Oklahoma country music superstar Toby Keith opened 2012 in the midst of the biggest viral sensation in country music. As the year draws down, he’s been named one of CMT’s Artists of the Year as well as country music’s top-earning musician by Forbes and is enjoying the acclaim and success of adding another pillar to his musical cannon. In between, the Norman resident enjoyed a host of attention, watched his associated businesses grow, celebrated a milestone with the military and gave rise to an endeavor bigger than everything else.
As the New Year dawned, Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” was full-on overflowing and already recognized as the biggest viral event in country music history, according to a news release. The markers could fill a volume: More than 20 million online video views, more than three million downloads sold, Academy of Country Music Video of the year, album sales propelling “Clancy’s Tavern”returning to No. 1 on the chart, widespread sell-outs of actual red Solo cups and so much more.
The Clinton native’s performance of the song during the ACM Awards spiked social media buzz, and was the top vote-getter in a Country Weekly poll asking about the night’s best performance. “Red Solo Cup” also was named to the “Freshman 15″ list of tunes critical for incoming college freshmen by Ryan Seacrest’s website. Perhaps Fox News said it best, noting Keith’s song “has become a part of pop culture.”
In the spring, his annual United Service Organization tour stopped in five countries over 12 days, and celebrated Keith’s 10th anniversary of traveling to international hot spots to boost the morale of our fighting men and women. All in, he’s performed for more than 220,000 service members in that time.
The Moore-bred entertainer hosted the CMT Music Awards in June with actress Kristen Bell. The initial live telecast was one of the most-watched awards show in the network’s history. Toby premiered the third single from “Clancy’s Tavern” on the show, “Beers Ago,” which subsequently raced up the charts.
The singer-songwriter opened his “Live In Overdrive Tour,” presented by Ford F-Series, that month as well, and again played to packed houses nationwide. His influence is also expanding overseas following wildly successful European tours in 2009 and 2011. This year, the British Country Music Awards named Keith the International Act of the Year and bestowed International Album of the Year honors for “Clancy’s Tavern.”
On the business front, Time named his I Love This Bar & Grill one of its Top 10 Celebrity Restaurants. The Huffington Post echoed the sentiment, calling the rapidly expanding chain, with 16 locations open to date, to their list of the “25 Best Celebrity-Owned Restaurants.”
Keith’s signature Wild Shot Mezcal also continues in growth mode, having become the leading brand in the segment and linking with other Keith endeavors through special signature cocktails offered in restaurants across the country and a giant inflatable bar seen on his tour.
For all the miles traveled, tens of millions of airplay spins and millions of fans seen, nothing will have the life-changing impact of the OK Kids Korral. After years of fundraising, planning and design, May’s groundbreaking for the facility intended as a respite for children and their families seeking treatment at OU Medical Center Children’s Hospital was a huge milestone. That same weekend, the Ninth Annual Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic raised another $664,000 for the Toby Keith Foundation, which is championing the facility.
“In my job, you get to go a lot of places and see a lot of things, but there’s not much in my world that’s more gratifying or important than helping these families,” Keith said at the time. “Turning dirt on this project is a big moment for me and a lot of other people who’ve been a part of making it happen.”
Forbes recently included Keith on its list of “The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians.” The Oklahoma native tied for No. 10 on the list with Justin Bieber with $55 million. Besides country-pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift (tied for No. 8 with Paul McCartney and $57 million), Keith was the highest-ranked country star on the list for the second straight year.
Most recently, Keith’s latest album, “Hope On The Rocks,” bowed to widespread acclaim. The video for the title track single received more than 2 million online views less than a week after its release, outpacing “Red Solo Cup.”