SOLO cups up! CMT gives Toby Keith an emotional, star-studded tribute

CMT knows how to give one of their own a proper sendoff.

When the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, lit up on Sunday for the 2024 CMT Music Awards, the late, great Toby Keith, who lost his battle with cancer on Feb. 5, was on everyone’s mind.

Earlier in the week, Toby Keith’s X account announced, “Toby’s longtime band will join @laineywilson, @brooksanddunn, and @sammyhagar on stage to perform a tribute to Toby.”

Fans weren’t disappointed.

Brooks & Dunn led the tribute with Keith’s first hit, the 1993 single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), “everyone in the crowd (especially Jelly Roll) sang along.”

Longtime friend, Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar, nailed his version of Keith’s 2003 number-one hit, “I Love This Bar.”

“I was so worried that I wasn’t going to make it through the performance emotionally,” Hagar wrote on X following the show. “It was hard for me working up to it.”

“When I hit the stage with Toby’s wonderful band that I played with many times over the years,” he continued, “the audience, energy, enthusiasm, and love that filled that building every tear of sadness into joy.”

“It was a beautiful experience to say the least, so proud and honored to have been invited,” Hagar said. “We all miss that bigger than life, wonderful man, Mr. Toby Keith. aka #BigDogDaddy.”

“After an introduction from Lukas Nelson and Riley Green, Wilson closed it out with ‘How Do You Like Me Now?!’ — the title track to Keith’s 1999 album,” THR reports. “The Grammy winner put her whole heart into a joyful, bittersweet performance as Keith’s widow, Tricia Lucas, and children (Shelley Covel Rowland, Krystal Keith and Stelen Keith Covel) watched.”

(Video: YouTube)

The outpouring of love ended with baseball legend Roger Clemens leading the audience in a Red Solo Cup toast to Keith.

“Get ’em up,” Clemens said. “Whisky for my men and beer for my horses!”

Online, fans praised the moving tribute.

“You – and the entire group – gave an incredible tribute!” one user told Hagar. “Thank you for your touching remembrance of such an incredible, talented soul!”

“Toby was smiling,” said another.

“Your tribute was perfect,” a third told Hagar. “Be sure as God made grass green @tobykeith was having a drink while watching from above.”

Melissa Fine

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