Jackie Keith Whitley (July 1, 1955 – May 9, 1989) was a Country Music singer known for his honky-tonk stylings. Whitley started off small with a few gigs in bluegrass bands, one of which was the Clinch Mountain Boys. After moving to Nashville in The '80s, he signed with RCA Records. His first few singles charted poorly, but by 1986, he had scored his first Top 10 hit with "Ten Feet Away". Whitley was long troubled with alcoholism and depression, and ended up meeting his untimely death at age 33 from alcohol poisoning... shortly before his widow, Lorrie Morgan, began having a music career of her own.
Despite his death, Whitley had enough material in the vaults to keep charting and releasing albums as late as 1995. Some of his songs also appeared on the multi-artist album Keith Whitley: Tribute, which otherwise consisted mainly of famous artists covering his songs. His career, though short-lived, was one of the most influential and critically-acclaimed in country music. Some say that his 2022 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame was long overdue.
- A Hard Act to Follow (EP) (1984)
- L.A. to Miami (1985)
- Don't Close Your Eyes (1988)
- I Wonder Do You Think of Me (1989)
- Kentucky Bluebird (1991)note
- Wherever You Are Tonight (1995)note
Tropes present in his work:
- B-Side: The B-sides of "Ten Feet Away", "Homecoming '63", and "I Wonder Do You Think of Me" — "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her", "On the Other Hand", and "Brother Jukebox", respectively — were all recorded by other artists. (George Strait, Randy Travis, and Mark Chesnutt.)
- Cover Album: Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album is mostly this of his music by other artists, plus a few studio cuts and the first of his posthumous collaborations with Lorrie Morgan. It's where the Alison Krauss version of "When You Say Nothing At All" comes from.
- Early-Bird Cameo: His debut single "Turn Me to Love" featured a backing vocal from a then-unknown Patty Loveless.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: "Hard Livin'" sticks out, as it's a thumping Hank Williams Jr.-esque romper that's out of line with his usual style. Despite this, it was still a top 10 hit and, in many a fan's opinion, it indicated that he could perform hard-driving, uptempo rockabilly just as well as anyone.
- Men Don't Cry: "I Never Go Around Mirrors":No, I never go around mirrors
Because I gotta heartache to hide
And it tears me up to see
A grown man cry
- Nepotism: Hinted at in "It Ain't Nothin'", which has the line "My boss is the boss's son."
- Posthumous Collaboration: Several with his widow, Lorrie Morgan, including "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose" on his 1990 Greatest Hits Album. Also an unofficial one, as when Alison Krauss & Union Station's version of "When You Say Nothing at All" became a radio hit, one radio DJ spliced in the vocals from Whitley's original and fashioned a "duet".
- The Power of Love: Present in "It Ain't Nothin'", where a husband and wife who are both stressed out by their daily lives make each other feel better by professing their love to each other.
- Record Producer: His most critically-acclaimed albums were produced by Blake Mevis, who is more often a songwriter.
- Shout-Out: "Buck", from Wherever You Are Tonight, is a plea for radio to start playing Buck Owens again.
- Silly Love Songs: Most notably "Miami, My Amy" (also one of the great Punny Title moments in country history).
- Train Song: "Daddy Loved Trains".
- When She Smiles: Present in "When You Say Nothing at All": "The smile on your face lets me know that you need me..."