Toby Keith Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard at American Country Countdown Awards

Toby Keith payed tribute to his longtime friend Merle Haggard with a medley of Haggard's hits at the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards.

Toby Keith Pays Tribute to Merle Haggard at American Country Countdown Awards
Photo by Getty Images

One of the most memorable moments during last night’s2016 American Country Countdown Awardswas the heartfelt tribute to “The Hag.”

Oscar winnerMatthew McConaughey stepped out on stage to present the final performance of the night and honored the legendary performer in a short speech.

“This year, the passing of some of our greatest musical legends has reminded us just how much music means in our lives,” he began. “Each loss has hit us hard, like a death in the family. On April 6th, on his 79th birthday, country music lost a towering figure, the late, great Merle Haggard.”

The actor went on to introduce the Toby Keith-led tribute. Keith wasbacked by Haggard’s youngest son Ben and Merle’s longtime band, The Strangers.

“As a singer, songwriter, band leader, Merle forever changed the course of country music. Along with Buck Owens, Merle and his consistently excellent band, The Strangers, gave us the Bakersfield sound with a strong Telecaster twang and a plain spoken eloquence all its own. You see, Merle was an outlaw before the outlaws and a hero to all of countrys finest, none more than our final performer of the evening. We are honored tonight to be joined by Merles wife Theresa and other members of the Haggard family, including his youngest son Ben, who youre also about to hear play. Here to salute his friend Merle Haggard, joined by the legendary Strangers, lets give it up for Toby Keith.”

Keith played amedley of Haggard’s greatest hits, includingMama Tried, Today I Started Loving You Again, I Think Ill Just Stay Here and Drink, Workin Man Blues, Silver Wings and Okie From Muskogee.

His performance evoked tears from several audience members, including members of Haggard’s family. Haggard’s wife, Theresa, passionately sang along to every word.

Re-live the much-buzzed about performance above.

Merle Haggard died on Wednesday, April 6, his 79th birthday. He has been struggling with bouts of pneumonia for months and had been forced to cancel several of his recent concerts.