Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Toby Keith, “Who’s That Man”

“Who’s That Man”

Toby Keith

Written by Toby Keith


#1 (1 week)

October 8, 1994

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 30, 1994

Toby Keith spins a corny joke into a country masterpiece.

The Road to No .1

After “Wish I Didn’t Know Now” topped the chart, Keith followed it with the lead single from his second studio album, Boomtown.

The No. 1

Toby Keith started writing “Who’s That Man” as a riff on the old joke about what you get when you play a country song backwards: you get your dog back, your wife back, your house back…

During the writing process, he realized there was an actual song here, and he leaned into his deepest wells of sincerity and empathy to write it.

This is as heartbreaking a song as I’ve ever heard about divorce from the man’s perspective, and it’s every bit the peer of “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” and “The Grand Tour.”   You get the full package of brilliant songwriting delivered by a powerful singer when Keith is at the top of his game.

It’s 28 years later, and I still can’t get over this line: “Those kids have been through hell…I hear they’ve adjusted well.”

The nineties was so overflowing with great singers that it was easy to miss that this was the work of a future Country Music Hall of Famer.  When that induction inevitably happens, this will be one of them that got him there.

The Road From No. 1

“Upstairs Downtown” followed this hit, and it went top ten. “You Ain’t Much Fun” was up next, and it went top five.  Keith returned to No. 1 with the lead single from his third album. We’ll cover it in 1995.

“Who’s That Man” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous:  Joe Diffie, “Third Rock From the Sun” |

Next: Brooks & Dunn, “She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind”


  1. Keith certainly established his singing credentials with worthy early songs like this but there was always at least one stand out vocal performance throughout the entirety of his discography. They run from “The Lonely” to “We Were in Love” to “I Wanna Talk About Me” to “Huckleberry” to “I Got it Bad” to “A Little Too Late” to “In a Couple of Days” to “She Never Cried in Front of Me” to “Beautiful Stranger” right up to “Growing Up is a Bitch” from his most recent album “Peso in my Pocket.”

    • He has so many great songs, and he wrote most of them. He may never shake the 9/11 image, if he would even want to, but he’s a slam dunk Hall of Famer. He will be in by the end of the decade, I’m certain.

  2. Besides the recurrents from his debut album, this was another Toby Keith song that I would hear on the radio quite often when I got back into country music for good in 1995. Just that signature piano riff alone really brings back a lot of mid 90’s nostalgia for me.

    I’m with you all the way on this being one of the saddest songs about a divorced father. I’m also with you on the “Kids have been through hell” line. However the line before that is also quite sad: “If I pulled in, would it cause a scene? They’re not really expecting me.” Just the fact that he is seemingly not even allowed to be a part of his children’s lives on any sort of regular basis or in their lives at all is truly heartbreaking. In “I Don’t Call Him Daddy,” we know the father is at least able to see his kid occasionally, even if it’s not as much as he’d like to. In Toby’s song, he is seemingly reduced to making trips around his former home, hoping no one there will notice or recognize him, while helplessly watching another man taking over the life he used to have. And if the song itself wasn’t already sad enough, the end of the song’s video adds an extra layer of sadness in which Toby thinks one of his boys is coming out to see him, and for a second Toby is excited to see him too, only to find that the boy is just calling the dog inside. :(

    Songs like this just make me truly thankful that I was able to have a childhood in which both my step dad and biological dad were each able to be a significant part of my life, and even got along with each other for the most part. Even though I lived with my mom and step dad, my biological dad was allowed to see me any time he wanted to, or sometimes we’d even come to his house. I always considered us all family as long as I can remember. I truly feel for any kid or parent who is not as lucky, though.

    I’m actually kind of surprised that Boomtown didn’t produce any more number ones. Out of the other singles, “Big Ol’ Truck” is the other one that personally brings back a lot of mid 90’s nostalgia for me.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.