We recently covered a Spotify study demonstrating that metalheads are the most loyal fans in the musical universe. Having some proof is nice, but Spotify could have saved themselves the trouble and simply asked a headbanger.

Evidence abounds that metal fans are in it for the long haul. MTV and VH1 gave up on music long ago, but as I write this, Metal Mania is on in the background (Motley Crue's "Same Old Situation"). Coming up next? That Metal Show, starring three guys in their forties who still sport black concert tees.

I know those guys; well, not those guys, but the Guys In Black T-Shirts Who Jam. I've known them since I was a kid, back when the disco wars raged and an expressed desire to get mellow earned an invitation to get the f--- out of here.

Back in those days, wearing a black Iron Maiden or Sabbath tee bordered on a political statement. Being a Guy In Black T-Shirt Who Jams meant taking a seat on the periphery, to define oneself as an outsider. Teachers assumed you were trouble, parents worried that you were "on the pot," and preachers prayed for your eternal soul.

But it wasn't all bad news. A black concert tee was like a passport into an underground community, a society of kids who didn't belong anywhere else. If I was rocking a KISS shirt, I could count on getting the "what's up" head nod from similarly attired dudes.

Nobody wore Donna Summer shirts. Nobody plastered their walls with ABBA posters. Only the Guys in Black T-Shirts Who Jam walked it like they talked it.

One of my most memorable friendships from junior high school happened over metal. His name was Mitch, and thanks to the black tee he decided that I must be an okay guy. "Where do you live, man?" he asked. "I'll come over and we'll listen to records."

Mitch rode his bicycle over to my house that afternoon with a brand new album under his arm. He wiped out on the way over, ripping the corner off the sleeve and leaving bloody fingerprints all over the cover art. Somehow the damage just made the album cover cooler. I dropped the needle and this is what we heard:

When Randy Rhoads died, the Guys In Black T-Shirts Who Jam grieved like we'd lost a family member. We did the same when Bon Scott died, and Dimebag, too. Don't misunderstand: Any death is sad and tragic. My only point here is that the metal guys were emotionally invested. It wasn't just music, they weren't just bands, this was personal.

That's all you need to know, really: It's personal. Metal fans are the most loyal because the line separating music and listener is razor thin. A lot of years have passed since I was a teenaged Guy In Black T-Shirt Who Jams, but I still bust out Blizzard of Ozz. I still have a closet full of black concert tees, too.

I'm not alone. Hit any festival this summer and you'll see old farts like me mingling with the next generation of headbangers. You'll probably see as much or more passion and enthusiasm in the crowd as on stage. Out there in the crowd it's more than a concert because for metalheads it's more than just music.

It's where we belong.

Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Guitarists of All Time