When Chris Young played the Grand Ole Opry recently, he did so with a very special guitar that was once owned by Keith Whitley. Chris acquired the Sigma by Martin guitar, one of Keith’s three primary guitars, from Music City Pickers, a company that buys and sells vintage musical instruments. The guitar was discovered by the company’s founders, songwriter Brady Seals and former Gibson Guitars web editor Gabriel Hernandez, on a buying trip to Lexington, Kentucky in August.
“Keith Whitley has always been one of my musical heroes, so to get the chance to hold a piece of history in my hands and play his guitar on the Opry stage was beyond awesome,” Chris said.
While the Martin acoustic and Fender Telecaster guitars Keith played are now owned by private collectors, The Sigma by Martin guitar remained in the hands of family friend and musician, Earl Watkins. Earl and Keith became close friends and played together at Earl’s famed Circle H Saloon just south of Lexington every time Keith passed through.
During one of those visits in 1987, Keith became interested in a Fender guitar played by one of Earl’s band members, Jerry Fannin. Keith liked it so much he offered to trade his Sigma by Martin for it. Not long after the deal was done, Earl purchased the guitar from Jerry for $500 and eventually gave it to his daughter, Jeanne. Jeanne sought permission from her father before selling the guitar to Music City Pickers.
You can catch Chris playing Keith Whitley’s guitar during Opry Live on GAC tomorrow, October 29, at 9/8 CT. In addition to his own hits, Chris also covered Keith’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” with the famed guitar while performing on the Opry stage. Watch the performance below!