By Annie Reuter

As an Oklahoma native, Toby Keith is all too familiar with the devastation tornado season can bring. This year, however, the devastation was more severe than usual. On May 20, a category EF-5 tornado hit Keith’s hometown of Moore, Okla. and killed 24 people. His sister’s house was hit, as was his sister-in-law’s.

While Blake Shelton helped host the televised relief concert Healing in the Heartland shortly after the tornado hit (which raised over $6 million), Keith and fellow Oklahoma resident Garth Brooks felt, for them, that it was too soon (Shelton’s concert took place May 29).

“I talked to Garth and he said, ‘It’s too soon for me. Are you doing this concert?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not,'” Keith explained in a recent interview with Brooks told him, though, that when he was ready to do a concert, to let him know.

“As soon as I knew he was going to participate with whatever I came up with, then I called Willie [Nelson] and Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar, and from there it started growing,” Keith said. “They’ll take all the money we can give them.”

Dubbed the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert, the event takes place Saturday, July 6 in Norman, Okla., and according to Keith, “it’s a monster. A whole football stadium got sold out in a matter of minutes. It’s wonderful to know that those people care and want to come in and do this for my hometown. I’m very blessed.”

Related: Q&A: Toby Keith On His Upcoming Album And Stepping ‘Out Of The Box’ To Reach ‘The Youth’

Since the initial lineup was announced, additional artists have stepped up to show their support. These include another Oklahoma native, Carrie Underwood, who will perform via satellite.

Keith said she isn’t the only one. “We might have some more local Okies on the show or Nashville guys that step in,” he said. “Right now that’s a good way to start and try to figure out how to get everybody on stage to play for an hour.”

Keith was floored at the response from country artists offering to perform. The lineup for Saturday’s (July 6) show includes A-list artists including Keith, Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Dunn, Mel Tillis, John Anderson, Krystal Keith (Toby’s daughter), and Kellie Coffey.

“Mel Tillis is 81 years old and he’s a big-time legend, and he called me up [to perform],” Keith said. “You wouldn’t think he would fit with this group, but he called me up and said, ‘I don’t care what you say, I’m coming. I’ve played Oklahoma my whole life. They love twin fiddles. I’m bringing twin fiddles and my band.'”

“To know Willie is coming, Garth and Trisha, Ronnie Dunn. John Anderson called and said he’ll do three or four songs. For the most part everybody is bringing their band and doing big shows.”

While Keith’s family and friends are still in the process of building back their homes, Keith is thankful that the worst is over. “As long as you don’t lose anybody, you can replace anything else,” he said. “There was a lot of devastation and a lot of people lost their lives. The healing process is going to take a while but the infrastructure of Moore, they are pretty resilient.”

Related: Toby Keith Talks ‘Devastating’ Hometown Tornado

The Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert will be held Saturday, July 6 at the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla. Tickets for the concert, which benefit the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund, went on sale June 21 and sold out quickly.

Those who wish to donate can do so by texting the keyword REBUILD to 52000, which will give an automatic $10 donation to the relief fund.


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