Take a whiff of Sista Smiff and you'll come back for more, that's fo sho!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Remembering Keith Whitley

I just wrote the date on something and remembered May 9, 1989. I can't believe it's been 17 years.

I was working another one of my fabulously glamorous music business jobs, this one at the Gospel Music Association on 17th, which stood where Reba's complex does now. My friend Betty worked at WSMV for many years and she called me early in the afternoon and told me that Keith Whitley was dead.

Keith? Dead? Get outta town. She said they found him dead at his house in Goodlettsville. At that point, they weren't sure what had happened to him. I called my pal, then WSM DJ, Al Wyntor, because they had not said anything about it on the radio so I figured if it pertained to a country music person, WSM would have the scoop. Maybe it wasn't true because WSM hadn't said anything.

I called Al and he said it was true, but, they just hadn't announced it yet. I was stunned.

I don't claim to have been a close, personal friend of Keith's, but, I knew him and he knew me. He always said hey when I'd run into him here or there and he always obliged his scary Lester Flatt imitation. (I figure I must have some deep seated attraction to Lester because I married the man who does the second best imitation of him, behind Keith).

I was there at the Opry one night when Lorrie Morgan was following him around and I told my mother "There's something going on there." She said "No way! He's married." Heh. That's never stopped Lorrie before or since. He was still wearing his wedding ring from his other wife and there he was hanging with Lorrie. It was just a few weeks later they announced their engagement. I never understood why he got hooked up with her anyway.

Some months later, I ran into Keith again and he told me that the baby Lorrie was carrying was a boy and his name was going to be Jesse Keith. I see Jesse around Hendersonville now and then. He's about 18-19 years old now...cute kid, but, he has that same look in his eye that his dad had. I hope he never touches alcohol.

Keith is one of the reasons I hate alcohol so much. In the wrong hands, it's a destroyer. I've seen it rob so many people I love from a full life. Some can handle it and some can't. Keith was one of those people who should've never touched it.

Keith would've turned 51 years old this year. I sometimes wonder what he'd be doing had he not died. I really feel like he'd be doing some bluegrass, which was his heritage, kinda like his pal Ricky Skaggs, with whom he was part of Ralph Stanley's band as a teenager. He'd still be singing and I bet that amazing voice of his would've aged beautifully.

Keith Whitley's death, in my not so humble opinion, was one of the biggest losses ever for country music. I mean COUNTRY music, not this garbage that's being churned out now. You can take your Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney's (somebody tell me what the big deal is with this clown?), Tim McGraw's, etc. Not a one of them could carry Keith Whitley's guitar case.


Malia said...

Not a one of them could carry Keith Whitley's guitar case.

Amen Sista!

Rest In Peace, Keith.

letha said...

Thanks Sista for the 'rememembering Keith Whtley" What a lost for Country Music, his family and friends..As you and Malia sy "not a one of them in country new music could even carry his guitar case...R.I.P. Dear Keith (our tri-state treasure)

Sonia said...

Keith Whitley's voice was truly amazing. I agree with you, nothin like this "country" of today. Yuck.

J. said...

What a nice rememberence.

I have to ask... Betty that you knew at WSMV. Miss Betty? Betty and Joe, Betty? One of the sweetest creatures to ever walk God's earth, Betty?

I am completely blanking on her last name at this moment, but I can see her sweet face.

SistaSmiff said...

Yes...Foxall. Probably one of the best and truest friends I have ever had. I miss getting to see her like I used to. The one time I didn't go to see the Grascals at the Station Inn last time they played, Joe brought her down. It's hard for her to go places anymore and I was just sick I missed her.

Regina said...

I do believe that Keith would be singing gospel again if he were here still. The man had an amazing voice that no one can forget, but if you carefully listen to him sing there is a pain inside that comes through his music, that is what made him the man he was and still is in the hearts of his true fans. God Bless You Keith Forever and Through Eternity. In your song "Who Will Sing For Me", we all still sing for YOU.

Lady T said...

I clearly remember first hearing Keith's song as I was riding in the car with my brother. The song "It Ain't Nothin" came on the radio. I had never heard of Keith Whitley before this. As the song was playing, I fell in love with it and said that I must get the name of this artist and go buy the album. Well, as soon as the song ended, the DJ came on and announced the name of the song and said: "the late, great, Keith Whitley." I said "Oh No! This artist is dead?" I then called the radio station as soon as I got home to confirm. The DJ told me the said truth, that Keith had died a few months previous from alcohol poisioning. I was so saddened to hear this news.

Keith had such a beautiful voice. I purchased his Greatest Hits in 1990 and Kentucky Blue Bird in 1991. My favorite from that album is "Somebody's Doing Me Right." I still listen to his songs to this very day. This was truly a loss, but his music lives on. There will never be another voice like his, one that comes from the heart. You can truly "feel" this man through his words.

chance2bking said...

Keith Whitley is and will always be a legend. I am also a country entertainer and he was the driving force behind my career. His voice was both haunting and inspiring. This humble man from Sandy Hook, KY had what Elvis had....stage presence and likeability. You wanted to "know" him and "listen" to him. Sure there are alot of country entertainers out there, and of course they are extremely talented, but no can touch him. He was Unique,Country to "the core"and True to his craft. The Voice, The Heart, The Magic. Keith Whitley. I miss him.

Chance Michaels

twintwo720 said...

Hey Everyone that I love,

I have just read and signed the online petition:

"Elect Keith Whitley to the Country Music Hall of Fame!"

hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
service, at:


I think Keith Whitley was one of the best ever and deserved this recognition a long time ago. He was absolutely the best singer to ever come outta Kentucky and my personal favorite song of his was "Miami, My Amy" (check it out on youtube.com if you are not familiar with him) I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might
agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider signing yourself and tell everyone you know, let's get Keith in the Hall of Fame where he should have been years ago!!

Thanks everyone!

Cherrie said...

Hello Everyone,
Thanks to all of you for dedication to Keith. I agree Keith was the greatest artist to come out of Kentucky. Keith is very deserving to be in Country Music Hall Of Fame, Thanks to everyone who signed the petition. If you haven't signed the petition then please do,http://www.petitiononline.com/jkw71543/petition.html."Remembering Keith.
Bonnie Cherrie Hill
Director Of The Keith Whitley Association~

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