2022 is going to be a big year for a man who left us much too soon, but left a musical legacy that will last for generations to come. Keith Whitley received the highest honor a country music singer can accomplish earlier this year, induction into The Country Music Hall of Fame, which will officially take place in October. Keith will also be honored at this year’s Camfest in Flemingsburg, KY, with tributes from everyone to Ralph Stanley II to Caleb Daughtery, to Dwight and Jesse Whitley among many others who were inspired by Keith. There will also be journalistic tributes to Keith later this year with never before seen photos.
In 1990, just a year after Keith’s death, friend and fellow Harley Davidson enthusiast Dave Brickey decided to form a Keith Whitley Memorial Ride. Participants would meet in Sandy Hook, KY and start a journey on their motorcycles in Keith’s honor. I got the chance to catch up with Dave, who still resides in Sandy Hook, and said that the first Ride in 1990 consisted of a number of stops. The first stop was in Lexington, the second stop was at the end of the Bluegrass Parkway, and the last stop was the Red Roof Inn, in Bowling Green KY. The following morning members of the ride would meet the Nashville Motor Police at the Davidson County Line, on the outskirts of Nashville, where they would escort the group to Keith’s grave. At one point in the nineties, it was reported that there were several hundred motorcycles that joined the ride, many that joined along the way not knowing what they were even riding for until they got stopped and began chatting with the group. Dave ran The Ride for 5 years and then turned it over to Kim Gahm, Keith’s niece, and Randy’s daughter. As time passed, the Memorial Ride saw a lull in attendance.
In 2013, a young man from Panama City, FL by the name of Chris Keefe joined the Memorial Ride. The following year he organized a country show at the Nashville Palace and started selling Whitley Ride t-shirts again. New life had been breathed into The Ride. Now this weekend, June 23-25 2022, The Keith Whitley Memorial Ride will once again take place in Nashville. Starting off on Thursday evening a concert will take place at the Nashville Palace. Entertainers such as Rhonda Vincent, Darryl Worley, Deana Carter, and many many more will pay tribute to Keith. On Friday, everyone is invited to the Red Roof Inn for Music and memories. A tent and sound system will be set up and artists will perform on a personal level paying tribute to Whitley. On Saturday the 25th, The Ride will take place. Participants will leave the Red Roof Inn at 9:00 a.m. and ride by Whitley’s former home. They will then go to his graveside, and meet afterwards at Scoreboards Bar and Grill in Music Valley from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Then it’s back to the Red Roof Inn for more music and memories!
My wife and I always celebrate Keith’s life with a weekend stay at the Red Roof Inn in Goodlettsville TN every year, just minutes from the house where Keith and Lorrie Morgan resided and where Keith lost his life.
Chris Keefe and I share a very deep appreciation for Keith Whitley. I think there are times when a man has a hero that he never had the chance to meet, and it leaves an even more mysterious and intriguing story to tell. In 1989, my dad had purchased tickets to see Keith at Ponderosa Park in Salem, OH. The show was slated for June 13, 1989. When Keith passed away in May of that year, I was devastated. Some things just aren’t meant to be I guess.
At The Ride in 2020, Chris and I jumped in the car on Friday morning and headed to the house that Keith called home. Our intention was to just drive by, but I stopped the car and said to Chris, “Let’s go up and knock on the door and see if they will let us in!” They welcomed us in and we had the chance to walk the floors of the home of our hero.
Information on The Keith Whitley Memorial Ride can be found on their Facebook page.
Information On Camfest can be found on their web site.