On This Day: Keith Whitley’s Final Chart-Topper ‘It Ain’t Nothin’ Goes No. 1

by Jennifer Shea
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On Jan. 13, 1990, country musician Keith Whitley’s song “It Ain’t Nothin’” hit No. 1 on the Hot Country Singles chart.

That date is a grim milestone for Whitley’s family, because it came seven months after Whitley died of alcohol poisoning. The song topped charts posthumously. And in fact, “It Ain’t Nothin’” was Whitely’s second posthumous hit.

Keith Whitley’s ‘It Ain’t Nothin”

Tony Haselden wrote the song and Whitley recorded it. It’s the second single off his album I Wonder Do You Think of Me. 

It marked the fifth and final No. 1 hit for Whitley over the course of his career.

In a 1975 interview with Pickin’ Magazine, Whitley said that he took up singing when he was about 3 years old and began playing the guitar by age 6.  

By the time he reached adulthood, Whitley was a traditionalist. And he said multiple times that he didn’t like the modern influences infiltrating bluegrass and country music.

“I’ll listen to just about any kind of music, if it’s really good,” he said. “But the thing with progressive Bluegrass that worries me is that it’s getting mixed with pop or rock. I don’t like what it’s doin’ to the music. I wouldn’t play in an electric Bluegrass band, I only like to play the old-time Bluegrass.”

Then later on, once again, he seemed to stress the importance of staying true to the traditional form of the music.  

“With country music, I admire certain singers, but the whole ‘Nashville thing’ bothers me, the flashiness,” his interviewer said. “Everybody’s tryin’ to impress everybody else. It seems like some of the younger singers are getting away from that, Waylon Jennings, for instance.”

“Yeah, that part is good,” Whitley responded. “But they’re also changing the music; and I don’t know if it’s for the better.”

An Early Death from Alcohol Poisoning

Whitley was just 33 when he passed. Along with alcohol, cocaine and Valium were also in his system when he died, the Associated Press reported. The ultimate cause of death, however, was alcohol poisoning.

In an interview the year before he died, Whitley claimed to have quit drinking the year before that because it had almost killed him.

“It was a matter of life and death,″ Whitley said. ″If I hadn’t stopped drinking, I don’t think I’d be alive today. I did so many crazy things while drinking.″

Whitley had a wife and two children. His wife, Grand Ole Opry singer Lorrie Morgan, was away on tour when Whitley died.

“There will always be a special place in my heart for Keith Whitley, and I’m sorry people will be deprived of his great talent,″ manager Jack McFadden said. “Keith was the type of individual you’d like to live next door to and like to go fishing with every Saturday.″

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