The album that started it all for Toby Keith, his self-titled 1993 debut featuring four hit singles, will be celebrated with a special 25th anniversary release titled Should’ve Been A Cowboy in honor of his trademark hit anthem that launched the career of arguably the most successful self-directed artist of his era – songwriter, vocalist, musician, producer, entertainer. Available November 30th via Mercury Nashville/UMe, the album has been remastered from the original analog tapes and will include a commemorative cover and liner notes and three rare tracks from Keith’s personal vault. It will also be available on vinyl for the first time. Pre-orders include an instant grat download of the remastered title track.
To help celebrate this momentous anniversary, new and updated materials will roll out in the coming weeks. A re-mastered HD video for “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” was released today (Fri, Oct 12th).
“Should’ve Been A Cowboy” was Keith’s first single and first No. 1. It eventually went on to be the most played country song of the 1990s and earned him his first platinum record. When released in 1993, the song and eponymous album introduced a formidable songwriter, a student of the country songwriting greats – Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard – who saw penning his own songs as equally important as singing, performing and playing guitar. He wrote eight of the ten tracks on the record and as Billboard put it “the singer rode in from Oklahoma armed with some of the strongest material that the city had seen in quite some time.” In the liner notes, Keith tells the story behind the album’s signature track, and why it set the tone for a career that ultimately saw him inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
“Me and some friends wandered into a bar in Dodge City, Kansas, where the old TV show Gunsmoke was set and watched a buddy get shot down by the pretty girl he asked to dance. Young guy in a hat walked up after and she went right off to the floor with him. Someone turned to our friend and said, “You should have been a cowboy.” We got back to the hotel and I wrote it in the bathroom once everyone fell asleep. Turned it in with my whole life’s work to that point once I got a record deal,” Keith states.
He continues, “Then we got to Nashville’s old Music Mill studio to record the album. Hearing my songs played by real session guys instead of whoever I’d made the demo with was like putting on magic dust. When we did ‘Cowboy’ I could tell by the look on their faces we really had something. On the outside I was all business, but on the inside, I was jumping up and down. Having people believe in me not just as an artist but as a songwriter – I’d never had that. Twenty-five years later, it’s still the best part.”
As much focus as that song has received in the intervening 25 years, and rightly so, the album was deep with hits. They and others on subsequent albums soon populated a live show that made him one of the nation’s top drawing performers for decades to come. Having played bars in and around his native Oklahoma for years prior to his record deal, Keith was already seasoned onstage, and his rapport with his audience informed many of his decisions, even in regards to that first album.
“I would open shows with ‘Cowboy’ and play the whole album,” he says. “‘He Ain’t Worth Missing’ got a lot of attention from the women in the audience. Even today, I could play ‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now’ every night, the crowd loves it so much. ‘A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action’ was one nobody thought was a single, but the reaction was so big live we thought it would make a good fourth release. I still close almost every show with it.”
A few songs may have been overlooked. “‘Close But No Guitar’ was way different from everything else on the album,” Keith says. “At the time I thought ‘Valentine’ could have been, but looking back it probably wasn’t a good single choice. I also turned in [future hit] ‘Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You’ and it was close to making the album, but eventually got cut.”
Included with the 25th anniversary edition are three rare tracks from Keith’s personal vault: “Tossin’ And Turnin’,” “I’ll Still Call You Baby” and “Daddy Mac.” Keith explains, “Those were all turned in with that pile of songs – everything I’d written before we went in to record. We went back and found a few of them that were written between 1986 and 1990. I got signed in ’91 and the album came out in 1993.
“I’d never been in Nashville and wasn’t influenced by that kind of writing. I was doing it on my own, so going back and listening I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a good song for being self-taught from listening to Haggard and John Prine.’ Even though I was green and didn’t know any tricks of the trade, I still managed to get the turns right and be creative enough for someone to want to listen to it.”
Shortly after the album launch, Keith will be the October 16th guest on The Big Interview with Dan Rather. The Toby Keith Should’ve Been A Cowboy Tour XXV presented by Ford F-Series concludes later this month in California.
1. Should’ve Been A Cowboy
2. He Ain’t Worth Missing
3. Under The Fall
4. Some Kinda Good Kinda Hold On Me
5. Wish I Didn’t Know
6. Ain’t No Thang
8. A Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action
9. Mama Come Quick
10. Close But No Guitar
11. Tossin’ And Turnin’ [Bonus Track]
12. I’ll Still Call You Baby [Bonus Track]
13. Daddy Mac [Bonus Track]