I'd intended to write a different post tonight, but I just heard on Willie's Roadhouse that Harold Reid has passed away. The news brought a tear to my eye.
The Statler Brothers have been with me as long as I've been listening to country music, and that's a damn long time. In fact, even before I began listening to country, when I was just a little kid, one couldn't miss this song on the radio:
In the sixties, in addition to performing as part of the Johnny Cash retinue and being featured weekly on Cash's ABC variety show, The Statlers had hits of their own, mostly novelty songs. It wasn't until the group emerged from Johnny's shadow that they came into their own, and boy, did they. The seventies was the Statlers' decade.
I was thirteen in 1970 when I heard this song on the radio and my best friend Alice and I agreed that it was fine:
Don, Harold, Phil, and Lew was the order in which they were billed. Harold was the bass singer with a mile-long personality. Don, the lead singer, and Harold were the only actual brothers of the group. Phil Balsley sang baritone and Lew DeWitt had the high tenor voice. Naturally they began their career in gospel, but gospel couldn't hold them.
For Christmas in 1972, Alice and I exchanged gifts as we did every year, always record albums. Our rule was two LP's. I loved those surprises, because I got to hear music I'd never heard before. My paltry motel maid earnings allowed me to purchase only a few albums a year, and I gravitated toward "greatest hits" because that gave me the most bang for my four bucks. I unwrapped one titled, "Country Music Then And Now". It was an odd album -- side one consisted of old standards sung to perfection, but side two was something wild. A band called Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys had commandeered the flip side of the Statler Brothers' album.
The video doesn't do the Cowboys justice. Let's' just say the record was one of a kind.
But Roadhog was a short-lived sideline. The very best Statler Brothers album is one called Country Symphonies In E Major. The group's singing was superb.
In 1980, this track was released, featuring Jimmy Fortune, who'd replaced Lew after his retirement for health reasons:
I don't know why I love this version of an old song, but I do. Every time Sirius queues it up, I flip up the volume, and it features Harold at his best:
The Statlers biggest hit came courtesy of Jimmy Fortune.
I never saw the Statlers in concert. I saw practically every country artist of the sixties, and I would have gone, given the opportunity, but it never came. A shame. They were part of my life forever, and I loved Harold most of all.
I didn't know that the group officially retired in 2002. Time runs together. Harold was eighty and lived a good long life. God's smiling on him, no doubt. Everyone deserves a giggle.
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