Merle Haggard was a huge inspiration on the young Toby Keith. "When I was coming up, I was listening to the guys who had been around 20 or 30 years, and I was like, 'I'm gonna be like one of those guys,'" Keith shared during his talk at the 2017 Country Radio Seminar. "[Haggard] was tremendous, maybe the biggest influence on me. I can remember sitting in grade school — young grade school, too, like second or third grade - and my parents playing 'Okie From Muskogee
' and listening to those songs."
"And then when the album played, you would hear 'Mama's Hungry Eyes
' you would hear all those songs besides 'Okie from Muskogee,'" he continued. "And so when I first started learning to play the guitar, those were some of the most haunting … they were calling me to sing them."