Thomas Rhett and Toby Keith go way back, long before Thomas became a country artist. 

Taking to Instagram, Thomas recalled fond memories forged with Toby and shared a childhood photo of him, his dad, Rhett Akins, and the “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” singer.

“It breaks my heart to hear about the passing of Toby Keith… I’ve known Toby since I was a kid. He used to run around in the same circle as my dad,” Thomas recalls. “When I signed my first record deal in 2012, Toby was the very first person to take me on tour… I watched his show every single night just trying to soak up as much as I could.”

“I learned so much about how to write songs, how to perform, and how to entertain from Toby Keith,” he says. “I am so honored to say that I got to share the stage with him. Toby – I hope your soul rests easy brother.”

Toby passed away Monday after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. The news arrived Tuesday via a statement shared on his socials.

“Toby Keith passed away peacefully last night on February 5th, surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time,” read the statement.

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