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Keith Whitley

Keith Whitley's legacy loomed large over the country music landscape of the '90s. A talented new country singer and songwriter, Whitley was just beginning to emerge as a superstar at the time of his death in 1989. Throughout the next decade, his reputation as both a performer and writer continued to grow, as other artists had hits with his songs and posthumous recordings climbed into the Top Ten.

Born and raised in Kentucky, Whitley began singing as a child, winning a talent contest at the age of four. When he was eight years old, he learned how to play guitar and within a year he was singing on a Charleston, WV-based radio station. Whitley formed his first band at the age of 13, playing nothing but straight bluegrass. A few years later, he formed the Lonesome Mountain Boys with his high school friend, Ricky Skaggs. The Lonesome Mountain Boys primarily played Stanley Brothers songs and soon became a popular attraction.

In the late '60s, Ralph Stanley was looking to re-form his band after the death of his brother and partner, Carter. He was so impressed with Whitley and Skaggs, he asked them to join his Clinch Mountain Boys group. The duo accepted the offer immediately and began appearing with the band in 1970. Whitley stayed with the Clinch Mountain Boys for two years, recording a total of seven albums, including 1971's Crying From the Cross, which was named the Bluegrass Album of the Year.

In 1973, Whitley left the group. For two years, he drifted through various other bands, including acts that played country, not bluegrass. He returned to the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1975 and stayed with them for another two years. During his second tenure with the band, he made five albums. In 1978, Keith joined J.D. Crowe's band the New South. Whitley recorded three albums with the New South between 1978 and 1982, which vacillated between bluegrass and straight country (the highlights of this era were re-released on CD as Sad Songs & Waltzes in 2000).

Whitley began a full-fledged solo career after leaving the New South in 1982. Signing with RCA Records, he released his debut album, Hard Act to Follow, in 1984. A record of pure honky tonk, it didn't attract much of an audience. The following year, he released L.A. to Miami, a more commercial affair which spawned the number 14 single "Miami, My Amy." After that single peaked early in 1986, he had three back-to-back Top Ten hits: "Ten Feet Away," "Homecoming '63," and "Hard Livin'." Late in 1986, he married Lorrie Morgan.

Although L.A. to Miami was a success, its slick production didn't please Whitley. In 1987, he recorded a follow-up to the record that sounded exactly the same as its predecessor. Unsatisfied with the musical direction of his new effort, Whitley convinced RCA to shelve the completed album and have him work on another record with a new producer, Garth Fundis. Don't Close Your Eyes was the result. Released in the spring of 1988, the album solidified Whitley's commercial standing. The first three singles from Don't Close Your Eyes -- "Don't Close Your Eyes," "When You Say Nothing at All," and "I'm No Stranger to the Rain" -- were all number one hits.

Things may have been going smoothly on the surface for Keith Whitley, but behind the scenes he was being torn apart by alcoholism. On May 9, 1989, he suffered from a fatal case of alcohol poisoning; he was 34 at the time of his demise. Just before his death, he completed his fourth album, I Wonder Do You Think of Me. The record was released shortly after his death and its first single, which was the title track, reached number one, as did its follow-up, "It Ain't Nothin"; another single from the album, "I'm Over You," reached number three in 1990. During the '90s, RCA repackaged and re-released many of Whitley's recordings -- including several unreleased songs -- in various compilations. Lorrie Morgan recorded an electronic duet, "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose," with her late husband in 1990; it peaked at number 13. In 1994, a tribute album to Whitley was released. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Comments

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kandiromesbu r g
You were amazing! It's too bad the drugs got ya.
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Who thinks he looks like Hugh Jackman
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Please thank of me
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Keith was a gifted vocalist he could have done so much more in the music industry if he could've handled his demons better. His voice just blows you away and makes you say Wow several times.
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Don't close your eye's is not one of his best songs, Iadonna
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I wish I wasn't tone deaf I will be singing all of his best songs
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I love the song, When you say nothing at all! It is so true!!
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I'm no stranger to the rain
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Don't Close Your Eyes, love this song
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My word, I have so wanted to hear "I'm Over You"!! I love that song and NO ONE but Keith Whitley could ever sing that song. If you listen to his music their true meaning was always subtle! He had a true to earth voice. God bless you in the Promised Land...
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Keith Whitley was like an amazing shooting star. His voice and songs were magnificent. He did have that Lefty Frizzell sound .We cannot judge what truly haunted him.I pray he has found peace! RIP Mr Whitley..
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May he rest in peace
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They, sound so good together! WHY? Gone way too soon. What could've been?
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I wonder?
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Got to know when to say when life is a b**ch
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Gone to soon
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Kentucky blue bird
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Just can't get enough, sorry. They play & I listen. Like an old EF Hutton lol
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Wish I could sing as good as Keith
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When hold me tonight, don't close your eyes.
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i love them all.
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I never go around mirrors
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True that!!!!! Barrett
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Like they say "only the good die young".
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Back for more. lol
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Ending my night with Keith
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Starting my day with Mr. Keith Whitley
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Just hold me tight when u love me tonight & don't close your eyes
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One of the greatest
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Sing it Keith
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No country singers left like Keith!
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Oh please more Keith Whitley
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please play vern gosdin he is the best
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Back for lots more
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Lori & Keith sound so great.
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What a way to wake up!! Two great ones in row. I'm lucky! Morning
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Closed for business talk to my friends tomorrow. Ty pandora
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Keith, sometimes I can only listen for a while. Then the tears fall like rain. Lots of very good memories. With most country music.
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Keith Whitley! I have grown up listening to you! All this new country music, ew. FL GA line. Ew. No. They are fake country music they are rap I'm sorry when you have a rapper in you so called country music, ew no it's not country music I just want you to know I love you and your music! They can try to redo your music but they will never be as good as you. Your and idol! May you rest in peace my friend I will always love you,
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Keith, they try to redo your songs. But still no ones even close.
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May you rest in peace it's still sad you died 5years before I was born I wish I could meet you you have became one of my favorite idol's that got me into singing especially country music it's been one of my dreams to sing in the country music industry ever since I heard your & Alan Jackson's voice I love all country music from your era & before
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Derick Rader
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Love that song
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I love his music he had a beautiful voice, my favorite song is Some body's doing me right, and Miami my Amy.
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True country gold he woulda been bigger than Garth Allen and George had he lived love everything he ever sang
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THANKS KEITH !!!
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Love, listen. Will never stop!
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That's very true! GOOFYGALNO1. That goes for all drugs.
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Love his music!! Sad that his alcoholism took him. Knowing somone that has a problem with drinking is hard. I know first hand. No matter if a relationship is bad or good, if the person doesn't want to stop drinking, their loved one can't stop it for them. It has to be their choice.
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robbie123mcc r a v y
Hi
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