Swift is obviously a global megastar now, but back in 2004, she was just an up-and-coming teenager singing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville when she was first discovered by then-DreamWorks Records executive Scott Borchetta.
Borchetta was impressed with Swift’s talent, and wanted to sign her to his new record label. The only problem was, he didn’t have one yet.
That’s where Toby Keith comes in.
In 2005, Toby had left his former label, DreamWorks Records, and founded his own record label, Show Dog Nashville. The move resulted in the closing of DreamWorks, but it provided Toby with the infrastructure to not only release his own music but also sign artists like Randy Houser, Trace Adkins and Joe Nichols.
And it was that infrastructure that helped Borchetta get his own record label off the ground.
When DreamWorks shuttered and was merged into Universal Music Nashville, Borchetta left to start his own label, Big Machine Label Group. The label was founded as a joint venture between Big Machine and Show Dog Nashville, with the two labels to be “sister companies” and Big Machine using Show Dog’s entire promotions staff.
And the first artist signed to Big Machine? Taylor Swift.
Obviously the partnership between Big Machine and Show Dog didn’t last, with the labels splitting in 2006 and Toby retaining equity in Big Machine for the investment he had made.
But if it wasn’t for Show Dog, Big Machine wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground when it did, and wouldn’t have been able to sign Taylor Swift to her first record deal.
Back in 2005, Taylor even talked about signing to Toby Keith’s label:
“You’re in the room with him and you can feel it. There’s a power there. You’re just like, ‘Oh my God.’
I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I won’t see him and be like, ‘Oh my God that’s Toby Keith.'”
Looking Back At Toby’s Classic “Beer For My Horses” Music Video
Tributes have already begun pouring in for Toby from the country music world and beyond, celebrating the life of a country music legend who racked up 20 #1 hits over his long career.
It’s a huge loss for the country music community and music world in general, and in the spirit of all the great music Keith left behind for us, I want to take a look back on his cinematic masterpiece with Willie Nelson, which is their “Beer For My Horses” music video.
The song was written by Keith and Scotty Emerick and included on Keith’s 2002 seventh studio album Unleashed. Released as the album’s fourth and final single from that record, “Beer” peaked at #1 on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart and #22 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In addition, at the time the song went #1, it also made Willie Nelson the oldest artist to top the country charts at age 70. The single has been certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA, and remains a fan-favorite in his catalog.
The music video, though… it’s an all-American treasure.
We have Keith and Nelson playing father and son, and Willie the crime-fighting cowboy ultimately saves the day. He also leaves this sage bit of wisdom for his on-screen son after he gets the job done, when Keith tells him he could’ve done it himself if he had a little bit more time:
“Yeah, if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass.”
Amen to that…
I honestly hadn’t watched it in years until today, and safe to say, they just don’t make videos like this anymore. And now that Toby’s gone, it’s all the more special and important to preserve this ART.
Somebody get these two an Oscar, because they did a helluva job with their acting here and while maybe a tad cheesy, they lean into that and make it so damn fun.