Toby Keith — The Story Behind Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)
Premier Issue, 2010
Written by Tammy Leigh Maxey   

CapTWaymanandTobySeatedTogetheroby Keith led his guest into his home office.  He waited as she settled in the desk chair, and then positioned his laptop computer before her.  He had written and recorded a song honoring his late friend, Wayman Tisdale, and he was about to introduce it to the man’s widow, Regina, for the first time.  After a few soft words, he hit ‘play’ and left the room.

TobyandWaymanToby Keith and Wayman Tisdale’s friendship was founded on a love of sports, music, and Oklahoma.  “In Oklahoma, sports is huge,” said Regina Tisdale.  “Toby was always there for the game, for the sport.  Wayman always loved music; Toby always loved sports.  When Wayman retired from basketball, he would always go back for the college games, and Toby was always at the games.  They started talking and exchanged numbers.”

TobyandWaymanwatchingbasketballThe country music singer-songwriter superstar, Toby Keith, and Oklahoma Sooners basketball star/accomplished NBA player/professional jazz musician, Wayman Tisdale, developed a quick and deep camaraderie.  Regina stated, “They’d talk about music, talk about sports.  They’d go to dinners together.  Wayman took friendships seriously, and if you were his friend, he kept in contact with you.”

MgrossMalachi Gross, who served as Wayman’s personal assistant and online media marketing manager for all of 2008, until Wayman passed in May of 2009, was afforded the rare opportunity to witness firsthand the friendship that the two men shared.  “Wayman had a lot of friends,” said Malachi.  “I was privileged to be one of those friends.  He let me into that relationship with him and Toby.  He really wanted me to meet Toby.  He was like, ‘Dude, you gotta meet my boy Toby.’  He talked about Toby like two high school friends.

“There was no facade whatsoever in the room with Wayman and Toby.  Their relationship was completely natural.  They were brothers.  There was a tight bond, and over time it just grew.”  With fierce intensity, Malachi said, “They would do anything for each other, anything, you hear me, anything!”

Malachi continued, “Toby and Wayman were not two celebrity friends.  Toby and Wayman were two friends, everybody else made it celebrity.

WaymanPlayingGuitar“They would go out and play basketball, go out to dinner.  Then they would use their professional skills to do something creative and unique.  Wayman was able to get Toby to do some jazz, and Toby would get Wayman to do some country.”

Malachi recalled the day Toby hit Wayman up to do a remake of Barry White’s ‘Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.’  “Wayman said Toby called him up and was like, ‘Hey Tiz (everybody called Wayman ‘Tiz,’ and Toby definitely called him Tiz), I got something I want to do.’  He was like, ‘We should do a Barry White remake, ‘Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.’  Wayman was like, ‘Really.  You know you my boy and all…’”  Malachi continued, “Toby drove over to Wayman’s house in his pickup with his brother.  Wayman said, ‘Man, he comes over, I get the track done.  He comes over to sing that, man he nails it in one take.  Not only does he do it in one take, he pulls it off!  He pulls it off well.’  That was on Wayman’s last album, Rebound.”

In the lyrics of Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song), Toby writes, “I’m gonna miss that smile.”  Wayman Tisdale was definitely known for his smile, for his “infectious spirit.”

Malachi said, “Wayman was an incredible guy.  He was just full of life.  He had so much life that he was able to give life to other people.  He was an infectious guy.  You didn’t have to be around him long before he infected you with his spirit, which was always upbeat, always looking at the light of things.  Toby doesn’t know it, but he has a lot of the same spirit.  Toby is a very infectious guy.  I can sit back and chat with him or talk to him, and we can have a real conversation.”

Wayman’s widow, Regina said, “Wayman was a very charismatic person.  No matter whom it was, a child wanting an autograph or a person wanting to tell him a story, Wayman gave that person his undivided attention.  Wayman’s dad taught him that if you are all that you say you are, (the athlete, then later on the musician) who you are will just show up.  You don’t have to put on airs, just be who you are.”

