2021 Keith Whitley Tribute Takes On a Good Cause

Keith Whitley’s lead guitar player Randy Hayes w/ Jesse Keith Whitley

Since 1990, fans of country music legend Keith Whitley have marked the time near the singer’s July 1st birthday with the Keith Whitley Memorial Ride, which travels from the house that Keith and fellow singer Lorrie Morgan shared to Keith Whitley’s gravesite in Nashville. Also part of the event over the last few years has been a tribute show, this year taking place at The Nashville Palace on Friday, June 25th.

Organized by promoter and label owner Chris Keefe since 2013, this year’s event took on special significance as it also became a benefit for beloved Nashville musician Buddy Hyatt who is suffering from throat Cancer. Buddy has played piano and keyboard on countless country records over the last many years, and is also well-known as a former member of the band Toto.

Emceed by Keith Whitley’s son and performer Jesse Keith Whitley, this year’s event saw performances by Pam Tillis who got the crowd going with her song “Shake The Sugar Tree,” Paul Overstreet who wrote Whitley’s song “When You Say Nothing At All” with Don Schlitz, 80’s country star Deborah Allen who sang her hit “Baby I Lied” and also performed with the family band Rockland Road.

Jesse Keith Whitley also brought out a surprise guest in Warner Bros. Nashville recording artist Michael Ray, and the two sang a couple of Keith Whitley songs together.

Also performing on the night was Ken Mellons, John Berry, Caleb Daugherty, Wesley Dennis, Irlene Mandrell of the Mandrell Sisters, Timothy Baker, Lower Broadway performer Tom Buller, his son Bradley Buller, Cory Keefe, Dustin Keefe, Hayden Powell, Kevin Moon, Kevin Denny, Bryan Moffit, Jake Vanover from Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and none other than Lee Greenwood, who sang “Please Come To Boston,” and of course, “God Bless the USA.”

Multiple artists who couldn’t attend also sent in videos that played during the presentation, including The Bellamy Brothers, Tanya Tucker, Lorrie Morgan, David Frizzell, and Johnny Lee.

Keith Whitley died on May 9th, 1989 due to alcohol poisoning. His life and tragic death was chronicled in Episode 5 of the Country History X Podcast.

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Reporting and all below photos from Kevin Smith. More photos from the event can be found on Kevin’s Flickr.

Irlene Mandrell
Pam Tillis
Paul Overstreet
Cory Keefe
John Berry
Ken Mellons
Deborah Allen
Caleb Daugherty
Lee Greenwood
Michael Ray
Tom Buller
Wesley Dennis
Timothy Baker
Rockland Road
Buddy Hyatt and John Berry

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