Luke Bryan: Country Strong

Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

You only have to examine the life of Luke Bryan to know that the old saying “nice guys finish last” doesn’t always hold true. In an industry traditionally rooted in stars for whom cheatin’, boozin’ and brawlin’ is a way of life, there’s not a whiff of scandal around the country singer: He’s a loving son to his parents, a devoted husband to his college sweetheart, and a doting dad to their two young boys.

He’s also the biggest name in country music. His mom, LeClaire, tells Star exclusively,”Luke’s album has done so well, it’s a little unreal. I’ll tell you what, he’s made me so proud. Luke is a great person, and he deserves his success.”

But Luke and his family had to endure back-to-back heartbreaking tragedies while he pursued that success. In October 1996, when Luke was 20, his older brother, Chris, was killed in a car accident a the age of 26. At the time, Luke was planning a move to Nashville for his young music career, but decided to stay at home with his grieving parents and enrolled in a local college instead.

The 38-year-old did relocate to Nashville five years later, making a name for himself as a songwriter. Then, in 2007, he made his debut at the legendary Grand Ole Opry. But just weeks after that groundbreaking performance, Luke’s older sister, Kelly, a 39-year-old married mom of three, died suddenly at her home. The cause of death remains unknown.

Luke keeps a pair of his brother Chris’ golf shoes as a physical reminder, and he makes a point of spending quality time with his sister Kelly’s kids. He also performs his hit single “Drink a Berr” in concert as a tribute to his late siblings.

“You can lean on friends and family [to get] through it — and you can get back to life,” he says. “I’m just happy at the place I’m in…We have to make the most of each day, and that’s how I’m trying to do it.”

REPORTING BY: LINDSAY FARBER & ALEX BURTON

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