Just like any other day, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, I woke up at 3:15 a.m. and started with my usual routine. However, at 4:45 a.m., everything changed.

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At 4:45 a.m., I received the heartbreaking news of Toby Keith's passing at age 62 from stomach cancer.

Toby Keith held a special place in my heart and played a significant role in shaping my love of country music. It was in 1993, with his debut single "Should've Been a Cowboy," that I made the leap from being a rock fan to embracing country music and haven't looked back since.

Glenn Pitcher with Morning Show Partner Traci Taylor and Krystal Keith in Memphis.
Glenn Pitcher with Morning Show Partner Traci Taylor and Krystal Keith in Memphis.

Toby began his career with a lot of success, bringing in nine #1 hits in just four years. However, as time went on, Toby experienced a lull in his musical journey, particularly starting in 1998 when his songs like "Getcha Some" and "Double Wide Paradise" failed to do anything on the country music charts.

It was during this time of uncertainty about his career that Toby Keith came to Endicott, New York.

I'll never forget the day that I stood next to Toby in a field at the Pine Valley Campground, the two of us just looking at each other. I couldn't believe that I was standing next to the one and only Toby Keith and I bet he was thinking, "I can't believe I'm standing next to this no-talent hack in a random field."

I have a feeling that Toby thought he was on his way down to C or D list celebrity status, but he had no idea how high he was about to climb back up not long after playing at Pine Valley Campground. After he left Endicott, Toby's song  "How Do You Like Me Now," was released and that song put Toby back into the spotlight.

Although Toby had so many great songs, there is one that will hold a special place in my heart forever. "Beer for My Horses" was released in 2002 as part of Toby's album "Unleashed" and became my anthem.

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I have memories of playing "Beer for My Horses" even before it became a hit as I prepared for the New York State Softball tournament in the summer of 2002. The result? We won the championship that year. Soon after, "Beer for My Horses" became a single, capturing the hearts of the country.

In a superstitious fashion, when we returned to Cortland for the New York State Softball tournament in 2003, I made sure to play "Beer For My Horses" again. True to our superstitions, we were victorious again

These are just two of the countless memories linked to Toby Keith and his incredible music. As I mourn the loss of this American patriot, I also find comfort in knowing that his pain is over and he has found a place of peace and happiness.

Thank you, Toby, for the memories that bring a smile to my face. Until we meet again, tell Jesus I said, "Hi."

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