The Statler Brothers

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The Statler Brothers
Statler Brothers promo image.JPG
The Statler Brothers in 1983
Background information
Origin Staunton, Virginia, United States
Genres Country, gospel, southern gospel, vocal harmony
Years active 1955–2002
Labels Columbia
Mercury
Music Box
Yell
Associated acts Johnny Cash, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Blackwood Brothers
Website www.statlerbrothers.com
Past members Lew DeWitt
Don Reid
Harold Reid
Phil Balsley
Jimmy Fortune
Joe McDorman

The Statler Brothers were an American country music, gospel, and backing vocal group for Johnny Cash. The quartet was founded in 1955 in Staunton, Virginia.

Originally performing gospel music at local churches, the group billed themselves as The Four Star Quartet, and later The Kingsmen.[1] In 1963, when the song "Louie, Louie" by the garage rock band also called The Kingsmen became famous, the group elected to bill themselves as The Statler Brothers. Despite the name, only two members of the group (Don and Harold Reid) are actual brothers and none have the surname of Statler. The band, in fact, named themselves after a brand of facial tissue they had noticed in a hotel room (they joked that they could have turned out to be the Kleenex Brothers).[2] Don Reid sang lead; Harold Reid, Don's older brother, sang bass; Phil Balsley sang baritone; and Lew DeWitt sang tenor and was the guitarist of the Statlers before being replaced by Jimmy Fortune in 1983 due to DeWitt's ill health.[3] DeWitt died on August 15, 1990, of heart and kidney disease, stemming from complications of Crohn's disease.[4]

The band's style was closely linked to their gospel roots. "We took gospel harmonies," said Harold Reid, "and put them over in country music."[1]

The group remained closely tied to their gospel roots, with a majority of their records containing at least one gospel song. They produced several albums containing only gospel music and recorded a tribute song to the Blackwood Brothers, who influenced their music. The Statler Brothers also wrote a tribute song to Johnny Cash, who discovered them. The song was called "We Got Paid by Cash", and it reminisces about their time with Cash.[1]

Career[edit]

Very early on in the group's history, before the name The Statler Brothers was established, Joe McDorman was a member.[5]

The Statler Brothers started their career at a performance at Lyndhurst Methodist Church near their hometown of Staunton.[1] In 1964, they started to become Johnny Cash's backing vocal for an eight and a half year run as his opening act.[2] This period of their career was memorialized in their song "We Got Paid by Cash". They were featured regularly on Cash's hit show The Johnny Cash Show on ABC. The show ran from 1969-1971. Due to their expanding career the Statlers left Cash's entourage around the mid 1970s to pursue their own careers. They left Cash on good terms.

Two of their best-known songs are "Flowers on the Wall", their first major hit that was composed and written by Lew DeWitt, and the socially conscious "Bed of Rose's". In the 1980s, the Statlers were a mainstay on TNN, where their videos were shown regularly. Also on TNN, between 1991 and 1998, they hosted their own show, The Statler Brothers Show, a weekly variety show which was the channel's top-rated program for its entire run.[6][7] Their songs have been featured on several film soundtracks. These range from "Charlotte's Web" in Smokey and the Bandit II, to "Flowers on the Wall" in the crime dramedy Pulp Fiction.

Throughout their career, much of their appeal was related to their incorporation of comedy and parody into their musical act, thanks in large part to the humorous talent of Harold Reid; they were frequently nominated for awards for their comedy as well as their singing. They recorded two comedy albums as Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys, and one-half of one side of the album Country Music Then and Now was devoted to satirizing small-town radio stations' Saturday morning shows.

They earned the number one spot on the Billboard chart four times: for "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?" in 1978; "Elizabeth" in 1984; and in 1985, "My Only Love" and "Too Much on My Heart".[8]

Since forming, the Statler Brothers have released over 40 albums.[9]

The Statler Brothers purchased and renovated their former elementary school in Staunton, and occupied the complex for several years. The complex consisted of offices for the group, a small museum and auditorium, as well as an adjacent building which served as office space for unrelated businesses. A garage was built to store the two tour buses that the group had used for many years. The group has since sold the building which has been converted back into a school.[citation needed]

In 1970, the group began performing at an annual Independence Day festival in Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton. The event lasted for 25 years and included many country music figures including Mel Tillis, Charley Pride and many others. The event drew as many as 100,000 fans each year. The group also honored their hometown with the song "Staunton, Virginia" on their 1973 album Do You Love Me Tonight.

