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Ayla Brown: How Toby Keith Personally Impacted My Life

It was a sad, sad morning for me when I got into work and saw the news that Toby Keith had passed away. In June of 2022, Toby announced to his fans that he had stomach cancer. His plans were to do chemo, radiation and get surgery. Toby was open with his fans during the whole process. He even admitted that he needed to take time and rest, and that he did. When he resurfaced in September of 2023 at the People's Choice Country Awards, he accepted an award for "Country Music Icon." Of course he brought some humor to the stage by telling the audience, "Bet you thought you'd never see me in skinny jeans." How I Met Toby Keith I met Toby Keith back in 2011 for the first time. It's a pretty cool story, but in November of 2010 I had the opportunity to go overseas to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan to sing for our troops for two weeks. It was with a group called Armed Forces Entertainment. They're a group that sends all sorts of entertainments to military bases around the world. While I was in Afghanistan specifically, I met a Sergeant in the Marines who had performed security for Toby Keith while he was on their base for a USO tour. And thankfully this Sergeant ran security for me while I was over there performing, which is how he connected me to Toby Keith! All it took was an email from the Sergeant to Toby Keith. He said something like, "Toby, I just ran security for this awesome singer named Ayla Brown. She lives in Nashville and would love to meet you sometime if you have the time." I am so grateful for that email because after that I met Toby Keith on multiple occasions! The first time was at XFINITY Center in Mansfield, MA. He was performing a concert in 2011 on his "Locked & Loaded" tour. My mom and I were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet him. He was so nice to us, and everyone in the line. I couldn't believe how TALL he was! [caption id="attachment_1152875" align="alignnone" width="800"] This was the first time I met Toby Keith. It was at XFINITY Center. My mom and I had a blast talking to him. He couldn't have been nicer![/caption] Toby Keith Was Nice Every Time I was fortunate enough to meet him on a couple of other occasions. Once was at the Academy of Country Music Awards. I somehow made my way into a really awesome ACM party and Toby Keith was there. I couldn't believe it, but he remembered me! I was shocked. We talked about our experiences singing for the troops overseas. We snapped another picture together. [caption id="attachment_1152881" align="alignnone" width="720"] This is when I saw Toby Keith at the ACM's in Las Vegas. He remembered me, I couldn't believe it!! We snapped another picture together.[/caption] The Impact He Made On Me The last, and final time, I met Toby Keith was when he performed an intimate acoustic set at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. He performed 8 or so songs. They were ALL number one hits. He performed "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," "American Soldier," "Should Have Been a Cowboy," and a few more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LReDh3S_eak As a singer/songwriter myself, seeing someone like Toby Keith perform was lifechanging. Toby has had over 20 #1 hits, and 22 additional songs that placed in the top 10. His songs were always filled with a lot of colorful, descriptive lyrics. You could almost put yourself as characters in his songs. And his melodies were always catchy and memorable. Still to this day, I always sing Toby's song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" in my music sets. "Thank You" Toby Keith Thank you Toby Keith for your incredibly catchy and memorable songs. Thanks s from the bottom of our hearts for your support of the military. And lastly, thank you for your dedication and contributions to the country music genre over the years. We will miss you so much. Rest in peace.  

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