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It was the early years for country music videos when a soft-focus, handsome young man by the name of Keith Whitley sent hearts fluttering with his songs of love and loss.
Keith Whitley may have left the world early on May 9, 1989, but that does by not mean the world, or his fans, have forgotten him.
As a matter of fact, there is currently a growing movement to have Whitley inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Among those involved in the movement is Margie Pate, who is working with many others to earn Whitley the recognition he deserves.
“I started this when I found out that Keith wasn’t in the Hall of Fame during writing a song to help with the closure of my marriage,” explained Pate.
Once she got involved in the campaign to get Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame, she began meeting some of Whitley’s friends.
“I’m a song writer, too,” explained Pate. “And there are many of us who are working really hard to have Keith recognized because we all recognize the depth of his talent.”
She noted the movement got a huge boost recently when an independent Nashville publication featured Whitley on the front page of their publication, showing the petition-signing which was underway to have Whitley admitted into the Hall of Fame.
“So far we have over 6,000 signatures on that petition,” said Pate.
As a matter of fact, a song written by Pate and Jeff Allen entitled, “Play Whitley For Me” has recently been recorded by Dexter singer Lavonia Stonis. Allen, who currently resides in Nashville, is originally from Essex.
So much of the Southeast Missouri music community has taken up the Whitley cause.
“Keith Whitley was a truly remarkable artist whose vocals and music are a timeless treasure,” explained Stonis. “I feel very privileged to have been able to record the song. For me to be involved in this tribute to Keith Whitley has been very important. Now we want to see him inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Other artists have also become involved in the project, including Ryan Humphrey from Dexter, and other country music artists like Craig Wayne Boyd and Cody Wickline of Team Blake of “The Voice”. T. Graham Brown has also gotten involved.
“But I think the biggest thanks has to go to the fans, because they are the ones really pushing it,” said Pate.
Pate added that several radio stations in several states have also joined the cause.
With the major radio stations like Smokin’ FM in California taking up the cause, the word is literally spreading around the world, and Whitley fans are jumping in whole-heartedly.
A special Facebook page has also been set up to spread the word and continue to gain signatures, https://www.facebook.com/KWHoF?fref=ts. The message is also being spread via twitter, https://twitter.com/KW2HoF.
The direct link to sign the Hall of Fame petition is http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/induct-keith-whitley-into-the-country-music-hall-of-fame.html.
Why is Keith Whitley so important to her to be worthy of all this work?
Pate says it is because of a strange story of crossed paths and some heartache of her own.
“I was writing a song as really kind of therapy for my own heartache. I had been in a very abuse relationship,” said Pate, recalling it as one of the darkest times of her life.
But, she would hide from her own heartache for hours at a time with headphones on, listening to other artists, including Keith Whitley.
Once involved in this project, Pate met many people who had been close to Whitley through the years. Her admiration of him only grew with the recounting of many stories about the kind of person he was.
“Then I ended up with a great opportunity. I was gifted a brief case that had belonged to Keith,” recalled Pate.
When Keith died, many of his belongings ended up with collectors, and his beloved Harley ended up at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Pate and several others realized what they had to do.
“It was just wrong for Keith’s Harley to end up in the Hall of Fame, but not Keith himself,” said Pate. So, a group of fans started a grass roots effort to change that.
Pate believes that by July, 2016, the state of Kentucky will be proclaiming a “Keith Whitley Day”. And the hope is that being admitted into the Country Music Hall of Fame will surely follow.
For those unfamiliar with Whitley and his music, he was born July 1, 1955. During his short musical career, he charted 19 singles on the Billboard Country Music Charts.
He was born in Ashland, Kentucky and grew up in nearby Sandy Hook. He began his musical career in 1970 playing with Ralph Stanley’s band. He established himself in the Bluegrass Music world, and when he moved to Nashville in 1983, his meteoric rise in country music began.
Though seemingly an overnight success, Whitley’s career actually went back to 1969, when he performed in a musical contest in Ezel, Kentucky with his brother, Dwight. Ricky Skaggs was also in that same contest, and the two there began a friendship.
When he was just 15, both he and Skaggs were discovered in West Virginia b Ralph Stanley, who was 45 minutes late for a show because of a flat tire. He arrived just I time to hear Whitley and Skaggs playing. Whitley became lead singer for Stanley in 1974.
His career blossomed, and he became a solo artist.
His first hit was “Miami, My Amy”.
While touring for his album, “LA to Miami”, he married country singer Lorrie Morgan. In 1988, he had three huge hits, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “When You Say Nothing At All”, and “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”. All were number one hits.
But years of alcoholism took its toll, and he died in 1989 at the age of only 34. He even had two more hits released after his death.
But to this day, he is considered a huge influence on many singers and song writers.Share: