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The Louvin Brothers

From the close-harmony brother acts of the '30s evolved Charlie and Ira Louvin, ranking among the top duos in country music history. With Ira's incredibly high, pure tenor and Charlie's emotional and smooth melody tenor, they learned well from the Bolick brothers (the Blue Sky Boys), the Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, and other major family duos of the previous generation, preserving the old-time flavor while bringing this genre into the '50s, when country music moved to a newer sound. Whatever type of songs they recorded -- gospel, folk, hillbilly, or '50s pop -- those songs became the Louvins'. Add to the list the many Louvin compositions (for example, "If I Could Only Win Your Love," Emmylou Harris' first hit), and you have an act that is outstanding in country music history. Their career took awhile to get going, partly because of interruptions from WWII and the Korean War. In the early '50s, after making a reputation for unexcelled gospel singing, the Louvins broadened their repertoire, recording "The Get Acquainted Waltz" (with Chet Atkins adding another guitar to Charlie's and to Ira's mandolin), a fair hit that showed success was reachable with non-religious music. The electric guitar, with the duo's unique harmony and Ira's exceptional tenor, created a sound that fans asked for in increasing numbers. In 1955, after ten unsuccessful auditions, they finally joined the Opry, where they performed to great acclaim until 1963, when they broke up. They had a number of hits, including the much-covered "When I Stop Dreaming" and "Cash on the Barrel Head." Following the duo's breakup, Ira and Charlie both pursued solo careers.

Born and raised in the Appalachian mountains in Alabama, both Charlie (born Charlie Elzer Loudermilk, July 7, 1927; died January 26, 2011) and Ira (born Lonnie Ira Loudermilk, April 21, 1924; died June 20, 1965) were attracted to the close-harmony country brother duets of the Blue Sky Boys, the Delmore Brothers, the Callahan Brothers, and the Monroe Brothers when they reached their adolescence. Previously, they had sung gospel songs in church, and their parents encouraged them to play music, despite the family's poverty. Ira began playing mandolin while Charlie picked up the guitar, and the two began harmonizing. After a while, they began performing at a small, local radio station in Chattanooga, where they frequently played on an early-morning show.

The Brothers' career was interrupted in the early '40s when Charlie joined the Army for a short while. While his brother was in the service, Ira played with Charlie Monroe. Once Charlie returned from the Army, the duo moved to Knoxville, TN, where they received a regular spot on a WROL radio show; they later moved to WNOX. Around this time, they decided to abandon their given name for Louvin, which appeared to be a better stage name. (Their cousin John D. Loudermilk retained the family name.) Following their stint in Knoxville, they moved to Memphis, where they broadcast on WMPS and cut one single for Apollo Records. After their brief stay in Memphis, they returned to Knoxville.

In 1949, the Louvin Brothers recorded a single for Decca Records which failed to make much of an impact. Two years later, they signed with MGM Records and over the next year recorded 12 songs. Shortly after their MGM sessions were finished, Charlie and Ira moved back to Memphis, where they worked as postal clerks while playing concerts and radio shows at night. Eventually, they earned the attention of Acuff-Rose, who signed the duo to a publishing contract. Fred Rose, the owner of the publishing house, helped the duo sign a contract with Capitol Records. The Louvins' debut single for the label, "The Family Who Prays," was a moderate success (it would later become a gospel standard), yet they were unable to capitalize on its success because Charlie was recalled by the Army to serve in the Korean War.

Upon Charlie's discharge from the Army, the Louvins relocated to Birmingham, where they planned to restart their career through appearances on the radio station WOVK. However, a duo called Rebe & Rabe had already carved out a close-harmony niche in the area, using several of the Louvins' own songs. When Charlie and Ira were reaching a point of desperation, Capitol's Ken Nelson was able to convince the Grand Ole Opry to hire the duo. Prior to joining the Opry, the duo had been marketed as a gospel artist, but they began singing secular material as soon as they landed a slot on the show, primarily because a tobacco company sponsoring its broadcast told the Opry and the Louvins "you can't sell tobacco with gospel music." While they didn't abandon gospel, the Brothers began writing and performing secular material again, starting with "When I Stop Dreaming." The single became a Top Ten hit upon its release in the fall of 1955 and would eventually become a country standard. It was followed shortly afterward by "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby," which spent two weeks at number one early in 1956. No less than three of the duo's other singles -- "Hoping That You're Hoping," "You're Running Wild," "Cash on the Barrel Head" -- reached the Top Ten that year, and they also released the albums Tragic Songs of Life and Nearer My God to Thee. The Louvins' success in 1956 was particularly impressive when considering that rock & roll was breaking big that year, sapping the sales of many established country artists.

