Remember How Toby Keith Saved One of Merle Haggard’s Last Shows?
Toby Keith was both a massive fan and a personal friend to Merle Haggard, and the country superstar got the chance to step up and save the day at one of Haggard's last-ever public performances.
Haggard died on April 6, 2016, after battling pneumonia and breathing problems off and on for the final months of his life. He died on his 79th birthday, and in a Facebook post after Haggard's death, actor and musician W. Earl Brown shared how Keith saved the day for the country legend at the Mandalay Bay Ballroom in Las Vegas on Feb. 6, 2016 — one of the last nights he was ever onstage.
"Merle had to pay his band and crew, so there was no calling in sick for this gig," Brown wrote. "Toby got word that Merle was in Vegas, so he went to see him … Merle was in bad shape. He needed to be in a hospital – not on a stage; but The Show Must Go On. Merle would not take charity from anyone, but he did turn to Toby and say, 'How many songs of mine do you know?'”
Merle Haggard Through the Years
Keith ended up finishing Haggard's set after a few songs. "Never speak ill of Toby Keith to me; thanks to him, Merle exited the stage with his dignity intact," Brown said.
In an interview with News Channel 4 in Oklahoma, Keith shared his memories from that night.
"He looked really frail, and I walked him on the stage and said, 'I'll be over here. You call me up whenever you need me,'" he recalled. "He made it about eight songs, and he called me up and said, 'Let's do something.'"
Watch Haggard and Keith performing "Okie From Muskogee" in the clip above during one of the final public performances of Haggard's life.
Haggard announced in late March of 2016 that he was canceling all of his scheduled shows on doctor’s orders. He passed away on April 6, 2016, after battling another round of pneumonia.
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