Country music is made up of stories. Stories behind the songs you sing and stories behind the artists you love.
But there is nothing that demonstrates the heart of country music more than those stories that happen when no one else is looking.
Upon the death of Merle Haggard on April 6, stories came out of the woodwork about Merle and the people his music has touched throughout the years. Yet, the story about country superstar Toby Keith’s role in Merle’s last show is one that will live on as one of country’s greats.
Originally shared by actor W Earl Brown and then shared on various social media sites, the story originates at what would turn out to be Merle’s last show. In the midst of his battle against pneumonia, Merle probably should have canceled his Vegas show scheduled for Super Bowl weekend. Yet, he proved the show would go on, pushing through until his lungs would fail him.
And that’s where Toby stepped in.
Toby went to see Merle before the show and had talked to the legend about how he knew each and every one of his songs. So when Merle could no longer sing, he handed it over to Toby.
“Never speak ill of Toby Keith to me; thanks to him, Merle exited the stage with his dignity intact,” W Earl Brown wrote.
What a story.
What a gift.
What an industry.