TBT: How ‘Ford Truck Man’ Toby Keith Became Synonymous With F-Series

Feb 15, 2024

Ford’s association with country music dates back to the genre’s formative years, and one notable connection is the company’s longtime affiliation with country music superstar Toby Keith, who recently died of stomach cancer at age 62.  

Ford’s relationship with Keith began in 2002 with the “Ford Truck Man” advertising campaign. A year later, Keith, a third-generation Ford pickup owner, headlined Ford’s centennial celebration on the grounds of World Headquarters in Dearborn. The concert served as the kickoff for a Ford-sponsored and best-selling concert tour, which promoted the then-all-new 2004 Ford F-150. 

Keith had recently partnered with Ford for a truck advertising campaign for which he created an original score. The tune captured his love for Ford trucks and their dependability, highlighted by the lyric, “I’d rather walk 10 miles and be down on my luck than ride around the block in another kind of pickup truck,” a tribute to Keith’s late father via one of his dad’s trademark phrases. 

Despite his father’s loyalty to Ford – the elder Keith reportedly exclusively purchased Ford trucks while working as the fleet buyer for an oil company because they were known to withstand the rigors of the industry – Keith rebelled against his dad as a teen, buying a different brand of pickup.

“My truck didn’t last,” he said in a Ford press release. “Ever since then, I have driven Ford trucks exclusively. I am a Ford truck man through –and through – I couldn’t imagine myself as anything else.”

During his time with Ford, which lasted more than a decade, Keith made many appearances in support of the F-Series, including in several commercials and a movie, while Ford sponsored his concert tours. Keith’s automotive passion made him a good match for the company. While the singer once bragged of having a dozen Ford F-150s at home, he was also reportedly known to have a wide array of other vehicles in his garage. Keith’s extensive car collection included some rare Fords and Lincolns, such as a 1969 Mustang Mach I, a GT40 and an Expedition limousine, as well as a 1930 Lincoln Model L.

Ford’s history with country music

Ford Motor Company has been linked to the rise of early-recorded country music by way of the company’s marketing of automobiles that were affordable for the average worker. That resulted in many artists driving Ford vehicles from gig to gig.

Company founder Henry Ford’s interest in country music originated in the 1880s with his love of dance and fiddle music, which was rooted in his affinity for the working class and his belief that folk dance and music represented the moral fiber of America. Ford was promoting country music nationally as early as the 1920s by organizing fiddling contests. In 2001, Ford made a $4 million donation to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the creation of Ford Theater, a 200-plus-seat performing arts center.

Ford’s longtime connection to country music is still reflected today through the company’s marketing efforts, as well as its community outreach.  Toby Keith was one of the genre’s biggest stars of all time – he registered more than 30 No. 1 hits, 40 million albums sold and more than 10 billion streams – and a longtime friend of Ford who will be missed.  

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