The Story Behind Toby Keith’s ‘Don’t Let The Old Man In’ and Its Resurgence

The track is dominating the digital sales charts.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

October 13, 2023

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Toby Keith; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC

Sales of Toby Keith’s song “Don’t Let The Old Man In” continue to surge following his emotional People’s Choice Country Awards performance late last month.

According to a release, the song topped Billboard’s Country Digital Song Sales chart for the second consecutive week. Additionally, the poignant tune placed in the Top 3 on the all-genre sales chart. 

Sales Surged After PCCAs Performance

The sales were prompted by Keith’s first major awards show performance in six years, which took place at the People’s Choice Country Awards. During the broadcast, he was honored with the first-ever Country Music Icon Award in a presentation from Blake Shelton. 

Toby Keith accepts the Country Icon award from Blake Shelton; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC
Toby Keith accepts the Country Icon award from Blake Shelton; Photo by: Mickey Bernal/NBC

“Y’all never thought you’d see me in skinny jeans. I want to thank the Almighty for allowing me to be here tonight. You’ve been riding shotgun with me for a little while. Want to thank my beautiful family [is] here,” Keith said from the stage. “A lot of people go in and make it a big career like this of 30 years, my manager, TK Kimbrell, Brian O’Connell, Elaine Schock, the band and the crew and everybody that’s all behind this thing, all the great musicians that have played on all of these albums in the studios, they’ve poured their heart and soul into what I do. And most of all, I want to thank the fans for still allowing us to do what we do. So God bless you. Thank you.”

Emotional Moment

Moments later, he delivered his buzzed-about comeback performance.

“Many moons I have lived/ My body’s weathered and worn/ Ask yourself how would you be/ If you didn’t know the day you were born,” Keith sang while his wife, Tricia Lucus, could be seen shedding tears from the front of the audience. This heartwrenching moment touched the hearts of millions. 

YouTube video

Story Behind The Song

“Don’t Let The Old Man In” was written solely by Toby Keith in 2018. It was inspired by a conversation the country superstar had with the legendary Clint Eastwood while participating in the Pebble Beach Gold Pro-Am. That year, they were teamed up as partners and Keith had the opportunity to get to know Eastwood on a more personal level. 

“He was turning 88 that Monday, and this was Saturday,” Keith explained in a video shared to his official social media accounts. “And I said, ‘What are you going to do to celebrate?’ And he said, ‘I’m going to go shoot a movie called The Mule.’”  

Inspired By Conversation With Clint Eastwood

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer went on to ask Eastwood, “What keeps you going.” 

His response, according to Keith, was: “I try not to let the old man in.” 

This led to the creation of the song. Without seeing a script or knowing virtually anything about The Mule, Keith wrote “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” sent it to Eastwood, and it was eventually featured in the film. 

Toby Keith’s powerful performance came amid his ongoing battle with stomach cancer. Ahead of the PCCAs, Keith provided fans with an update on his battle against stomach cancer while chatting with E! News.

“I feel pretty good,” Keith shared on the red carpet. “It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. You get good days and, you know, you’re up and down, up and gown. It’s always zero to 60 and 60 to zero but I feel good today.”

The 62-year-old will release a new project, dubbed 100% Songwriter, on November 3. The 13-track collection celebrates Keith’s most legendary solo-written songs, all assembled into one collection. 

Toby Keith; Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC
Toby Keith; Photo by: Todd Williamson/NBC

Among the track list is Keith’s breakout hit, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,”  which was just certified triple platinum from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Released in 1993, the song marked the beginning of a wildly successful career for the Oklahoma native, which went on to include 52 top 10 hits, 32 No. 1s, more than 40 million albums sold, 100 million airplay performances (BMI) and more than 10 billion streams.

Other notable tracks included on 100% Songwriter include fan-favorites such as “He Ain’t Worth Missin’,” Wish I Didn’t Know Now,” and “Big Ol’ Truck.”

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.