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Still Rings True: The Enduring Voice of Keith Whitley
Many of the groundbreaking artists who expanded country music’s audience in the 1990s—including Alison Krauss, Tim McGraw, and Country Music Hall of Fame members Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson—cite soulful singer Keith Whitley as a primary influence. And his impact continues today, through the work of acolytes Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and others.
Born July 1, 1955, Whitley was raised in Sandy Hook, a tiny Appalachian coal-mining town in northeastern Kentucky. He made his radio debut at age eight, performing “You Win Again,” a 1952 Hank Williams hit, on WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia. At age thirteen, the singer began his professional career in earnest, forming a band with his older brother Dwight and friend and future Country Music Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs. Just two years later, Whitley and Skaggs joined the Clinch Mountain Boys, led by their musical hero Ralph Stanley. Whitley’s warm baritone appears on several Clinch Mountain Boys albums and on the records of J.D. Crowe & the New South.
In 1982, Whitley signed with the Nashville division of RCA to great acclaim from fans of traditional country music. After some initial misfires and minor hits, Whitley convinced RCA to scrap an entire album and allow him to produce his own work, a decision that led to his commercial breakthrough. Teaming with co-producer Garth Fundis, Whitley delivered a successful and critically lauded album, Don’t Close Your Eyes. Singles from the album included Whitley’s first #1 hits: “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “When You Say Nothing at All,” and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” named CMA Single of the Year in 1989.
Whitley’s mounting career success was mirrored by newfound happiness in his personal life. In 1989, Whitley was thriving, raising a family with second wife Lorrie Morgan. Then, on May 9, 1989, shortly after finishing work on his next studio album, I Wonder Do You Think of Me, Whitley passed away from alcohol poisoning.
I Wonder Do You Think of Me was released three months later, on August 1, 1989, and it yielded two more #1 hits, with the title track and “It Ain’t Nothin’.” “I’m Over You” also reached #3, in early 1990.
Keith Whitley exhibition highlights: Items featured in Still Rings True: The Enduring Voice of Keith Whitley include stage wear, instruments, and personal artifacts representative of Whitley’s childhood and music career.
Some highlights include a Sony TC-540 reel-to-reel tape recorder Elmer Whitley used to record the Lonesome Mountain Boys, a bluegrass group featuring his sons Dwight and Keith; a Dangerous Threads bolero jacket Whitley wore at one of his final public performances, in March 1989; and a 1980 C.W. Parsons & Co. acoustic guitar Whitley used extensively.
Admission is included with Museum ticket* or Museum membership.
Attendees must have a program pass to guarantee admission to this event. Limited seating. Program passes are free and distributed 30 minutes prior to each session at Universal Music Group Hatch Show Print Space for Design on a first-come, first-served basis.
$23.95/Seniors (60+) & Students
FREE/Children under 5 & Museum Members
*Tennessee children ages 18 and under from Cheatham, Davidson, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson counties receive free museum admission as part of Community Counts: Museum Admission Program for Locals. Up to two accompanying adults receive 25 percent off admission. Proof of residency required. For more information, please visit Community Counts or inquire at the Museum Box Office.
Contact: (615) 416-2001
INDIVIDUAL DATES & TIMES*
Additional time info:
The Museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 9am-5pm, and Friday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm. They are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will reopen its galleries to the public at 9am Thursday, September 10, 2020. The day before, Wednesday, September 9, the Museum will open at the same hour for Museum members. Tours of Hatch Show Print and Historic RCA Studio B will resume in a limited capacity. The Taylor Swift Education Center will be closed to the public for the time being. All in-person programming remains on hiatus. All exhibitions that had opened before the Museum closed on March 13 have been extended. The Museum will reopen in alignment with Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s Roadmap for Reopening Nashville. Policies and procedures will help ensure a safe and healthy environment for guests, staff, and volunteers. In addition to being a part of the Good to Go Program, the Museum worked with the Metro Health Department’s Policy Department to review and refine safety protocols and procedures. Guidelines include: Masks for staff and guests over age 2 Temperature checks for staff and guests entering the building Intensified and expanded cleaning routines, which include disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons, touchscreens, and handrails Timed ticketing and touchless transactions
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