The pair were married in November , and they had their only child, a son, Jesse Keith Whitley, in June Whitley also adopted Lorrie's daughter, Morgan, from her first marriage. During the new recording sessions in , Whitley started feeling that the songs he was doing were not up to his standards, so he approached RCA and asked if the project of 15 songs could be shelved. He asked if he could assert himself more with the songs and production.
The new album, titled Don't Close Your Eyes , was released in , and the album sold extremely well. Also on the album was a remake of Lefty Frizzell 's classic standard "I Never Go Around Mirrors," and the song became a huge hit at Whitley's concerts. The first three singles from the album—"When You Say Nothing at All," "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," and the title cut—all reached number one on Billboard Magazine 's country charts during the fall of and the winter of , with the title track "Don't Close Your Eyes" being ranked as Billboard's No.
Galante approved of the musical flexibility that Whitley achieved with the song; however, he suggested that Whitley record something new and more upbeat. The result was a song Whitley had optioned for his previous album called I Wonder Do You Think of Me , and was to result in his next album release. On the morning of Tuesday, May 9, , Whitley awoke and had a brief phone call with his mother.
He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee and they were planning a day of golf and having lunch, after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for Lorrie Morgan and himself to record when she returned from her concert tour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley unconscious on his bed and called an ambulance.
Whitley was pronounced dead at the hospital. The official cause of death was determined to be acute ethanolism alcohol poisoning ,  and Davidson County Medical Examiner Charles Harlan stated that his blood alcohol level was 0.
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The day after his death, Music Row was lined with black ribbons in memory of Whitley. His gravestone reads, "Forever yours faithfully" part one and "His being was my reason" part two. The "yours" in part one means Whitley, and the "my" in part two means Morgan , who has a future burial spot next to him. Despite Whitley's death, his influence on country music has persisted.
At the time of his death, he had just finished work on his fourth and final studio album, I Wonder Do You Think of Me. The album was released three months after his death, on August 1, The album produced two more No. Harmony' Young to sing at Whitley's wedding. The second was "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose", a demo taken from Tree that originally featured harmony vocals by childhood friend Ricky Skaggs.
Lorrie Morgan, with creative control and license to Whitley's namesake, recorded her voice alongside Whitley's, and released it as a single, which rose to No.
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RCA also released a compilation of performance clips from his days in the Ralph Stanley-Fronted Clinch Mountain Boys , interviews, and some previously unreleased material under the title "Kentucky Bluebird". In , Whitley's widow, Lorrie Morgan, organized several of Whitley's friends in bluegrass and some of the big names in country at the time to record a tribute album to Whitley. The album also included four previously unreleased tracks recorded by Whitley in , one of which had Morgan dubbed in as a duet partner.
In , the album Wherever You Are Tonight was released, produced by Lorrie Morgan, featuring restored demos of , with crisper s recording techniques and a full orchestra. In , songwriter Jeff Swope began writing a film treatment for a biopic concerning Whitley's life and death that was shelved in On April 13, , he announced that pre-production was set to begin again, pending investors.
In the last 10 years, several film projects depicting Whitley's life were slated. This project has been in development hell for several years, and was halted in late also, after difficulties with casting and funding. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Keith Whitley. But I got to do a lot of session work for them and was making a extra hustle on the side from what Mercury was paying me back then. And, uh, uh, I remember Johnny was alive when I, when my book came out.
But I was telling the truth and that was that and [laughs] I remember Earl King, myself, Huey Smith, all of us, we had to turn Johnny upside down, hold him by his pants so all the stuff in his pockets would fall out. But this was the first guy I worked for in, in, in the studios. But Cosimo Matassa, he was a good guy.
And it almost started a gang war between New York and New Orleans. But back in those days the, the Black Hand was the local mafia. I mean, uh, Carlos Marcello and all those guys was like that. They, his brother Pascal, he looked out for my band. And that was how it was. And you were stuck with that. And when Happy Cuchero, who was running the joint, start shooting his club up.
Well, uh, back then we used to get paid and there was guys behind bars that was counting the money. But it was not a easy thing to do [laughs] J: It sounds like in this environment the musician was the last one to get paid. I was going to say coming out of Orleans and working for Robey and running, going to Houston, was Houston different than New Orleans?
And you could smell the weed all in the street. Was there a difference in the horn sound New Orleans horns and Houston horns? And he had the horns play against this wood thing that was the, the, the, the brass section. And the most thing I remember they were both drunk as a skunk. J: They knew what they were doing. But you know what? I remember when he first come out of Angola and, for growing weed in his yard. And Freddy came and sat in with our band somewhere in, in Houston.
