New job opportunities and technologies are revolutionizing the manufacturing industry at an incredible rate, but none of that could matter if Americans don’t invest in American-made businesses and products. Long-running country music sensation Toby Keith believes this, as his hit song “Made in America” suggests.

“Me and my writing partner, our parents, the towns we grew up in — people were a bit more inclined to shop at the mom and pop local stores than they were to go to the chain. No matter what,” Keith says of the inspiration behind the hit single. “the whole vibe [of the song] is kind of a made-in-America deal, you know?”

Origins of patriotism

Keith chose “Made in America” as the first single off his album “Clancy’s Tavern” because he believed it was the best, not necessarily because it was the most patriotic song. But Keith’s patriotism is strong and came from his father, a soldier who lost his eye in battle.

“I never heard him complain about it,” Keith says. “He never told me he went through the windshield of a Jeep. He just got up every day. People would solicit at our door, but [Dad] would never let the solicitors in. But if a soldier came by, he’d always give them a cup of coffee. He taught us to love the military.”

In his own time, Keith has been performing with the USO for over 13 years. He and his agent find many organizations to support — in service of not only soldiers, but American workers, too.

TIS OF THEE: With a soldier father, Keith was raised to support the American community and its military, instilling a patriotism that radiates through his music. Photo: Richard McLaren

Costs of doing business

In addition to being a song for and about the soldiers, “Made in America” is about a movement — the initiative to spend American dollars on products and businesses that support American workers. Several years ago, a man in Los Angeles approached Keith about doing his own clothing line of casual shirts. The singer agreed, on the condition that the products be manufactured in America.

“Sad part is,” Keith admits, “by the time we found a factory to do it in, our price points were $2 higher than everybody else — per item. When a big store like Sears or J.C. Penney says ‘We’re going to put this much stuff in this part of the building; it has to make exactly this much money for us to buy it off you and put in our stores.’

“We were $2 higher than the others, so we ended up not going forward with the project,” Keith concludes.

As for the one product that Toby Keith believes has to be made in America no matter what, he answers happily: “Jack Daniels. It’s on the tour bus right now.”