Many music artists have died and their memory has gradually faded, but Keith Whitley is one of the few whose works have stood the test of time long after his death. From the grave, the American country star still released tracks conquered the charts, and won prizes.
From the fantastic to the good and ugly – here is a summary of the life Keith Whitley led and how his productive life was cut short in his heyday.
Keith Whitley’s Bio
On July 1, 1955, a talented child was born, named Jackie Keith Whitley by his parents Faye and Elmer Whitley. Although he was born in Ashland, Kentucky, he grew up in Sandy Hook, where he attended Sandy Hook High School. Whitley and his siblings – two brothers, Randy and Dwight, and his sister Mary – grew up in the county where the family has lived since the 1840s.
Keith Whitley has truly lived on the fringes of society since his teenage years. Apart from drinking smuggled bourbon with his friends, they took part in some very life-threatening races with cars on mountain roads, driving too fast and attempting dangerous jumps. It was only a matter of time before their car crashed while trying to make a turn at 120 miles per hour, and while Keith suffered some bruises, his friend died. He did not stop there, and as his reckless life continued, he drove his car off a 120-foot cliff and landed on a frozen river, but the above did not claim his life.
He began his career in 1970 in Ralph Stanley’s band and later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he began recording in 1983. In 1986 he released his first album “L.A. to Miami” with enthusiastic reviews. His next album in 1988 produced three singles that took the place of number one hits.
Posthumously, the country musician topped the charts with two singles, “I Wonder Do You Think of Me” and “It Ain’t Nothin'”, which came from the album he was working on before his sudden death. Another single – in collaboration with other artists, including his widow, released after his death, won the 1990 CMA Award for Best Vocal Collaboration and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration.
Family – Son, Wife, Daughter
Whitley’s mother, Faye, worked as an editor of Elliott County News, while his father, Elmer, who later died in 1987, was an electrician. Keith, as mentioned above, had three siblings, but his brother Randy was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1983, long before Keith and her father came along.
In 1986, during his album tour from L.A. to Miami, Keith married the up-and-coming country musician Lorrie Morgan. They were together as a couple until his death in 1989. Their union produced a son named Jesse Keith Whitley, who was born on June 15, 1987.
Keith Whitley’s Cause Of Death
In the midst of a flourishing career, alcoholism was the cancer worm that burrowed deep into Keith’s success story and eventually robbed him of his heyday. He began to indulge in a vice while still playing bluegrass gigs – long before he reached the drinking age. When things got too serious, he made serious attempts to stop, and his wife, Lorrie Morgan, was a support to him. She hid all the alcoholic beverages in the house and even tied his leg to hers while they slept at night, just to make sure he didn’t sneak out for a nightcap. Unfortunately, all efforts were in vain and when he couldn’t get his hands on a drink, Keith Whitley resorted to perfume and nail polish remover just to get high.
On the day he died, Keith had plans with his brother-in-law, Lane Palmer, who later found the singer unconscious on his bed. Palmer immediately called an ambulance to take Keith to the hospital where his death was confirmed. His cause of death was linked to acute ethanolism (alcohol poisoning). According to the coroner at the time, the alcohol level found in his blood was an alarming 0.47. That’s like taking 20 one-ounce shots of 100 percent whiskey. This means that Keith Whitley had approximately six times the current 0.08 times the blood alcohol level in his veins. The talented crooner died at the young age of 33.