XTU Anniversary Show: Meet the Man Behind the National Anthem

Our very own Brian McKay has been singing the Anniversary Show National Anthem since 2011!

May 7, 2018

The first time he sang it was back in 2011.

That was the same year his father, a navy veteran, passed away.

That year, Brian McKay sang the National Anthem at the 27th Annual Anniversary Show to honor all those who have served our counry, like many of the Anniversary Show concert-goers.  Like his father.

This year, Brian is an old hat at the Star Spangled Banner, but he's no less excited to open the show with it in 2018! 

I spoke with him earlier about his favorite Anniversary Show moments, about what the anthem means to him, and about how he got his start.

Over your 7 years opening the show with the National Anthem, what memory stands out the most?

Brian McKay:  "One year, I was singing the anthem in front of the crowd (*Editor's note:  That "crowd" consisted of about 25,000 people) and something went wrong with the electronics...the microphone died.  I almost panicked, because that's a very stressful thing to have happen and no one could hear me.  But then the entire crowd, everyone in the audience, started singing the National Anthem back to me. (*Editor's note:  Remember, that's a crowd of 25,000.)  It was a really touching moment."

When did you get your start singing the National Anthem in public?

Brian McKay:  "I only sang in once before 2011.  I was working in radio in Scranton, and we were putting on a show for Sammy Kershaw, who was a big counry star in the 90s.  It was his birthday, and my boss had me stop the show lead everyone in singing him the birthday song.  Then Sammy said, in his coutry twang, 'You know what would make my birthday complete?  If someone would sing the Star Spangled Banner.'  So everyone stood up, and I sang the National Anthem on stage with his band.  That was the first time.  I've also sang it for the Philadelphia Eagles three times, and the Phillies once since then."

What does the National Anthem mean to you?

Brian McKay:  "It means that America is the greatest country in the world.  We have freedoms here that we can't take for granted, and the anthem is all about living free.  Things are so divisive right now, but it's not about that...it's moving because this is still the best country, and we are lucky for our freedom."

What is your favorite part about the XTU Anniversary Show?

Brian McKay:  The listeners showing their love for XTU is what makes it so special.  When you're in the studio, you don't always realize it; but being around the energy of that many people who want to be there and love the music, meeting the performers, interviewing the artists...it's like we're all one big family when we're there."

And finally...what's going through your mind while you sing?

Brian McKay:  "Not forgetting the lyrics!"

When he's NOT here with us at 92.5 XTU, Brian is a cantor at several churches in the Philadelphia area, and also participates in local and regional theatre.  (In case you were wondering, his favorite role has been the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz", followed by Horton in "Seussical".)  He was additionally a part of the Papal Choir for the Pope's 2015 visit.  You can hear him middays on the radio...and, of course, you'll hear him singing the National Anthem at the 34th Annual XTU Anniversary Show with headliner Dierks Bentley!

Tickets for the XTU Anniversary Show can be purchased HERE, or you can try your luck at our X-Stops and Ticket Runs, the list for which can be found HERE.