Toby Keith was born with the name Toby Keith Covel on July 8, 1961, in Clinton, Okla. The family moved to Oklahoma City when Keith was young, and it was there he became interested in the musicians who worked in his grandmother's supper club. He got his first guitar at age 8, but it would be years before Keith would pursue music as a career. At 6-feet-4 inches, Keith worked in the oil industry and played defensive end with the Oklahoma City Drillers United States Football League (USFL) team.
In 1984, he turned to music full time, playing the honky-tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas with the band Easy Money. A demo tape made the rounds in Nashville, but there were no takers. After catching a show in Oklahoma, Mercury Records President Harold Shedd signed him to Mercury Records. His 1993 debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy," went to No. 1 on the Billboard country singles chart, and his self-titled debut album was certified platinum.