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Provided by Billy McKee

This photo of Independence Township resident Billy McKee with a beer box on his head caught the eye of country singer Luke Combs, and it inspired Combs to write a song.

One of the songs that has hurtled Luke Combs into the upper reaches of the country music charts is “Beer Never Broke My Heart.”

It turns out that beer was also crucial in getting Combs to notice Independence Township resident Billy McKee and write a song inspired by a photo of him.

There are, of course, only a select handful of people living who can claim they were the inspiration for a song: Pattie Boyd, for instance, inspired “Something” when she was the wife of George Harrison, and “Wonderful Tonight,” when she was the wife of Eric Clapton; June Carter Cash was the inspiration for the Johnny Cash classic “I Walk the Line”; and it’s widely believed that Warren Beatty was the inspiration for Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”

McKee joined their company at the end of March when he married his wife, Lauren, at Forever Farm in Franklin. Amid the wedding revelry, McKee and his friends starting drinking cans of Miller Lite beer, and the box the beer came in was placed on McKee’s head as he was on bended knee.

McKee wrote, “Man@Miller Lite and @lukecombs if you guys don’t reply I don’t even know what to say.”

As it turns out, Combs noticed it.

One morning over breakfast, “All my buddies started texting,” said McKee, who is 25 years old and works as a machine operator at Dynamet outside Washington. “My sister called and said, ‘You know Luke Combs liked your pictures.’”

And not only did Combs say he liked the photo of McKee with the beer box on his head, but he remarked in a video posted to Twitter that he was inspired to write a song about it that he said he would include on his next album, a release date for which has yet to be announced.

Combs said in the video, “We were sittin’ here today and starting to work on a song, and I happened to get on Twitter...”

Some of the lyrics to the song are, “We still drink beer/We still get loud/We still turn ‘em up, catch us a buzz while the sun goes down/’Til every last drop in the world is gone or the good Lord calls us home/Long as we’re down here/We still drink beer.”

Combs, who is 31 and from North Carolina, broke through in 2014, and his 2019 album, “What You See Is What You Get,” which went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. The same year he won top country artist honors at the Billboard Music Awards.

McKee saw Combs when he played at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh in November 2019, and is hoping that he’ll be able to meet him the next time he plays in the area.

“He’s one of my favorite all-time artists,” McKee said. “We were all talking about it at the wedding, ‘Let’s just put the box on your head. You should post that to Luke Combs and see what happens. We didn’t think anything would happen.”

Since Combs acknowledged McKee’s photo, McKee has been interviewed by such outlets as ET Canada and Whiskey Riff. Next week, he is due to be interviewed for the program hosted by broadcaster Storme Warren on Sirius XM.

McKee and his wife moved up their nuptials from September because McKee’s father is battling pancreatic cancer. He said the fact that Combs responded to his photo has “made things a little bit more positive” at this juncture.

“It’s been crazy, that’s for sure,” McKee said.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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