Texas Legend Robert Earl Keen Announces Retirement From Touring

by TK Sanders
Texas-Legend-Robert-Earl-Keen-Announces-Retirement-From-Touring
(Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)

Robert Earl Keen, the charismatic singer-songwriter from Houston, TX, with a legendary style all his own, announced his retirement from touring today via social media. After more than 40 years of shows and a whopping 18 albums under his belt, Keen decided to go out the same way he started way back in the Austin bar scene in ’78: loving the road, and loving music.

“You’ve heard people say, ‘Time flies.’ It’s a cliche. But there’s a funny thing about cliches. What makes them ubiquitous, is that they ring true,” Keen explained in his farewell video, with that soft Southern drawl dancing in step with his natural storyteller’s inflection — a fanciful combination that makes him so special and unique.

“I’m a strong believer in clarity and truth. As much as I love what I do, it’s more important that I do it well, or not at all. I feel making a decision and quitting while I still love it is the way I wanna leave it.”

The Legacy He Leaves Behind

With his retirement, Keen leaves behind an absolutely colossal career of Southern music in his wake, highlighted by a 2012 induction into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame and a hit song, “The Road Goes on Forever.” It would become an immediate bar and dancehall anthem.

Keen’s penchant for blending traditional blues and rock riffs with the timeless simplicity of country and western music gave his music a stirring durability that almost begged to be heard live. His silky, approachable voice and charming stage presence made fans feel like they were spending time with an old friend, more so than a country music legend. To lifelong fans of the genre, his on-again-off-again relationship with major labels and publishers elevated his aura far beyond that of seasoned road warrior. Instead, he came to embody the status of an almost affable outlaw — a beacon of musical purity in an era of pomp and circumstance and Ticketmaster.

A Career Defined by People, Not Just Personal Accomplishments for Robert Earl Keen

But to Keen, the accolades and notoriety seemed to mean less than the genuine relationships he formed along the way.

“There’s no way to inventory the fantastic amount of incredible people that touched my life,” Keen continued in his video. “My family, friends, band members, fans, coworkers, teachers, advisors, confidants, and peers only begin to tell the story. I feel connected to every one of them. If I can picture them in the blink of an eye, like snapping a photograph, I’m connected.

“I do believe it’s the people that come in and out of your life that make life worth living. Or, in unfortunate cases, a living hell.”

No doubt tens of thousands of fans, who at some point forgot their everyday problems or worries thanks to a Robert Earl Keen performance, feel the same. And of course, the energy of the fans has surely fanned the flames of passion for Keen, himself, and his band. It’s the type of energy that makes a four-decade-long career fly by in the blink of an eye.

“It’s with a mysterious concoction of joy and sadness that I tell you. As of September 4, 2022, I will no longer tour. I plan to continue to write songs … [and] I embrace this as an opportunity to support the musical community.

“Thank you for all the wonderful years throughout the years. And although it might not be apparent here, I promise, the road goes on forever and the party never ends.”

Outsider.com