Randy Hayes remembers Keith Whitley.
How it felt to play Whitley's lead guitar.
Keith used to holler at me from the back of the bus,"Hey Cos", (That's my nickname, Cosmos") "I can't get up unless I smell coffee". We were always the last ones to get up, about 11 or 12 o'clock. The rest of the boys would already be gone to the motel. We would sit and drink coffee and talk about how we missed home, and only had 8 or 10 or 15 days to go before we'd be home.
I met Keith in 1980 in the J.D. CROWE Band. He said "Soon I'll be on my own, and I want you to sing tenor in the band". It wasnt until 1983 he went to Nashville to hit it big, and in 1984 he signed with RCA Records. In 1985 his first album came. It took his second album to yield his first hit, "Miami, My Amy". That was the turning point of his career. It seemed like 20 years had passed. Suddenly he had everything. It had been fun, but it was turning into a real job.
He had managers, producers, accountants, and public relations people. Every gig we played he would have to do 5 or 6 interviews a day with radio, newspaper and club owners. Everybody wanted pictures with him, and to ask him the same questions day after day. And people wonder why they ran off in a hurry after a show. It was the most stressful occupations I have ever had, and I was just one of the band.
I could see him night after night, exhausted. The last year I was with him, we played over 200 days, not counting the travel time. That was too much for me.
I knew Keith loved his family. He'd call his wife at least twice a day. He'd call his mom almost everyday.
He loved animals too, especially dogs. I've seen him stop the bus and pick up stray and hurt dogs and take them to the vet, or buy a $3 pack of lunch meat and give it to a dog that was smelling around the garbage can. It didnt matter where we were.
I went to his brothers funeral two years ago, and his fathers funeral last year. He had alot of tragedy the last few years. He had the worst and the best.
He loved to play jokes on the guys. He'd call our room and act like the motel manager and tell us we'd have to leave.
Our favorite show was "The Andy Griffith Show". We had all of them on tape. Then again, I'd see him cry watching some sad show on TV.
One time we went into a mall and he acted like he was blind and fell over some clothes. I ran over and got his hand and lead him out of the store, apologizing to the clerks. I could write a book on the foolish things we did.
Going to his funeral was, by far, the saddest two days of my life, so far. It has really hurt my wife, Kay, and my son, Shaun. We were all so close to him. I didnt realize my life revolved that much around him. It was him that made my dreams of music come true, only to see that the bright-lights could have a real ugly shadow around them.
I was supposed to rejoin the band in June.
I stood by his body for a long time, then I brushed his cheek and kissed his forehead. I told him I loved him and would never forget him.
A part of my life is gone, and I'll never be the same. He was my best friend.
Kay, Shaun, and I will miss him dearly.