Wayman would say to Regina, “Babe, I always admired this guy from afar, and Babe, they know who I am!”

MalachiExcerpt“Wayman wasn’t famous to Wayman,” said Malachi.  “He was just amazed at his own life.  When he would be around celebrities, he would be like, ‘Wow!’  He was not about himself, very humble.  He knew he had a talent, but he enjoyed more doing for others with his talent than what it did for himself.

“This guy was not normal.  He was abnormal.  You don’t go through what he went through, and you don’t do what he did and it not go to your head.  He was not affected by the fame; he was humbled.”

“What Wayman thought was so cool about Toby,” said Regina, “from the beginning, is that he is so down to earth, like so many country music artists are.”

When Wayman was diagnosed and treated for cancer in March of 2007, Toby would go and visit Wayman in the hospital. Regina recalled, “When Wayman was going through the chemo in the hospital, Toby would come to the hospital and it made a huge ruckus.  He called and said, ‘Wayman, I’m coming.’  The first time he came, every nurse found a reason to come into the room.  The second time he came, he said, ‘I’m going to come late, Wayman.’” Regina and the family appealed to Toby’s PR people, “He’s coming to visit his friend, and if you guys can help us out by letting him come and just visit.”

When Toby got to the hospital, Regina recalled his reaction.  “He said, ‘Wayman, I come in and I’m going to cheer you up, but you cheer me up.’

“To know Wayman is to know that he was a fighter, he was not a quitter,” said Regina.  “Everything he did was with a smile, and self-assuredness, ‘I’m going to be okay.’

“There were times for me when I had really rough days because it was hard for me to see my big strong husband put on his back.  He’s telling me, ‘Baby, I’m going to be ok, it’s fine.’”

Malachi said of Wayman, “He was the biggest clown, sarcastic funny guy you could ever meet.  He was always joking about something.

“He was so upbeat and uplifting in his spirit.  We could be out on the road and he’s sick or he’s not feeling well, but he could go onstage and click a switch or something, and he goes from being down to instantly he’s back being that entertainer, that guy that everybody would go to see.

“During that whole 2008 year, I was just archiving, I was looking to build the new Wayman Tisdale mantra,” said Malachi.  “I was looking to where we wanted to take this.  Therefore, I was cataloging and taking pictures and doing videos.  Little did I know that Wayman was going to pass.  His spirit was so high, that you wouldn’t know that he was sick as he was.”

Wayman Tisdale passed away on May 15, 2009.  At Wayman’s funeral service, Toby told Regina “I’ve written a song, but of course, I can’t tell it today.  I would never get through it.”  Toby asked Regina, “So, when are you going to be down in Norman?”  (Norman is about 90 minutes away from the Tisdale’s.)  Regina told Toby she was coming down to do something with her daughter who attends school at Oklahoma University, which is in Norman, OK.

Regina said, “He said, ‘I want you to come by the house.  I want you to hear this song.  Before I finish it, I want you to hear what I’ve done.’”  Regina met Toby and Tricia (Toby’s wife) for dinner and went back to their place.  He took her in his office, gave her his laptop, and hit pause.  Toby wanted to afford Regina privacy as she heard the song he wrote in memory of his friend, her husband, for the first time. Regina recalled, “He said, ‘Okay, we’re going to push this button.’”  Toby hit ‘play’ and walked out of the room.

Regina said, “I sat listening to it, and cried and cried.  They (Toby and Tricia) came back in when the song was almost finished, and Tricia stood there with me.  He captured the very essence, the spirit of Wayman.  I said, ‘You’ve captured Wayman without ever saying his name.’  Anyone who really knew him knew whom Toby was talking about.  He was left handed, and he did turn the bass upside down and backwards because he was self-taught.

