Toby Keith should have brought a forklift to haul away all the awards thrust on him Thursday (April 22) during ceremonies at the Nashville headquarters of BMI, the performance rights organization. As it was, the singer had to rely on friends to help him bear them off -- by the armload. This deluge of encomia came only a day after Keith copped three CMT Flame Worthy honors, including the top one, video of the year.
The centerpiece of the celebration was a triple-platinum plaque for Keith's current album, Shock 'n Y'all, signifying that three million copies have been shipped to record stores. In addition, he won awards for being the bestselling country artist of 2003 and for having the bestselling country album that year; for being Radio & Records' top male airplay artist and Billboard's No. 1 male country artist and No. 1 country singles and tracks songwriter; and for having two No. 1 music videos -- "I Love This Bar" and "American Soldier."
Perhaps with an eye toward the mammoth Loretta Lynn party scheduled to start only 90 minutes later, James Stroud, head of Keith's label, DreamWorks Records, zipped through the presentations. "We got awards! We got gifts! We got prizes!" he intoned in his best carnival barker's voice. He introduced Country Music Association executive director Ed Benson who presented Keith his first prize of the afternoon, a CMA certificate acknowledging the album's triple-platinum status. "We're not just happy about your success now," Benson said, as he handed the singer his prize, "we've been happy [for you] all along."
Dressed in a long-sleeved black shirt and jeans and wearing a white hat with the brim rolled, Keith stood quietly at the side of the stage, saying nothing, as the Tobython barreled on. "This man is in the midst of an amazing run of No. 1's," BMI's Mark Mason announced. "He's had 10 [of them] at DreamWorks over the past four years." Mason then presented the singer separate awards for being the co-writer, co-producer, artist and co-publisher of "American Soldier." BMI also honored Chuck Cannon, the song's co-writer.
Scott Borchetta, DreamWorks' head of promotion and artist development, joined the principals on stage to help hand out the prizes. "There is not an artist played more on radio than Toby Keith," he proclaimed. "Get ready to call this the Toby Keith decade." He noted that Keith has sold more than 12 million albums during his tenure at DreamWorks.
"Obviously, this didn't come overnight," Keith said when he finally took the microphone. "We've got a lot of people to be thankful for."
Keith downplayed his function as co-producer of his own albums, giving Stroud credit for most of the work. Then, brightening a moment, he grinned and added, "Damn, we've gotta go to Key West and cut another record."
To view photos from the party, visit Toby Keith's artist page at CMT.com.