Awards[edit]

Academy of Country Music

Country Music Association

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Gospel Hall of Fame

Grammy Awards

American Music Awards

  • Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group 1979
  • Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group 1980
  • Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group 1981

Retirement[edit]

The group disbanded and retired after completing a farewell tour on October 26, 2002. Balsley and the Reid brothers continue to reside in Staunton, while Fortune has relocated to Nashville, where he is continuing his music career as a solo artist. He has released three albums as a soloist. The Statlers continue to be the one of the most awarded act in the history of country music.[15]

Since the Statlers' retirement in 2002, Don Reid has pursued a second career as an author. He authored or co-authored three books: Heroes and Outlaws of the Bible, Sunday Morning Memories, and You'll Know It's Christmas When.... He and Harold Reid co-wrote a history of the Statler Brothers titled Random Memories released in February 2008.

Grandstaff/Wilson Fairchild[edit]

Wil and Langdon Reid, the sons of Harold and Don respectively, formed a duo in the 1990s, originally performing under the name Grandstaff. In 2007, Grandstaff recorded "The Statler Brothers Song", a tribute song to the Statler Brothers.

In an interview on Nashville's WSM (AM) on March 25, 2010, Wil Reid said that they decided to change their name to Wilson Fairchild after many people got the name "Grandstaff" wrong during introductions. The name comes from "Wilson", Wil's middle name, and "Fairchild", Langdon's middle name.

Influence[edit]

The Statler Brothers have been credited as the first country music act to transfer the genre's nostalgia from a rural to a suburban setting.[8] They have also been called "America's Poets" by Kurt Vonnegut.[16]

Discography[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d W. K. McNeil, ed. (2005). "The Statler Brothers". Encyclopedia of Gospel Music. New York City: Routledge. p. 376. ISBN 0-415-94179-2. 
  2. ^ a b Irwin Stamler & Grelund Landon, ed. (1997). "The Statler Brothers". Country Music: The Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan. p. 459. ISBN 0-312-26487-9. 
  3. ^ http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com/site/inductees.aspx?cid=2452#
  4. ^ "Lew DeWitt, 52, Tenor With the Statler Brothers". New York Times (obituary). (17 August 1990) retrieved 10 April 2008.
  5. ^ http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-11-17/entertainment/8503190341_1_jimmy-fortune-phil-balsley-harold-reid
  6. ^ "GMA Canada Launches Fan Choice Award". Gospel Music Association Canada. (September 2007) Retrieved on 18 April 2008.
  7. ^ "Biography". Rex Allen, Jr.'s official website. (undated). Retrieved on 18 April 2008
  8. ^ a b "Artist Biography: The Statler Brothers". Country Music Television. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  9. ^ The Statler Brothers. "Discography". The Statler Brothers' official website (undated). Retrieved 10 April 2008
  10. ^ "Statler Brothers: Country Hall of Fame Honor Tops". USA Today (June 27, 2008). Retrieved August 20, 2008
  11. ^ "Gospel Music Hall of Fame 2007 Induction Ceremony"Gospel Music Association official website, (undated). Retrieved March 29, 2008
  12. ^ "Grammy Award Winners: 1965, Country". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences official website. (undated). Retrieved March 29, 2008
  13. ^ "Grammy Award Winners: 1972, Pop." National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences official website. (undated). Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  14. ^ "Grammy Award Winners: 1972, Country." National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences official website. (undated). Retrieved March 29, 2008.
  15. ^ Kathy Coleman. "About the Statler Brothers". About.com. (undated). Retrieved 13 April 2008
  16. ^ "Blue Ridge PBS features Statler Brothers Farewell Concert". Birthplace of Country Music. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 

External links[edit]