And that was maybe one of the last times I saw Freddy. I, I actually have seen a couple of the guys who used to be with Doug. But it was for Phil Spectrum or Sonny and Cher. And back then I used to write a little shorts??? J: How did you get to California? Why did you leave here? I, I, I got shipped to that state and it was not somewhere I really wanted to be. But my sister, my mother and, and my brother-in-law was all living out there.
And I had like a nephew and a niece out there. And you gotta roll with anything in this racket. And I will call this a racket til the day I die. J: Was Harold Batiste out there when you went out there? D: Yeah. J: Was that kinda your connection to get work as a musician? Earl Palmer got me some work. Players Johnson got me some work. And they were like featured guys in the movies. But those were different kinds of days.
But those were in those days you know. J: It was a different scene in California. This was LA I take it. But life is all over the place. J: Where did you meet Doug Sahm? He was from Texas. So it was like a good thing. I know he, Doug turned me onto a guy in Houston that was, used to play guitar on a trapeze. He, he, he just was special [laughs]. I mean anybody that would have the heart to just go play on a trapeze is off the hook. J: Did you run into Doug out in California? Can you make a gig? And I said yeah. I played the piano on the rest of the gig.
J: You were part of the Sir Douglas Quintet. And I, I, I did whatever gigs we did that was, and it was probably five, ten gigs or something over the years you know. He wanted you to get it. Maybe pay you again. He was into the good music. I knew that about Doug from the minute I met him, he loved all the stuff. The only other guy I know that loves all that music is Aaron Neville. J: Take away the arranger, the musician, was he a good singer? But I loved that. I thought man, Doug is really coming around now.
Doing some different stuff and that was a special thing. J: Bobby Charles was pretty special too when you get down to it. They got pictures of Bobby all over this place, somewhere. And but Bobby is a good person and he, he just, I, I was producing his last record that he made. Was he in San Fran or in LA? D: He was in San Francisco mostly. J: Wayne Talbert, George Rains, hanging out, how weird was that? There was just a different kinda scene there. And I liked it. And I could do whatever the hell I felt like doing.
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And that was a blessing. J: Sounds like you were a hippie. He says you guys are outmoded. But whatever this kid said, he said yeah you guys are junkies. They, they cool. J: I like you said there was this freedom there, this guy from Texas you knew from San Antonio and Houston, Doug was he buying into it? J: You know what? If you can remember stuff great. Wayne was a character. He jacks a guy up in a parking lot right around the corner from, from this hotel.
But I can fence this and this, this. And Wayne says like a threat, he says, eh, just make sure I get all the lace. But Wayne was a character just like Doug. I mean listen these guys was very special to me. He liked weed. Listen, Doug was a special guy. I mean he even got popped in this state. But I love Willie. I loved Doug.
And we were serious. But then again Albert was managing me at one time and then he was managing the Band, he was managing Bob Dylan, he was managing all kinda people back then. And we knew when he came to work he would see all of this stuff. And he continued the suit with me after Albert Grossman was dead. They were suing me for about 15, maybe 20 years. J: Tell me about Irving Green, I know he gave Doug a lot of leeway, hiring production and hiring you. And then I called Irving Green after he retired and he was into the construction racket then. And he actually gave me a, a, a, me and Harold Batiste he gave us both a thing to produce records.
And I insisted Harold do this thing with me. J: You worked with Sonny and Cher as well?
But that, I do remember Doug had one little drummer that, that I used to like. And this was like off the hook stuff, but that guy — J: Johnny Perez. J: Johnny Perez? I really liked that guy. J: He was a boxer, old boxer. J: Pretty good drummer, too. D: I thought he was cool. J: Tell me Doug, when the Quintet was first happening they were trying to pass as British.
They, they was so, uh, uh, off the hook and then some that yeah they was special. J: You think dressing up British, was that different then when you started putting on beads and feathers? And you know around the time that some guys started taking all the stuff I was doing and taking that, uh, like the, the glitter and all of the stuff that they was doing. Nah, but what, it was, I remember this one band Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
And he swung this mic around and he hit the drummer in the face and the bass player in the face. Jerry Wexler enters the picture. But I had saw Doug somewhere else before that. I think I went to see my old trumpet player in San Antonio. He had Charlie McBurney and pretty good horn players. He played on that original Watermelon Man with Mongo Santamaria. And but I got to hire him after for a while. And I remember the saxophone player with my band, he punched Ray out on the stage. J: Louie Gasca, of course.
