When artists, musicians, actors, famous people, etc. pass, I don't feel what others feel.

I don't feel anything. I did not know them. I knew of them, but I was not close to them.

Up until today, I have never had a celebrity death that has affected me. Again, up until today.

When I heard the news of the iconic country superstar Toby Keith passing, I could not help but be sad. There was also this feeling of eternal gratitude for the Big Dog Daddy.

The year was either 2006 or 2007. I was in the fifth grade. I don't remember when my parents told me I was going to a country concert, but I certainly remember the day of the show and what followed.

It was my first concert ever. And it was the big dog daddy, Toby Keith. I've narrowed down my timeline to figure out what show was officially my first concert: 2/1/2007 at the SNHU Arena in Manchester, or 2/15/2007 at the DCU Center in Worcester.

Either way, I remember being in awe at what a country concert was like.

Toby Keith captivated thousands of people, including 10-year-old me. It was my first time at a concert venue. I was one of around 10,000 people singing "I Should Have Been a Cowboy."

It clicked. Should I be a cowboy? Should I like this type of music?

The answer to being a cowboy is still a mystery, but I sure knew damn well that I loved country music. I decided that night that I liked country music so much that I made my parents buy me a stiff, classic, jet-black, sued cowboy hat.

34th Annual Nashville Symphony Ball
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I remember wearing it to school the next day and getting made fun of. Country music wasn't "cool." But I did not care. Never did then, and never do now.

Toby, you are the reason I love country music. You are one of the reasons I don't give a CRAP what people think of me (started back in the fifth grade when I wore that black cowboy hat). You are the reason one of my two karaoke songs is "Beer For My Horses."

More importantly, I believe you had an impact that could affect the entirety of my life.

I have a dream job hosting the morning show on New England's #1 for New Country, 97.5 WOKQ. The same station where I first heard your songs back when I was a single-digit kid weighing less than 70 pounds.

If it were not for you, that first concert, and that black cowboy hat, I don't know what I would be doing today.

Rest easy, Big Dog Daddy.

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