Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw

See? This is how Faith Hill ruined country. She even got her husband to chime in on this track. I'm searching to find a hint of country in this, but not succeeding. The singer is pretty good, but she has a country voice and needs to find songs that fit it. As a song, it's passable. As a country song, it reeks of failure.



#6 ~ Wrapped Up In You ~ Garth Brooks

This track is inoffensive, like a marshmallow. It's more sixties pop than country, but maybe that's what the singer was going for. Certainly not a single that will stand the test of time. It's almost as if the singer is at the tail end of his recording career and is just throwing stuff against the wall, not caring if it'll stick.



#5 ~ Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly ~ Aaron Tippin

This song takes the award for the longest song title in country. The singer's heart is definitely in the right place, but this is no "God Bless The USA". I don't hate it; I don't love it. I would be satisfied only hearing it once and then forgetting all about it. An "A" for effort, but...

MY RATING: B- (and that's grading on a curve)

#4 ~ Wrapped Around ~ Brad Paisley

I like it. The chorus nails it. Apparently this is a singer who understand what country music is supposed to sound like. I have no quibbles with the song, the singer, especially none with the arrangement, which is kind of a mashup of Yoakam and Owens. Would I buy it? YES.



#3 ~ Run ~ George Strait

The singer's voice is definitely easy on the ears. Not the countriest country song I've ever heard, but the singer carries it. I prefer my country a bit more hard core. One thing that can be said about the singer is that he has a presence, almost like a king. Watch the reverential way the audience hangs on his every syllable. I wouldn't buy it as a single, but it makes a decent album track. I suspect he is capable of much more.



#2 ~ Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning) ~ Alan Jackson


Again, not the best representation of what I suspect this singer is capable of, but as a touchstone, I doubt there is any song that better represents a particular moment in time. Clearly, this song is heartfelt. I wouldn't buy it, but I don't turn the station when my local radio station spins it. I predict a long career for this guy.



#1 ~ Good Morning Beautiful ~ Steve Holy

Not crazy about this. And the singer somehow reminds me of Dwight Shrute (although one would only notice if they watched the video). This is one of those pandering ballads that pretends to know how men talk to women. This is the first and last time I've heard the name Steve Holy, but all the best to him, I guess. Would I buy this? LOL.



So, there you have it. Country music wasn't completely dead in 2002 (witness Brad Paisley), but it was mostly dead. It still beats 2022, but that's a low bar. Even Dwight Shrute beats 2022.

This exercise helps to put country music in perspective. And helps us to know how it declined and who was complicit in its downfall.

Stay tuned for more retrospective reviews.