OFFSTAGE: Toby Keith Will “Herd the Cats” for Tornado Relief Concert

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

“Trees can’t grow back. Houses can’t be built back. And it takes about a week to get the power back on and get the roads back open,” Toby Keith said while reflecting on the damage from the recent tornadoes in Moore, Okla.

During his Sunday night (June 30) tour stop in Chicago, he talked about the challenges faced in Oklahoma and the resiliency of the Moore community.

“They bounce back so quick there, it’s amazing,” he told me. “You won’t see them on TV six months from now crying for money and saying the government’s not helping. Because they help each other out. They’ll get it cleaned up pretty fast.”

It also helps that Keith himself is doing his part in a big, big way. His tornado relief concert on Saturday (July 6) in Norman, Okla., will raise money for the United Way of Central Oklahoma. And he’s called in some major friends (and a few fellow Okies) to help entertain the crowd — Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Ronnie Dunn, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, John Anderson and, via satellite, Carrie Underwood.

“The beautiful part of my deal is that I’m hosting,” he explained. “So I’ve gotta get everybody on and herd all the cats. If everybody wants to do 45 minutes, then I have no idea what time I’ll go on. If we’re ahead of schedule, I can do a full show. But if it’s 10 before I get on, I’ll shorten it up.” Keith said the show in his hometown will start at 3 p.m., and he doesn’t want to keep fans outside for nine hours in the July heat.

Keith confirms there will be duets at the concert although he didn’t say who would perform together or what they would sing.

“I don’t know Garth that well, but if he wants to do a duet, I’d love to jump up there,” he said.

Keith did let on that he’d most likely duet with Nelson on their massive hit, “Beer for My Horses.” And when I told him it was the 10th anniversary of that song, he was genuinely surprised.

“Really?” he said. “It’s been that long? That was a six-week No. 1. God, I’ll be dead next time it’s the anniversary.”