In 2012 when Garth Brooks was announced as an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, he initially tried to turn the distinction down. “Look, I don’t think I deserve this at this time, you know,” Garth said.
Why didn’t Garth believe he deserved a Hall of Fame induction? Because he felt guilty he was going in before the handful of guys that helped pave the way for his eventual success. The first guy that Garth gave credit to for opening up the door for him was Randy Travis. And the second was Keith Whitley.
“Randy Travis cleared the whole way for the 80’s for guys like me and the class of ’89 to come through. He opened all those doors. My generation’s shot at Haggard and Jones was Keith Whitley. Keith needs to be in here.”
And many others agree.
A group named “Induct Keith Whitley into The Country Music Hall of Fame” has started a campaign to try and get the Kentucky-born singer and songwriter who died tragically in 1989 into country music’s most elite class. The group has set up an online petition and is asking Keith Whitley fans to add their voices and signatures in support of the effort.
“He made a giant mark on the music industry, mainly his love, Country Music,” says the organization. “Many well known artist looked to him as one to follow in the foot steps of as they began their Country Music Journey. Many of them still walk their steps one at a time in the music industry and have made their own significant mark on music history, but their steps started in the desire to follow the ones that Keith Whitley had already imprinted firmly into the progressive roots of Country Music,keeping them entwined with the roots of Country Music’s forefathers enabling them to grow into what Country Music is today and shining a promising light on new generations that are still to come into Country Music.”
An online petition already has received over 6,100 signatures (and counting). “We the undersigned, bring together our loud voices in unison for him,” it says. “He still brings us great Country Music, we come to you to give him his rightful, well earned and deserved place in The Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Keith Whitley started in country music as a member of Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass band. In 1988, Whitely 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. However on May 9th, 1989, Keith Whitley died of what was ruled as alcohol poisoning, and never got to reap the rewards of the career he’d worked to build. He was 34-years-old. Whitley was also married to country singer Lorrie Morgan.
A petition to induct Sammi Smith was also started recently.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is operated by the CMA and announces new inductees every Spring. It is known for being very selective with inductees compared to other Hall of Fame organizations.