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Ashland, Kentucky, USA
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Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Cause of Death
New Traditionalist, Neo-Traditionalist Country, Contemporary Country, Progressive Bluegrass, Progressive Country, Bluegrass
Earnest, Intimate, Bittersweet, Gentle, Reflective, Sentimental, Plaintive
Jackie Keith Whitley (July 1, 1955 – May 9, 1989), known professionally as Keith Whitley, was an American country music singer. During his short career, Whitley charted 19 singles on the Billboard country charts.
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Jessie Keith Whitley was born July 1, 1954, in Ashland (Raised in Sandy Hook), Kentucky. Learning to play guitar at age 6, he appeared on Buddy Starcher`s regional TV show at age 8 and formed a bluegrass band with his friend Ricky Skaggs a few years later. When they were
15, Skaggs and Whitley were asked to play a local show when Ralph Stanley`s entourage was running late. When Stanley heard them, he hired them for his band. They stayed for two summers until Whitley went to work for Carl Jackson in 1972. By 1974, he was back with Stanley, this time singing lead vocals. By then, Whitley had already survived a car crash (at 120 mph) and driving a car off a cliff into a river.
In 1978, he joined J.D. Crowe and the New South but finally chased a career in country music, which had always been closer to his heart. RCA issued a single, "Turn Me to Love" in 1984 with Patty Loveless singing harmony. At that time, Whitley`s excessive drinking made him unreliable, but it did give him a hardened, honky-tonk voice, and he then only needed the right song.
In 1986, he married rising star Lorrie Morgan and cracked the Top 20 for the first time with "Miami, My Amy." After three Top 10 singles ("Ten Feet Away," "Homecoming `63" and "Hard Livin`"), Whitley finally reached No. 1 in 1988 with "Don`t Close Your Eyes." He continued his streak with "When You Say Nothing at All" and "I`m No Stranger to the Rain." But in the midst of his newfound success, he died from alcohol poisoning at his home on May 8, 1989.
Nevertheless, Whitley`s music remained in the spotlight for several years beyond that. His next two singles reached No. 1, and a duet with Morgan peaked at No. 13 in 1990. "Brotherly Love," a duet with Earl Thomas Conley, reached No. 2 in 1991. Morgan organized Keith Whitley - A Tribute Album in 1994 which included several previously unreleased Whitley tracks. Released as an unlikely single, Alison Krauss & Union Station`s version of "When You Say Nothing at All" surprisingly reached No. 3 on the country charts, introducing Krauss -- and Whitley -- to listeners who had only discovered country music in the early 1990s. The song has since become a wedding standard.
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Jackie Keith Witley
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RCA (RCA Nashville)
Clinch Mountain Boys, Lorrie Morgan