Keith Whitley’s son, Jesse Keith Whitley, was not even two years old when he lost his father from alcohol intoxication thirty-one years ago. Today, he’s now all grown up and is keeping his father’s legacy alive.
To honor his father, the younger Whitley recently self-released the mid-tempo country rocker “Try to Change My Ways,” in true Keith Whitley manner. According to Jesse, the moment he heard the song, it resonated with him. All he could think about was his dad. Jesse felt like the song embodies his dad’s attitude on life.
One particular lyric in the song that goes, “My blood runs through these Kentucky hills,” truly hits home for Jesse as he reflects on his father, who was born in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.
“I immediately thought about my dad because anytime I cross that state line into Kentucky, I feel my dad all around,” Jesse said. “Knowing he had seen the same road I’m driving on. Everyone in his home town still to this day loves him and worships that name. So it’s an odd feeling sometimes driving through his hometown and through those hills knowing this is where my blood comes from.”
Though this is not the first time Jesse paid tribute to his father’s passing through song. In 2011, he released his debut album, “Kentucky Thunder.” And this is what he’s planning to do more in the future.
Let’s get to know more about Keith Whitley’s only son, keep on reading below.
Music Runs in His Blood
Music definitely runs in the blood of the young Whitley. Born on June 15, 1987, Jesse’s mother is country singer Lorrie Morgan. His grandfather is Grand Ole Opry legend, George Morgan. So it’s no longer a surprise when Jesse grew up with a fantastic talent in singing and songwriting.
His mother played a big part in his music career. He actually got his start when he had the opportunity to sing a song with his mother. Jesse went to the studio with his mother and James Stroud, who later on became Jesse’s producer, to record a single.
As a teenager, Jesse had been touring all over the country with his mother and played at popular venues in Nashville. His mother is also his biggest inspiration. “Every time I go to her show, she touches someone in the crowd, to be on stage with her is a blessing. I consider her one of the great legends in country music,” he said. And of course, Lorrie Morgan is always there to support Jesse.
He Wanted to be in the Coast Guard
When Jesse was about fifteen years old and was trying to decide what he wanted to do, he considered joining the Coast Guard. Several of his friends are in the Marines, Navy Seals, Army, and Air Force, so he thought he might also give it a try.
“I’m always down to fight for my country. I wasn’t scared of water either. A lot of people get freaked out over the water. I just didn’t,” he said. “I just decided that I was going to be in the Coast Guard.”
But, things changed in just a matter of a minute. “One day, I heard a song, and I’m doing music!” Jesse recalled. “I picked up my guitar when I was about seventeen years old and started playing and started writing, and here I am!”
Jesse released his debut album, “Kentucky Thunder,” during the 22nd anniversary of his father’s death.
He Married a Singer Too
Jesse’s wife, Ashlee Hewitt, is also a singer. Hewitt appeared for seven weeks before she got eliminated on “Nashville Star.” The couple met when Jesse was on Lorrie Morgan’s tour. Hewitt was one of his mom’s backup singers. They tie the knot in 2012 and had a son named after the country legend, Jackie Keith “Tuff” Whitley.
However, the two called it quits. Jesse is now engaged to Kristen Gann, and they recently welcomed their first daughter, Kimber Rose Whitley, into the world. Now, we wonder if they’re going to follow their father’s musical footsteps. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
It may be hard to make a name for yourself and not live in your parents’ shadow when you grow up with a legendary father. But in the case of Keith Whitley’s son, his mother and grandparents too. Yet he was able to make a name for himself, at the same time, created his own individual style.
“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Jesse said, “but I want to do it my own way. I am so grateful that my name has opened doors, but I plan to earn the right to stay inside those doors.”
It’s clear that Jesse is here to stay.