Best known to this generation as the original voice behind the country hit “When You Say Nothing At All,” Keith Whitley actually got his start in bluegrass music. The Kentucky-born singer played in a band called the East Kentucky Mountain Boys with Opry legend Ricky Skaggs before both were discovered by Ralph Stanley and invited to join his Clinch Mountain Boys in 1970.
Roughly 10 years later, Whitley joined J.D. Crowe’s band, the New South. Crowe would produce a solo LP for Whitley in the early ’80s before the singer signed to RCA in Nashville.
Five of Whitley’s first solo singles would top the charts, but he would only live to see three of them go to the top. In 1989, Whitley died from alcohol poisoning at only 33 years old.
The clip below, estimated to have been recorded in 1979, features Keith Whitley singing lead for J.D. Crowe and the New South as they perform “Hickory Wind.” The performance showed off the pure, crystal clear vocals of a then-23 year old Whitley, and leaves us longing for more.
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