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Toby Keith Pays Tribute to Wayman Tisdale

Country music singer Toby Keith (center) performs a musical tribute to Wayman Tisdale with members of Tisdale's former band. Country music singer Toby Keith (center) performs a musical tribute to Wayman Tisdale with members of Tisdale's former band.

Originally Published: Feb 6, 2010 8:55 PM CDT

Corey DeMoss
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- Songwriter and Oklahoma native Toby Keith performed a special musical tribute Saturday for Wayman Tisdale, the former OU basketball player and accomplished musician who passed last year after a battle with cancer.

Keith spent time helping record tracks for Tisdale’s jazz albums, and the two became fast friends. Keith said Tisdale was one of the few celebrities he met who lived up to their positive reputation.

“Having a successful career, you meet a thousand celebrities and most of them don’t come as advertised. They kind of break your heart a lot,” Keith said. “Wayman didn’t know he was celebrity ? He was one of the most special individuals that I ever met in my life. He changed the way that I view life.”

Tisdale was known for his infectious smile and constant sunny disposition, even when facing his own mortality while fighting osteosarcoma.

“He was such a special individual and human being that he brought a light and a smile to everybody he touched,” Keith said. “And on top of that he was the greatest basketball player that ever played here and an accomplished jazz musician. I miss him every day.”

Tisdale is the most accomplished basketball player in Oklahoma’s history. In his career at OU from 1983 to 1985, he was named Big Eight Conference Player of the Year all three seasons. He became the first player in NCAA history to be named a first-team All-American in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

Tisdale moved on to a 12-year career in the NBA playing for the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. He retired in 1997 to move on to his other love: jazz music.

Tisdale launched his first album, titled Power Forward, in 1995 while still an active member of the Suns. He played primarily bass, and recorded a total of eight albums. His 2001 release Face to Face rose to No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts.

Tisdale’s final recording, titled Rebound, was recorded after his cancer diagnosis and was the album on which Tisdale and Toby Keith collaborated.

Tisdale affected Keith to the point that the country music singer chose to play a jazz-inspired tribute to Tisdale’s life with several members of Tisdale’s band. Keith’s song is titled “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song)” and is part of Keith’s album American Ride, which he dedicated to Tisdale’s memory.

Keith wrote the song in the two days between Tisdale’s death and his funeral, making the wound too fresh for Keith to be able to play it at the funeral. But Keith performed it at halftime of the Sooners’ victory over Texas Saturday.

“The Good Lord took him; he took an angel home,” Keith said. “He must have needed him worse than we did, but I sure miss him.”

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