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Keith Whitley

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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
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Albums by
Keith Whitley

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    12 songs

    On Air

    Don't Close Your Eyes

    40 songs

    On Air

    The Essential Keith Whitley

    13 songs

    On Air

    Keith Whitley: Tribute

    16 songs

    On Air

    16 Biggest Hits

    12 songs

    On Air

    Platinum & Gold Collection

    16 songs

    On Air

    RCA Country Legends

    12 songs

    On Air

    Second Generation Bluegrass

    15 songs

    On Air

    Sad Songs & Waltzes

    20 songs

    On Air

    The Essential Keith Whitley

    10 songs

    On Air

    Super Hits

    11 songs

    On Air

    Greatest Hits

    10 songs

    On Air

    L.A. to Miami

    10 songs

    On Air

    Wherever You Are Tonight

    10 songs

    On Air

    I Wonder Do You Think of Me

    6 songs

    On Air

    Hard Act to Follow


Top Songs by
Keith Whitley

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   When You Say Nothing at All
  3.   Don't Close Your Eyes
  4.   I'm No Stranger to the Rain
  5.   It Ain't Nothin'
  6.   'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose
  7.   Miami, My Amy
  8.   Somebody's Doin' Me Right
  9.   I'm Over You
  10.   I Wonder Do You Think of Me
  11.   Ten Feet Away
  12.   I Never Go Around Mirrors
  13.   Sad Songs and Waltzes
  14.   Between an Old Memory and Me
  15.   Heartbreak Highway
  16.   Brother Jukebox
  17.   'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose
  18.   Nobody Is His Right Mind Would've Left Her
  19.   Tell Lorrie I Love Her
  20.   Brotherly Love by Earl Thomas Conley
  21.   On the Other Hand
  22.   Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
  23.   The Comeback Kid
  24.   Homecoming '63
  25.   If You Think I'm Crazy Now (You Should Have Seen Me When I Was a Kid)
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Keith Whitley

    On Air

    77 Greatest Country Duets

    On Air

    Justin Moore: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Craig Morgan: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Eli Young Band: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Country Love

    On Air

    Billy Currington: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Chris Young: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Tim McGraw: DNA

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    Classic Country

    On Air

    Kenny Chesney: DNA

    On Air

    The Country Vault

    On Air

    She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy

    On Air

    Garth Brooks: DNA

    On Air

    '90s Country


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