Keepin’ it Country

Each year, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is really all about moments. Of course, many of those moments happen on the arena dirt at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But some of those moments happen well outside the realm of competition here in Las Vegas. And sometimes, you don’t know those moments are actually moments until you’re right in the middle of them.

Such was the case Tuesday afternoon at the Cowboy Christmas Rodeo Live stage. “Daryle Singletary’s Keepin’ it Country,” hosted by Andy Griggs, was airing before a live audience, as it does each day of the Wrangler NFR.

DS-familyIt’s been a challenging week – and really, a challenging year – for the show, as its namesake and host the past two years, country music standout Daryle Singletary, unexpectedly passed away in February, at age 46. Griggs, a regular guest of the show and a good friend of Singletary, was honored to take on hosting duties and carry on the tradition the show quickly established as part of the Rodeo Live lineup.

Over the past six days, Griggs has done an outstanding job of connecting with the audience and grabbing exceptional guests from the country music world. Tuesday was a little different, though. The country music crooner had his own band on set. He played one of Singletary’s hits in a tribute to his buddy.

And for the first time, Singletary’s wife Holly was on hand for the show. Holly wasn’t able to make it the first two years, staying back in Nashville with twin sons Jonah and Mercer, and daughters Nora and Charlotte. The boys are now 8 years old, Nora is 6 and Charlotte 4.

Holly had been told that Griggs would give her a brief acknowledgement during Tuesday’s show, bringing her up on stage for a moment. But she did not quite get the whole story.

“No I did not,” she said with a laugh. “Andy said it’d be just a minute up there, and that’s it.”

But it was clear it would be more than a minute when she was joined on stage by Bo Gardner, vice president of corporate events for Las Vegas Events; Steve Decker, who heads up the RMEF Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo; and Bo Wagner, a director with Rodeo Live.

Gardner then presented Holly with a $10,000 check payable to the Daryle Singletary Foundation, which works to help budding country music stars get much-needed funding.

“I told Bo, ‘Just don’t make me cry.’ But they did. It doesn’t take much,” Holly said, smiling while brushing away tears after the emotional presentation. “These are happy tears, joyful tears. I was surprised, but in the best way, absolutely. The foundation is carrying on his legacy, his love for music. This helps out some young guys who we has excited about, to help give them a shot.”

A visit to the show Daryle brought to life was certainly cathartic for Holly, who has been a model of strength for her children and countless others who have seen how she’s handled such adversity.

“We were a tight family when Daryle was with us, and we’re still a tight family, a very close family,” Holly said. “We’re strong, and we’ll absolutely get through this. We talk about Daryle daily and listen to his music. We feel blessed to be able to hear that voice.”

Following the presentation, the show ended with a video of one of Daryle’s last works, a striking version of “America the Beautiful,” performed in his trademark traditional country way. His fans can look forward to that wonderful song and more in the near future.

“There are some releases he was working on, so our goal is to keep his legacy alive with some new songs,” Holly said.

That would be music to everybody’s ears. Just the way Daryle would like it.

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