September 8 had all the makings of a perfect day for Thomas Rhett.
His new album, “Life Changes,” was finally being released, and he was set to spend his day celebrating with his fans at a series of “Live from the B-Stage” events in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. Yet sometime between Philly and Chi-Town, Thomas’ perfect day came to an abrupt halt as he learned of the passing of two country music icons — Don Williams and Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry —in the span of less than an hour.
“We were headed to the airport from the show we did in Philadelphia and my bass player read it on his CNN app and I turned around and was like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Thomas told Rare Country just minutes before taking the stage in Chicago, about hearing the news that Troy had been killed in a helicopter crash. “That’s just crazy because, you know, in the past you hear about artists or bands dying in a plane crash and you just don’t think — I mean, we have been on three planes today! It can literally happen at any moment.”
Thomas stopped to take a breath, and then continued.
“I didn’t know Troy that well, but my dad did because my dad was in the same era … so I knew them when I was five years old,” he said amid the hustle and bustle of the backstage area. “I’ve gotten to play radio shows with them. It’s just, like, such a sad, sad thing. So I feel for their families and I’ll be praying for their families.”
Of course, before his plane ride to Chicago was through, Thomas and the rest of the country world also heard of the passing of Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams.
“I didn’t know Don, but to lose another country music icon like that and an amazing songwriter … umm, it’s just a sad day,” he said.