The 30th Annual Keith Whitley Memorial Ride was held this past weekend in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. The tradition started in 1990, one year after Keith’s passing, when a group of Keith’s friends and fans decided to ride their motorcycles from Keith’s home place of Sandy Hook, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee, where Keith is laid to rest in Spring Hill Cemetery. The annual tradition has taken place from various locations throughout the years, but has settled for the last 28 years at the Red Roof Inn at Goodlettsville. Event organizers Chris and Becky Keefe, began helping Keith’s son Jesse, with the event in 2013, and this year saw record attendance.
I talked to some of the attendees, who had been on the ride since 1990, and heard many great stories about Keith during his Bluegrass and Country years. A forty foot tent was set up outside in the middle of the hotel, and a sound system was set up for anyone who wanted to perform a couple songs in honor of Keith. He was honored in his Country years by The Hampton Family, Randy Hayes, Kevin Moon, Cory and Dustin Keefe, Chris Keefe, Tom Buller, Jesse Keith Whitley and many others, who all did a fantastic job. He was honored in his Bluegrass years by Caleb Daugherty, Billy Droze and Jaelee Roberts.Everyone did a phenomenal job honoring Keith through their music. I met attendees from as far away as Texas and Idaho.
The big surprise came Friday when Lorrie Morgan and her husband Randy came to the event. They were so gracious and appreciative for all who came out to honor Keith, and mingled with everyone. There were many pictures taken with attendees, without hesitation.
Saturday was the day of the Memorial Ride. Everyone lined their bikes and cars up at the hotel. The first stop was the house of Keith and Lorrie in Goodlettsville, where Keith passed away. The next stop was at Spring Hill Cemetery at Keith’s grave, where everyone gathered around his headstone, reminisced, and sang Whitley songs. From there, everyone headed to The Roadside Bar and Grill for lunch, with live music. There was a special performance by Lorrie Morgan of Don’t Close Your Eyes.
Saturday was also Lorrie Morgan’s birthday. A surprise celebration was had that evening at The Red Roof Inn. More music and entertainment continued throughout the evening, and into the night. Jesse Keith Whitley had a surprise for the attendees, he debuted his new song and video, Try To Change My Ways. Keith’s grandchildren Preston, Parker and Kimber were also in attendance as well as Keith’s daughter Morgan and her husband.
Joe Diffie was also honored at The Ride with a remembrance T Shirt, and his widow was in attendance.
On a side note, Chris Keefe had a yard sign made up saying Home of Keith Whitley. He wanted the sign in the yard so new attendees joining the ride knew where to pay their tribute as they rode by. Chris and I share a deep passion for Keith’s music, but also for the history of his life. We had been to the house in Goodlettsville many times, but never got past the end of the driveway to snap a few pictures. On Friday evening, we decided to go to the house and knock on the door to ask permission to put the sign in the yard the following morning. A young man opened the door, and graciously gave us permission. He even invited us into the house, where we got to see the living room, kitchen, and den. If I could only put into words, what both of us felt, walking into the home where our hero lived!
In 2013 when Chris and Becky started helping with the ride, there were 7 motorcycles and 10 people that attended. This year there were 70 motorcycles and The Red Roof Inn was completely sold out. It was great to see Keith Whitley remembered and honored 31 years after his passing, with so much support.
T shirts were sold throughout the weekend, with proceeds going to get Keith a new headstone. Shirts from the Ride will be available to the public at a later date. You can find out more information at The Keith Whitley Memorial Ride Facebook page.
If I missed mentioning anyone, I apologize. My wife and I met so many new faces, it was hard to keep track of everyone.
Great job by everyone involved, and especially to Chris, Becky, Jesse, and Lorrie!