Red Solo Cups Raised to Honor Country Singer

Toby Keith immortalized the humble plastic cups in a 2011 hit.

Toby Keith holds a Solo cup while performing on NBC's Today show, New York, July 5, 2019.
Toby Keith holds a Solo cup while performing on NBC's Today show, New York, July 5, 2019.
Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File

Red Solo cups – a staple of barbecues and beer pong – are usually synonymous with good times.

But on Tuesday, as word of country singer Toby Keith's death spread, many were raising their red Solos in sad tribute to the singer, who immortalized the humble plastic cups in his 2011 hit "Red Solo Cup." Keith, who had stomach cancer, died Monday at age 62.

"He was a great American and an exceptional storyteller who will be deeply missed in country music," said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, in a post Tuesday on X. "Raise your 'Red Solo Cup' to Toby for a life well-lived."

Hundreds of fans said they planned to fill their red Solo cups with beer, whiskey and even wine and hoist them in Keith's memory Tuesday. Social media was flooded with photos of Keith, red Solo cup in hand. Bars, like Madison Social in Tallahassee, Florida, and Independent Brewing Co. in Bel Air, Maryland, announced drink specials served in red Solo cups.

The Solo brand got its start in 1936, when Leo Hulseman — a former employee of Dixie Co. — began making disposable paper drinking cones that were sold to bottled-water companies.

In the 1970s, Leo's son, Robert Hulseman, invented the sturdy plastic cup that became synonymous with Solo. It was first released in red but is now offered in multiple colors, including blue and green.

Mason, Michigan-based Dart Container Corp. bought Illinois-based Solo Cup Co. in 2012. As a private company, Dart doesn't release sales data, but the company said Tuesday that the Solo cup remains "one of the best-selling party cups in America today."

"We were honored that Toby chose the iconic Solo cup as a sign of good times, and we extend our sympathies to all those who are mourning him today," Dart said in a statement Tuesday.

"Red Solo Cup" was featured on Keith's 2011 album "Clancy's Tavern." Keith didn't write the song, and in a 2014 interview with The Boot, a country music publication, he said he wasn't even sure he would release it. But whenever he played it, he noticed people would start singing along almost immediately.

"It is the stupidest song I ever heard in my life, but it's so stupid it's good," Keith told The Boot.

So for those inclined to raise a red Solo cup in Keith's honor, these words from his song may ring true: "Red Solo cup, you're more than just plastic. You're more than amazing, you're more than fantastic."

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