Today in Country Music, April 17, featuring Keith Whitley
Today in Country Music April 17
On this day in 2011, Joe Nichols teamed up with Billy Bob's in Texas to help victims of the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan one month earlier… Nichols fans were offered a special $10 wristband to attend his performance at the Fort Worth venue.
Today in 2006, Rascal Flatts continued their reign at the top of the country charts with "What Hurts The Most".
Dolly Parton opened the 14th season of her Dollywood theme park in east Tennessee today in 1999.
And on this day in 1989, Keith Whitley's "I'm No Stranger To The Rain" enjoyed its second week atop the Billboard Country Singles chart.
Whitley's brief career in mainstream country music lasted from 1984 until his death in 1989, but he continues to influence an entire generation of singers and songwriters. He charted 19 singles on the Billboard country charts, including five consecutive Number Ones: "Don't Close Your Eyes", "When You Say Nothing at All", "I'm No Stranger to the Rain", "I Wonder Do You Think of Me" and "It Ain't Nothin'" (the last two posthumously).
Whitley was a longtime alcoholic, who started drinking early in his career at bluegrass gigs, long before he was legally allowed to drink alcohol. Many times he had tried to overcome his alcoholism, but failed. Whitley preferred to drink alone, making it difficult for anyone to detect that he had a problem. According to Lorrie Morgan, she tried to conceal all alcoholic beverages from him, even going as far as binding their legs together before going to bed so as to make it impossible for Whitley to wake up in the middle of the night to consume a drink without her knowledge - only to discover that he would drink things such as perfume and nail polish remover to get intoxicated.
Whitley had lost both his father Elmer and his brother Randy (October 1983 motorcycle accident), in the five years preceding his death.
On the morning of May 9, 1989, after a weekend of drinking and partying, Whitley awoke and spoke with his mother briefly on the phone. He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee; after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for he and Lorrie Morgan to record when she returned from her tour. Palmer departed at approximately 8:30 a.m. informing Whitley to be ready to leave within an hour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley face down on his bed, fully clothed.
The 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 .477 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey and almost five times over the then Tennessee level of 0.1 legal intoxication limit, and nearly six times over the current .08 legal limit to drive). Whitley was 34 years old.
The day after his death, Music Row was lined with black ribbons in memory of Whitley. He is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery outside of Nashville, Tennessee.