Jason Aldean turned to one of Toby Keith's for a tribute during Thursday night's ACM Awards. The legend's son and — for the first time — wife watched from the crowd.

Keith, who died from complications of stomach cancer on Feb. 5, was a good friend of Aldean's. One of his final public appearances was at an Aldean concert last year.

Related: 2024 ACM Awards Red Carpet Pictures: See Country Music's Best Dressed

Seated on stools, the singer and two acoustic guitar players gave a more soft-spoken performance of "Should've Been a Cowboy," from Keith's self-titled 1993 debut. It was slow and personal, with an extended orchestral interlude separating the final two choruses.

Cameras zoomed in on the Keith family toward the end of the performance to find son Stelen and Tricia Covel shedding tears. Previously, only Keith's three children were present to watch tributes at the CMT Music Awards. Only Stelen was there to accept Keith's Country Music Hall of Fame nomination in March.

attachment-Aldean Toby Keith
Jason Kempin, Getty Images
loading...

"Toby was a huge presence in our business and someone we all looked up to and respected," Aldean posted on Facebook the day following Keith's death.

During his career, Keith took home 14 ACM Awards. He was named top male vocalist and had the album of the year multiple times. The "How Do You Like Me Now?!" singer received top honors as ACM's Entertainer of the Year in both 2002 and 2003.

Related: 2024 ACM Awards Winners: Full List

 

Aldean told the Tennessean prior to the show that "Should've Been a Cowboy" has always been a big part of his career.

"Even when I started playing in clubs early on at 14 and 15 years old I was up there playing 'Should've Been a Cowboy,'" Aldean said in the interview. "So it's really cool. It's kind of a full circle moment to come here and play it for him and honor his legacy."

2024 ACM Awards Red Carpet — See Country Music's Best, Worst and Boldest Dressed

See country music's best dressed, worst dressed and boldest from the 2024 ACM Awards red carpet. The 2024 ACM Awards were on Thursday (May 16) in Frisco, Texas.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

13 Toby Keith Facts You Probably Never Knew

Toby Keith lived a fascinating life, but even fans who thought they knew everything about this country music hero will learn a thing or two on this list of 13 Toby Keith facts.

Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes

More From 98.1 The Hawk