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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Don't Close Your Eyes

2. I'm No Stranger To The Rain

3. Miami, My Amy

4. When You Say Nothing At All

5. It Ain't Nothin'

6. I'm Over You

7. I Wonder Do You Think Of Me

8. Ten Feet Away

9. Talk To Me Texas

10. 'Til A Tear Becomes A Rose

11. Tell Lorrie I Love Her

x

Track List: I Wonder Do You Think Of Me

1. Talk To Me Texas

2. Between An Old Memory And Me

4. I'm Over You

5. Turn This Thing Around

6. Lady's Choice

7. Brother Jukebox

8. Tennessee Courage

10. I Wonder Do You Think Of Me

x

Track List: Don't Close Your Eyes

1. Flying Colors

2. It's All Coming Back To Me Now

3. Lucky Dog

4. Don't Close Your Eyes

5. The Birmingham Turnaround

6. Some Old Side Road

7. Would These Arms Be In Your Way

8. I'm No Stranger To The Rain

9. I Never Go Around Mirrors

10. When You Say Nothing At All

11. A Day In The Life Of A Fool

12. Honky Tonk Heart

Comments

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My Grandpa's love this song He song's it to Me all time I cryed♥Amen
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Good Song but sad one❤
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It's a shame it ended that way for him.
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Good Night everyone peace out ❤
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Good Song Amen ❤
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lconstantino 2 1
another talent lost to the clouds
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cassiepeeple s
your very right i miss them da
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Great song
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The good ole 80s country. To bad its gone.
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Keith Whitley was my Mammaws first kiss. At sandy hook ky high school.
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I live like 2 miles from where Keith Whitley grew up! Sandy hook Kentucky
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Such a great song.
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Keith will never forget you. I still stop whatever i am doing to listen whenever i hear your songs. You were better than you ever thought you were...
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nmcconaghie
Lalunnita i remember sitting in a guard shack back in the 80s and listening to don't close your eyes and thinking man this guy knows just what every man thinks when he is making love!!! my favorite is that song and this is just between an old memory and me!
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One of a king voice truly missed
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The best! RIP
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Keith, RIP. Sing my wife our song! & o yes I still try to sing like u. Ur just to good singing from the heart like u did.
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gypsyme3
The world will never seeeee so many ROSES ...b Ut if u weep .. I b here to hold u
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Love his music better than this new f*g country where Nashville has become Compton. Getcha some Texas red dirt where these guys and gals are real and don't need Nashville. Country Nashville style is cheating the nation and the fake artist of real country. You want real country. Get Texas red dirt. That's country. This new s**t is what's wrong with America it's all about the money. We have family. F**k the money
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Til a tear becomes a rose
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Check out I Flew Over Our House on You Tube. It's an old Tom T. tune, but Keiths voice is something else (even though he misses a couple of lyrics). That particular young KY man could paint a song ... peace be with you
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I miss him very much too
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ndbruce3591
I miss you
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Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes Michael Blake Grimes
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Michael Blake Grimes
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Favorite song.. Til a tear becomes a rose!!
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Incredible talent, great pure country voice and style... just could'nt beat the bottle. Lorrie Morgan used to tie a string to her ankle and his while sleeping... for fear he might try to sneak another drink. R.I.P. KW
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catlovers002
Keith Whitley's voice was definitely one-of-a-kin d he was so amazing
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Miami my Amy rocks
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Alcohol is a deadly curse. I simply pray he found peace. God will use his voice in the Angel band I'm sure. I lost many Uncle's to alcohol sad, they also were very gifted music wise but alcohol ended that. Hopefully, Lorrie is happy with Sam and hold's some goodtime's memories of there time together (Keith's and her's).
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Bummer to lose this great artist so soon.
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Awesome artist. It's so sad his death was so preventable. Just got done listening to Homecoming 63. I still think Miami, My Amy Loves me after All is one of his best songs.
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maggiekksb
Recorded not ing
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maggiekksb
Recording this song today.
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Alcohol poisoning
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didnt he die of drug overdose
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Gukebocks fave
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Til a Tear Becomes a Rose- was the greatest. This was so sad. I love them together. Both great voices. very sad. I hope Lorrie is happy with Sam Kershaw. He is great too. I love his songs.too>
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Great voce
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t_heath
Miami, My Amy is such a beautiful song.....wor d s and the music both.
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One of my favorite songs of his.. Don't close your eyes
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Nice, pic. Of Keith
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he was the best
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tamsin5
Those of you who think he 'could OF put the bottle down' obviously don't know about addiction. Keith Whitley was an amazing artist, way more true to his roots than Garth Brooks ever thought of being. I'm glad he left behind some wonderful music.
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He was a great singer. He could have done alot more if it wasnt for drinking
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Am sorry hes gone he was one of the best but he could of put the bottle down
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One of the last pure country artists, as great as George, Garth, Alan and Randy...... will be missed always.
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Yes, he should be in country music's Hall of Fame
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He was one of the best ever
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One of the greatest country music singers and artists of all time love Keith whitleys music!!
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