Watch the Toby Keith tribute performance that brought his kids to tears

Toby Keith; Brooks and Dunn perform
AP Photo | X/CMT

It’s was Toby Keith’s night at the 2024 Country Music Television (CMT) Awards.

The late country singer died in February at the age of 62 following a long battle with stomach cancer. Even though he wasn’t there in person, every person in the auditorium felt his presence throughout the night as many artists paid tribute to Keith’s legacy.

The tributes started showing up on social media well before the show, which aired on April 7. On X, the official Toby Keith account shared a touching photo of artists such as Brooks and Dunn, Lainey Wilson and Sammy Hagar gathered with Keith’s band to rehearse for the ceremony.

The musical tribute kicked off with Brooks and Dunn performing “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” with Keith’s band supporting them. Behind the artists, a wall of TVs played videos and photo montages of Keith throughout his career. From the audience, you could see Keith’s family, including his wife Tricia, and children Shelley, Krystal and Stelen, singing along and wiping away tears.

Before the show, Keith’s children talk with the media about attending the show and the emotional impact it was having for the family.

“It’s our first public outing, so it’s very bittersweet,” Shelley explained in a CNN video from the red carpet. “It’s going to be emotional. We’re doing our best to keep the tears in.”

Sammy Hagar took the stage wearing a bright jacket and a white T-shirt emblazoned with “Toby” on the front. Hagar did a rousing rendition of Keith’s “I Love This Bar.”

Lainey Wilson wrapped up the tribute set with her performance of “How Do You Like Me Now.”

While all of the performances were a tribute, there was no mistaking the music gave a party-like atmosphere to the event. And, to wrap it all up, former MLB pitcher Roger Clemens took to the stage and led everyone in a toast to honor the late, great Toby Keith. Performers and audience members all had a red Solo cup for the toast, which was another callout to Keith’s legacy.

During his successful career, Keith won seven CMT awards, had 30 nominations and performed at the award ceremony 13 times and co-hosted the festivities twice, according to People.

Celebrities, Entertainment, Music, News

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Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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