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For many of us, there is no thrill like watching our favorite country stars on big awards shows like CMAs. The glitz, the glamour and the wins are all the result of countless hours of hard work that we don’t necessarily get to see at home.

But even the biggest stars know that the real stars of the show are the folks behind the scenes, those who work from sun up to sundown—and sometimes overnight through the wee small hours of the morning—to make sure that artists’ careers thrive and that the show goes on exactly as it should for the fans who buy albums and tickets.

These people definitely deserve a dang trophy and a night of honor. Enter the CMA Touring Awards, a total blast of an awards show designed to honor the behind-the-scenes industry folks from managers and publicists to bus drivers and lighting designers, and everyone in between, on their very own night.

RELATED: Montgomery Gentry’s Troy Gentry is honored in a way he would have loved

It’s no surprise that some of the brightest, like Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney wanted to do their part to congratulate their hard-working winning crew, band and team members by sending special video messages, even though they couldn’t be in attendance at the Jan. 22 show in Nashville.

Kix Brooks, Chris Stapleton, Dierks Bentley and Thomas Rhett were able to be there, and each star popped out from backstage to congratulate their comrades who took home trophies.

But there was one special moment that took everyone’s breath away. It was the moment the late Troy Gentry’s wife appeared to honor their friend, Montgomery Gentry bus driver Danny Shelnut.

Danny was given the honor of Coach/Driver of the Year, and what Angie Gentry had to say to him brought the entire room to tears.

As you can see in the video, the two hugged each other tearfully as Danny walked onstage. It was an emotional moment for the MG team — which lost Troy in a helicopter crash last September — and for everyone in attendance.

“We’re here to honor someone tonight that has spent the last 30 years on the road driving his ‘motorcoach,’ 16 of them with Montgomery Gentry and 10 driving my husband and my family,” Angie said. “He’s not only a driver, he’s our friend and he’s part of our family. Thank you for honoring him with something that is so very important in a time where we’ve all come together as family to get each other through a very, very tragic situation. Thank you very much,” she told the crowd before turning to Danny and saying, “Congratulations, I love you.”

Angie wasn’t the only one with a special message for Danny. Eddie Montgomery sent a special video message for his longtime friend and driver.

“Do you we call you Danny? Or Mr. Shelnut? Or the Colonel,” Eddie lovingly joked to his friend in his video.

RELATED: Troy Gentry’s wife makes good on a promise her husband made before his death

You can tell there is a lot of love in this crew—they really are like family.

Eddie closed his video out on a sincere note by saying, “You are the man of the hour and the safe driver of the year. We love you.”

Y’all, we’re not kidding—these folks all deserve every bit of honor and recognition. They sacrifice so much at home to make sure we all get the ultimate fan experience with our favorite artists. Next time you’re at a show and you see a crew member, tell them, “Thank you.”

We at Rare Country salute all the winners and all the road warriors!

Samantha Stephens absolutely lives for music. When she's not making it, she's talking or writing about it. She's worked in all arenas of the country music world for nearly a decade, from syndicated radio and television to print journalism. She's even been known to crash a red carpet or two, true story.
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