OFFSTAGE: Toby Keith, 12, Works at a Tavern

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Oh, how I wish I could’ve seen Toby Keith back then — when he was 12, working at his grandmother’s tavern in Fort Smith, Ark. (The tavern was Billie Garner’s Supper Club.) Wouldn’t you love to know what he looked like back then, 38 years ago? Did he have long hair? Bell bottom corduroys? Braces on his teeth? How do you like him now, indeed. The important thing, though, is that all his memories from working at his grandma’s club that summer are documented in song on his new album, Clancy’s Tavern, out Monday (Oct. 24). “The people in it are real characters. The people’s names in it are correct,” he told CMT Radio. “The band came on at 9. She drove a Chrysler and had a pistol and deposited her own money in the night drop. Locked the place down, put me in the front seat, and we went to her house where she lived as a widow-woman.” It all must’ve made an impression on him, because right after that summer, when he was 14, he started writing songs and admits he hasn’t stopped since. (BTW, if you happen to have a photo of Keith when he was 12, please share it.)

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.