The influence of Keith Whitley can hardly be overstated.
Despite a tragically short career, Keith’s music has gone on to inspire and impress countless country artists. Waylon Jennings called him “The greatest country singer ever”, Morgan Wallen has posted a cover of his “Kentucky Bluebird,” Randall King posted a cover of “Miami, My Amy,” heck the list goes on and on…
Keith sadly died from alcohol poisoning in 1989, just 5 years after the release of his first solo album.
Somehow, despite the immense respect in the industry, he wasn’t inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame until last last year, after Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made an induction request a year prior.
But he certainly didn’t go without recognition at the iconic Nashville institution, as a few years back in 2020, Marty Stuart and Tim McGraw honored Keith during the Big Night (At The Museum) live stream to benefit the hall of fame.
Marty opened with an introduction of Keith and a story of a guitar that he loved.
“So many country artists talk about the impact of Keith Whitley, a bright burning star and my friend, who had only a few years in the spotlight before his early and tragic death at age 34.
Keith grew up playing bluegrass music but he started having country success in 1985. Two years later, he recorded his greatest album, Don’t Close Your Eyes, and the title track of that album was Billboard Magazine’s number one single for the year of 1988…
Here to sing “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is someone you may have heard of. Here’s Tim McGraw, playing an instrument built for Keith by Kentucky guitar builder CW Parsons. Keith loved this guitar… He bought it for a dollar and a handshake and held it on the cover of his album Sad Songs And Waltzes.”
Then Tim laid down a solid rendition of the classic, although it’s hard to compete with the vocal prowess of Keith.
A great moment remembering an even greater star.
RIP Keith Whitley.