And the saxophone player said, uh, well, uh, he beat me for some money. And so that was a blessing to me. Man, just that he said that, I said you still got the gig. You have that, Doug has that. You both knew how to do that. But when I could just play the piano, I was happy. Now this was, we was in a band with Werly Fairburn. But that was, I thought that was jive you know. I remember our band used to have zoot suits, that we all wore that. You all talk about that? D: Oh listen I just worked those two gigs with Werly Fairburn long time ago. J: But you know how to play country. He was alright.
And he hired this guy Joel Dorn and that guy was the masked announcer [laughs] and he was a good producer. He fun to work with? I went to meet the band when they were cutting here. But I, it was a long time ago. J: I want to go back to NY Atlantic session. I think everyone was thinking it would make him break out international star.
D: Right, we thought that. And I thought he was special. J: Why? J: Still is special. J: You and Doug and Wexler were all talking about Chicano polkas being the next big thing. We went through a lot. That was not cool but we went through it. We came out the other end and we still kept going. We was trying to pull a lot of stuff off.
J: I think you both did pull it off. You all came out on the other side. Both wise for it. J: You kept in touch with Doug over the years. He was onto something else. If this sucker is do, whatever that record??? He had two pieces back here and two in his, on his feet, I mean on his ankles. But this is, and every night Willie Jones would do this really cockeyed thing with Charles Brown and Amos Milburn, and Amos was coming out the closet then.
And this was one of those kinda roles that I thought, this, these guys are crazy, way, way crazier than my ass. J: Over your career do you like playing in Texas? I got my old partner August living there. Francis Hotel or something like that. J: St. And I said why? And the guy said well this guy pulled a, he was selling dope in this place and some, this guy was dealing, and this guy was dealing hot stuff here and this guy was doing this here.
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That, those were things that kinda, I had fun with. Antonio not like New Orleans. People say New Orleans is exotic and different. J: When Doug came back to Texas did you visit him in Austin when he lived next to the club? He, he had an interest in all kinds of music. And he had that flow for all kinda music. That, was special. That was the Doug I dug. And you know — J: There was already a lot of music in Austin but he got the country people to talk to the blues people to talk to Tex-Mex people and to him it was all the same thing. D: Right. He was a real organizer. He, he, he could work a house.
J: Not even Willie can play rhythm and blues authentically like Doug could. Doug played steel guitar. Link Davis he played Cajun fiddle.
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Then Louie Ortega out in California says he turned me onto swamp pop. I never heard of swamp pop. I know the??? And he had that understanding like nobody else. Nobody had an understanding like Doug. And this was a little bit later, but this was a balancing factor for Doug that I thought was very hip. J: Did you keep up with the Texas Tornados?
It was a, it was a saxophone player. D: Mm-hmm, or maybe somewhere right around Houston. D: Right, uh, but it was, it was one of those slamming guys that was the Texas Tornado and — J: Do this for me, how does Texas sound different than New Orleans? And then I got to make a hustle with him in Houston. He, and just like you were saying he could communicate with everybody. His spirit was open like that. His spirit was wide open like that. J: Doug always talked about the groove. How do you understand the groove? What is the groove?
You gotta have every aspect working together. J: Doug ever play piano around you? He could play the triplets pretty well. Did you know him before or hang out with him? If sales was where it was at. J: Not easy man to work for. P: How would you describe Doug to someone who never knew him? And he was like special. And he said look you done been there with Joe Tex, you been there with these guys and all of that. He says, use them tactics. And you know what? We was able to pull the thing together by using some tactics that we may not a used. He had a way of opening things up and that was a good thing.
I love the guy you know. He was a special guy in my spirit. Nobody was like that. J: I know he felt the same way about you. You two are on opposite ends of highway 90 but connected by all that music in between. And we was destined to hook up in weird places that we never thought we was gonna be. We wound up doing things that we never thought we was gonna do. And that was all part of what Doug, me was like trying to pull off. And I had never heard anybody play a saw before. But the guy played it with a violin bow and really made it sound like something. And finally found the guy and brings him to the studio.
And just happened that we was still cutting this record on Wayne. And that was like wow and the guy played beautiful. Doug did all the time and he pulled Flaco out. Nobody could roll like that. Doug could roll like that. J: I like he took you to see a guitarist that could work a trapeze. We all part of something. You ever hear, he danced barefoot on the street. And then their pockets were empty.
J: Takes a lot of talent. P: One last thing, what was Doug like as a person?