9:45 in the morning of May 9, 1989, Keith Whitley ’s producer, Garth Fundis, was finishing up his interview about the preparations they were doing for the new, much-anticipated album of Keith to be released in the fall. At that very moment, Keith was speaking on the phone with his mother in his Nashville home. Three hours later, Keith was found dead because of alcohol poisoning. He drank himself to death at the age of 34. Everyone was dumbstruck that such a rare talent could be gone in a wink of an eye in such a useless and meaningless fashion.
In the weeks that followed, RCA tried to finish the new album’s production and so on June 9th, the first single “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me,” was released. Originally, Keith wanted to release, “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” as a single from the “Don’t Close Your Eyes” album. This is a tribute to a person he greatly admired but the RCA executives felt it wouldn’t work for radio, and encouraged him to find a similar, but more commercial song.
That’s when Keith remembered another Whitey Shafer tune called “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me,” which he had recorded some three years earlier. Whitley thought now would be a very good time to suggest it to RCA, but he died before having a chance to discuss its release with label executives. As it turned out though, Keith’s widow Lorrie Morgan campaigned for the release of “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me” after Whitley’s death, and it turned out to be a fitting tribute to him.
Shafer had developed the melody in early 1982 when his wife purchased an electric piano for him as a gift. He would occasionally play the melody to himself, but it was four years later before he was able to fit some words to the song. After “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me” was finished, Shafer brought it to Keith Whitley. Keith loved the song and recorded it shortly thereafter. He told Shafer that he would be pushing RCA to release it as a single sooner or later.
“I Wonder Do You Think Of Me” did end up being issued as a single, but under very difficult circumstances. With Whitley’s shocking death on May 9, 1989, what could have developed into one of country music’s all-time great careers was suddenly over.
The record was rush-released to retailers and radio stations, and reached #1 on Billboard’s country singles chart on September 9, 1989, marking Whitley’s fourth chart-topper and first posthumous one.
Keith, you will always be missed and yes, we do think of you.
keith whitley, whitey shafer
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