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Fellow Singer Ricky Skaggs Eulogizes Keith Whitley

May 13, 1989

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Singer Ricky Skaggs performed a medley of Keith Whitley’s favorite tunes in an emotional eulogy for the performer, who died of an alcohol overdose at age 33.

Skaggs fought back tears before more than 500 mourners who packed St. Joseph Church on Friday to pay their last respects to Whitley.

Whitley, who had three No. 1 records in the past eight months, died Tuesday. An autopsy showed his body contained a blood alcohol level of 0.47. An 0.30 level is considered lethal. Traces of cocaine and a tranquilizer also were found in the body.

″If any of you have a drinking problem or a drug problem or an emotional problem, please go get help,″ Skaggs implored the mourners. ″There’s one person who can help: Jesus. Keith would say the same thing.

″I’ve lost so many friends,″ Skaggs added as he looked down on the closed casket.

Skaggs sang a 10-minute medley of Whitley’s favorite gospel and bluegrass songs, including ″White Dove,″ ″The Fields Have Turned Brown″ and ″Drifting Too Far From the Shore.″

Among those at the 50-minute service were Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, country music performers John Hartford, Paul Overstreet and David Frizzell and Grand Ole Opry stars Jack Greene, Billy Walker and Vic Willis.

The body was carried in a white hearse to nearby Spring Hill Cemetery. Three stretch limousines transported Whitley’s closest relatives and friends.

Whitley, a native of Sandy Hook, Ky., had recorded for RCA Records for the past three years after spending several years in bluegrass music. His No. 1 hits included ″I’m No Stranger to the Rain,″ ″Don’t Close Your Eyes″ and ″When You Say Nothing at All.″

His widow, Lorrie Morgan, is a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry.

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