The young US Senator from Kentucky supports efforts to induct his Kentuckian Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It adds even more credit behind the efforts of many to turn the country legend, whose career tragically cut short, into one of the most valued institutions in country music.
"I've always enjoyed country music, especially when that music was written by Kentuckians," Senator Paul said in a statement. "I recently joined my Kentuckians to help Elliott County-born Keith Whitley get inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame."
Keith Whitley began country music as a member of Ralph Stanley's bluegrass band and later joined J.D. Crowe and his band The New South. In 1988 Whitley had two # 1 singles "When You Say Nothing At All" and "I'm No Stranger to the Rain" from the album Don't Close Your Eyes and should be a superstar of country music in the world will be coming years. For many country historians, Keith Whitley's style and success set the table for the rise of the "Class of '89," where Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Travis Tritt made country music an unprecedented success.
However, on May 9, 1989, Keith Whitley died of alcohol poisoning and never saw the fruits of the career he had built. He was 33 years old. Garth Brooks specifically named Whitley as someone he believed should have been inducted before him when Garth was recognized by the Country Hall of Fame in 2012.
"He made a huge impact on the music industry, largely because of his love of country music," Senator Rand Paul continued in his statement. “Many famous artists like Garth Brooks see him as someone to follow in their footsteps when they embarked on their country music journey. Keith Whitley wasn't just a singer who left country music too early. He is a true artist whose music is still loved and shared today. Keith Whitley should take his rightful, well-deserved, and deserved place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. "
To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, you not only need a good resume, but also a good, dedicated push and promotional campaign that can grab the attention of the right people on the CMA committee who will ultimately make the decision. That's what fans of Keith Whitley, as well as his widow Lorrie Morgan and son Jesse Keith Whitley have tried, including an online petition with nearly 10,000 signatures. Adding a U.S. Senator to the mix can only help.
In 2019 the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum launched an exhibition entitled "Still Rings True: The Enduring Voice of Keith Whitley" in honor of the late singer. Whitley has also been referred to as one of the "final ballots" for induction into the Hall of Fame in the "Modern Era" category in recent years.
Every year the Hall of Fame accepts three new members in three different categories: Modern Era, Veterans Era and Non-Performer, Songwriter and Recording and / or Touring Musician. This strict system has resulted in a backlog of deserving artists (Read Hall of Fame rules).
Some have suggested that with Keith Whitley's career shortened, others deserve the honor more than he does. But as big names like Garth Brooks and Senator Rand Paul attest, it's the influence Keith Whitley left behind, reflections on his early career in bluegrass and where his career could have gone if he hadn't died so young he deserved a hall of Famer.
The new class of Hall of Fame candidates is not expected to be announced until mid-2022.
The life and death of Keith Whitley was in the 5th episode of the Country History X Podcast.