It made me think, ‘You know what, Toby, you’re right.  You cry for you.  I’m crying for me.’”  Regina Tisdale had reached a pivot point in her grief over the loss of Wayman.  “The crying is for the people who are left behind,” she shared with Toby. Regina continued, “Toby told me, ‘I really couldn’t believe it.  There was one more thing I wanted to ask you.  Can I…I actually recorded his voicemail.  Is it okay if I put that on?’  I said sure.”

In the song, Toby says of Wayman, “You showed me how I’m supposed to live, and you showed me how to die.”  There is a passion, a strength, and a deeper meaning to those lyrics that only those closest to Wayman would understand.

Regina said, “I think Toby is saying he lived life to the fullest.  ‘You (Wayman) were helpful to so many people, you left such an impact on so many, and then when you passed, you did it with dignity.  As a man you lived a certain way, even when you were facing adversity with this horrible sickness, you were still a man, you still showed integrity, you still showed class.’”

In an interview with CMT, Toby said of Wayman, “He was a charismatic, unbelievable person.  The closest thing I’ve ever seen to Jesus Himself.  If you’ve read much about Jesus Christ, you know how He carried Himself.  Wayman was the closest thing to represent Him.”TopySmiling

Malachi was asked for footage to include in the Toby Keith video of Cryin’ For Me.  “Time passed and Toby’s production company and some others got hold of me and said that Toby had that song.  Toby wanted to do a music video, so they called me wondering what they needed to do to get the video.  I just ended up giving them all the pictures and the footage from the last year.  I was just happy that I was able to gather and get the stuff for remembrance and brother Wayman.  He was a big, big impact on my life.”

Toby and his wife still maintain regular contact with the Tisdale family.  “I talk to Toby and his wife Tricia on a regular basis,” said Regina.

Recently, when Toby returned home from Europe he called Regina and said, “I am calling to check in because I know this is what Wayman would want me to do, to make sure that you and the children are okay.”

The hit single Cryin’ For Me continues to be a chart topping success, and is featured on Toby’s latest album, American Ride.

Wayman continues to be dearly missed.  “We lost an incredible person,” said Toby of Wayman.

“He was 6'9" and had a heart as big as he was tall,” said Regina.  “I miss laughing with him.”

Before he passed, Wayman established The Wayman Tisdale Foundation, an organization that helps to raise funds for amputees in need of prosthetics not always (or minimally) covered by health insurance.  Wayman Tisdale was a man who created a life and legacy in a service to others, and he continues to serve, share, and bless even after his death. PivotPointEndingBug


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0 #4 Patricia Derouin 2021-03-07 18:05
It was/is a beautiful song written by a big man to another big man with big hearts of each. An extremely loving song about the Friendship they shared and the type of man each other were and are. May God Bless You Both. (Was that not the end of Mr. Teasdale voice recording, May God Bless you).
0 #3 patrick cummings 2020-07-05 15:19
please publish this article, and song again.
we need it now more than ever.

this story/song can only inspire us to overcome and try and attain the Karma of Wayman, that we so desperately need in our society today. God Bless & be safe. Pat Cummings
0 #2 Pat Wallace 2019-07-14 06:50
I have been so in awe of the great voice Toby Keith has. While watching some videos on demand I tuned into the one about his
friend Tiz. What a great love story of two great men.
I seriously wanted to go to his recent concert in Kissimmee FL. But blew it off as a stpid idea for an old lady of 77. Had I heard Tobies song before I my have been inspired to go an enjoy the show. I looked up the story behind the video two great guys both full of insperation and love.
+4 #1 Perry Waddell 2017-09-06 17:27
This article was so very gracefully written.
Thank You.





I saw Toby Saturday in a meet-and-greet before the concert. Gave him the ‘famous’ magazine. He had not seen it before. You should have been there, he kept looking at it and had teardrops in his eyes. It is a day I will never forget! 
Baltimore, MD

Toby Keith Warrior & Street Team Member

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