Keith Whitley & Alison Krauss Sing Together On ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ Performance

Nov 24, 2021 by apost team

Decades ago, Keith Whitley released the album "L.A. to Miami." He had the potential to start his career with a few number one records. But unfortunately, George Strait and Randy Travis passed him over in favor of Dean Dillon, Don Schlitz, and Paul Overstreet.

They believed "Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her" and "On the Other Hand" were the singles really destined to make the charts.

Keith Whitley had originally recorded both tunes on his album. He was the first one with the chance to issue singles. But he chose not to. Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz were Keith Whitley's songwriting buddies at the time.

As a joke, they told him that when they next sent a song to him, he should release it as fast as he could so no one else would beat him. Just a few years after that, those songwriting friends gave Keith Whitley "When You Say Nothing at All."

This was the first time in ages that Whitley was prepared to record a Schlitz and Overstreet tune. He wasn't prepared to let it slip through his fingers. The song everybody now knows came together in a rather haphazard manner. Schlitz and Overstreet were in their Nashville office during a writing session, trying to come up with potential song ideas.

But both men were having trouble. Instead of throwing in the towel and beginning again the following day, the two songwriters decided they were going to stay in that office until they'd come up with something. 

Keep reading to learn more about this classic country love song and to find out how Alison Krauss was able to sing a duet version with Whitley posthumously. 

Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video :-) 

Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz strummed their guitars and rambled whatever came into their minds while trying to come up with the song. Their hope was that an idea would form. One of them muttered something about "when you say nothing at all." That was the thunderclap moment. They stopped and looked at each other, realizing they'd gotten a fantastic title. 

Now they had to write the song to go with the title, but much to everyone's surprise, it wasn't very hard to do. Many songwriters say that after the basic idea has been conceived, the actual song is fairly easy to fall into place.

The songwriters came up with a storyline built around the old saying that actions always speak louder than words. Their concept was that people are able to hear more by watching than by listening with their ears. When they wrote "When You Say Nothing at All," the songwriters had expressed that idea in a fresh and unique way. The perfect love ballad was destined to be a hit.

The two writers knew right away that Keith Whitley was the artist who had to deliver the song. They said no one could have given a more heartfelt performance. And Whitley finally got his single. The debut of "When You Say Nothing at All" hit the airwaves on September 17, 1988. It took fifteen weeks, but eventually, that song reached the number one slot on December 24.

The song stayed at the top of the chart for two weeks. Whitley passed away from alcohol poisoning before he was able to see the last remaining singles from his album reach the top of the country charts.

Alison Krauss (2019), (Gary Miller/Getty Images/Shock Ink)

In 1995, Alison Krauss and the band Union Station released a cover of "When You Say Nothing at All." It was for an album called "Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album," and it was issued to radio stations that January. Krauss's version of the song made it to number three on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. It also earned "Single of the Year" at the Country Music Awards that same year. 

In 2008 a version of the song that features a mix of vocals from both Krauss and Whitley was posted to Youtube. Mike Cromwell, the production director at WMIL-FM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is responsible for mixing this haunting duet of such a beloved classic. Hearing Whitley's rich voice harmonize with Krauss is a true gift that the world may have never had the chance to witness if it wasn't for Cromwell's incredible work. 

The video has over five million views, and many fans left comments sharing their reactions to the duet. "Everyone knows Alison Krauss's voice is truly amazing, a gift from God. This duet makes clear that Keith Whitley's voice was just as amazing. He can modulate a single word and you're hanging on it. What a loss the world of music has had these last 25 years or so," wrote one commenter.

Some felt that the combination of the two singers' voices made the song even better. Another person added, "Individually, they each knocked this song out of the park, together they made it a masterpiece, it is so meaningful. It has always been one of my favorite love songs. Thank you for posting."

A different person shared, "Keith Whitley's voice embodied classic country spirit. Allison's is angelic and the duet is a profound and fitting tribute."

What does this song mean to you? Did you enjoy the duet version? Let us know in the comments and pass this along so your friends and family can watch the video as well!

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