Twenty-eight years ago today, on April 20, 1993, Toby Keith released his self-titled debut album. With his very first radio single (and first release from the project), Keith scored an out-of-the-box smash with the two-week No. 1 hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.”
The album also featured the Top 5 hits “He Ain’t Worth Missing,” “A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action,” and “Wish I Didn’t Know Now.”
The album did more than prove Keith had plenty of radio-worthy material; it showcased a singer and writer in equal measure, as every track on the project was a solo write by Keith, with the exception of “A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action” and “Some Kinda Good Kinda Hold On Me.” His self-titled debut project reached the Top 20 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart.
A 2018 re-release of the project was titled Should’ve Been a Cowboy. In the liner notes for that 2018 release, Keith recalled the story behind his signature song:
“Me and some friends wandered into a bar in Dodge City, Kansas, where the old TV show Gunsmoke was set and watched a buddy get shot down by the pretty girl he asked to dance. Young guy in a hat walked up after and she went right off to the floor with him. Someone turned to our friend and said, “You should have been a cowboy.” We got back to the hotel and I wrote it in the bathroom once everyone fell asleep. Turned it in with my whole life’s work to that point once I got a record deal.
“Then we got to Nashville’s old Music Mill studio to record the album. Hearing my songs played by real session guys instead of whoever I’d made the demo with was like putting on magic dust. When we did “Cowboy” I could tell by the look on their faces we really had something. On the outside I was all business, but on the inside, I was jumping up and down. Having people believe in me not just as an artist but as a songwriter – I’d never had that. Twenty-five years later, it’s still the best part.”
Keith was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015.