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Toby Keith Passes on Judging 'American Idol'

Toby Keith Passes on Judging 'American Idol'

As the "American Idol" rumor mill swirls into a chaotic mess of names from every genre imaginable, it seems the country contingent is leading the pack of potential judges, much like the show itself has been skewing in recent years. And can you blame the producers? All but two "Idol" winners hail from the South and just about every one of them (with the exception of maybe Ruben Studdard) has tried their hand at twang.

So it comes as little surprise that Toby Keith would be approached as a possible contender for Steven Tyler's seat.

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And there is certainly merit to the choice: he's never hesitated for a second to say what's on his mind, whether that has to do with his feelings about Nashville as a whole or Natalie Maines individually. His talent as a songwriter is well regarded even by those who don't savor his politics. Keith's no stranger to being in front of a camera, between making a string of country's most interesting videos, having been the lead in a feature, and co-hosting the CMT Awards this year. Virtually every military family in the nation regards him as a hero for his overseas visits. And he's been filling arenas for more than a decade. Controversial and reliable? That's a rare combination.

But according to a recent interview, he passed on the opportunity to sit alongside Mariah Carey. Keith reveals to California's Inland Empire Weekly ( via that in early July, "Idol" brass asked if he'd be interested in judging the Fox show, but like so many others, the country superstar declined because of "Idol's" demanding schedule, opting to use his time for other endeavors -- like touring.

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It could be for the best. After all, compared to the more overt charm of a Blake Shelton or Brad Paisley, Keith's rarely smiling, roughneck image may seem a little harsh. And however much he finesses that "we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way" song and claims to be a Southern Democrat, his politics would be a turn-off factor for some blue-state viewers.

Indeed, it looks to be an election year on "Idol," too. Who would get your vote for judge?