Keith Whitley is gone, but he will not be forgotten. And the legacy he left behind during his short and troubled life still reverberates throughout country music today, and constitutes a legacy that is nothing short of legendary. This is one of the reasons the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville chose to commission a special exhibit on the Kentucky native’s contributions to country, which is set to open on May 3rd. And now a big tribute concert is also being organized in Whitley’s honor to coincide with the new Hall of Fame exhibit, and the 30th Anniversary of Keith Whitley’s passing on May 9th, 1989.
The All-Star tribute concert is set for Thursday, May 9th at the Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater. Garth Brooks is set to perform, who upon his induction to the Hall of Fame in 2012 commented that he believed Whitley should have gone in before him. Also performing are Trisha Yearwood, Mark Chesnutt, “Murder on Music Row” writer Larry Cordle, Caleb Daugherty, Kevin Denney, Tom Buller, Wesley Dennis, Joe Diffie, Corey Farlow, Carl Jackson, Cory and Dustin Keefe, Tracy Lawrence, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley, and Jesse Keith Whitley, who is helping to organize the event with his mother and Keith Whitley’s widow, Lorrie Morgan.
“I cannot express what an honor it is for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to recognize the late, great Keith Whitley as such an important part of country music history,” says Lorrie Morgan. “He was not only instrumental in giving me the confidence I needed as an artist, but through the years he has given many other up-and-coming stars the confidence and true grit they have acquired by loving and listening to the music of Keith Whitley. This exhibit is not just Keith’s life in music, but it also depicts his love for country and bluegrass music. Keith always felt inadequate of the recognition he deserved. Keith was the most humble, generous, and truly the most talented man I have ever known.”
Lorrie Morgan has been a strong advocate for the legacy of Keith Whitley over the years, and Whitley’s name has been rumored to be in strong contention for Hall of Fame induction in the Modern Era category, which could happen in the coming years. The Hall of Fame featuring Whitley in both an exhibit and a tribute concert is a good sign for advocates of the late singer.
Keith Whitley started in country music as a member of Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass band. In 1988, Whitley had two #1 singles “When You Say Nothing At All” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” off the album Don’t Close Your Eyes, and was expected to become a superstar in country music in the coming years. He was just three weeks away from being invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and was riding the “Class of ’89” wave that was bringing country music to new heights when he died at 33-years-old from alcohol poisoning.
Tickets for the tribute show go on sale Friday, March 29 at 10 a.m. Central at cmatheater.com.