Michael A. Kennedy, George Strait's longtime drummer, was killed in a car crash on Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tenn., on Friday.
Kennedy, 59, of Baxter, was driving westbound in a 1999 GMC when the crash occurred just before 4 p.m., according to Tennessee Highway Patrol officials.
Kennedy drummed for Strait's Ace in the Hole Band for nearly 30 years.
"Our hearts are broken," Strait said in an email. "It’s going to be very strange not being able to look over and see him there in his spot on stage and very emotional ... for all of us and also his fans. The band will never be the same. A part of us is gone forever. We all loved Mike and will miss him terribly. He was just as solid a friend to us all as he was a drummer, and that was damn solid. Our hearts and prayers are with his family. The Lord has him now. Rest in peace, my friend."
Kennedy's GMC hit a tractor-trailer as it merged into another lane, according to the highway patrol's preliminary crash report. The tractor-trailer then hit a Chevrolet Silverado.
He wasn't wearing a seat belt, but investigators say it wouldn't have saved him. No one else was injured in the crash.
Kennedy played with Barbara Fairchild and Ricky Skaggs before backing Strait.
"I played with my dad's band from the time I was 7 to the time I was 15," Kennedy said in a YouTube video promoting Zildjian Cymbals three years ago. "Then he turned me loose and said: 'Go on out and spoil the world, son, you're too good for my band.' So I did that."