However, the Louvins weren't able to escape being hurt by rock & roll. They had two relatively big hits in 1957 ("Don't Laugh" and "Plenty of Everything but You"), "My Baby's Gone" reached the Top Ten in late 1958, and their classic version of the traditional ballad "Knoxville Girl" was a moderate hit in early 1959, but those four hit singles arrived in the space of three years; they charted four songs in 1956 alone. Soon, the Louvins were receiving pressure from Capitol to update their sound. They tried to cut a couple of rockabilly numbers, but they were quite unsuccessful. Eventually, Ken Nelson suggested that the duo abandon the mandolin in order to appeal to the same audience as the Everly Brothers. The Louvins didn't accept his advice, but the remark did considerable damage to Ira's ego and he began to sink into alcoholism.

The Louvin Brothers continued to record during the early '60s, turning out a number of theme albums -- including tributes to the Delmore Brothers and Roy Acuff, as well as gospel records like Satan Is Real -- as well as singles. "I Love You Best of All" and "How's the World Treating You" reached numbers 12 and 26 respectively in 1961, the first year they had two hit singles since 1957. However, the duo began fighting frequently, and Ira's alcoholism worsened. Following one last hit single, "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face," in the fall of 1962, the duo decided to disband in the summer of 1963.

Charlie and Ira both launched solo careers on Capitol Records shortly after the breakup. Charlie was the more successful of the two, with his debut single, "I Don't Love You Anymore," reaching number four upon its summer release in 1964. For the next decade, he racked up a total of 30 hit singles, though most of the records didn't make the Top 40. Ira's luck wasn't as good as his brother's. Shortly after the Louvins disbanded, he had a raging, alcohol-fueled argument with his third wife, Faye, that resulted in a shooting that nearly killed him. He continued to perform afterward, singing with his fourth wife, Anne Young. The duo were performing a week of concerts in Kansas City in June of 1965 when they were both killed in a car crash in Williamsburg, MO. After his death, his single "Yodel, Sweet Molly" became a moderate hit.

The Louvin Brothers' reputation continued to grow in the decades following their breakup, as their harmonies and hard-driving take on traditional country provided the blueprint for many generations of country and rock musicians. The Everly Brothers were clearly influenced by the duo, while country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons drew heavily from the Louvins' deep catalog of classic songs, recording "The Christian Life" with the Byrds and "Cash on the Barrelhead" as a solo artist. The Louvin Brothers and their music are truly legendary. ~ David Vinopal
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: My Baby's Gone

1. When I Stop Dreaming

2. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

3. Don't Laugh

4. Let Us Travel, Travel On

5. Hoping That You're Hoping

6. Knoxville girl

7. Kentucky

8. Katie Dear

9. Let Her Go, God Bless Her

10. Plenty Of Everything But You

11. Cash On The Barrelhead

12. You're Running Wild

13. The New Partner Waltz

14. Are You Teasing Me

15. I Wish You Knew

16. My Baby's Gone

17. She Didn't Even Know I Was Gone

18. My Baby Came Back

19. Lorene

20. I Wish It Had Been A Dream

21. If I Could Only Win Your Love

22. The Angels Rejoiced Last Night

23. The Christian Life

24. I Love You Best Of All

25. I Can't Keep You In Love With Me

26. I Feel Better Now

27. How's The World Treating You?

28. Every Time You Leave

29. Must You Throw Dirt In My Face?

30. I Don't Love You Anymore

x

Track List: Sing The Great Roy Acuff Songs

1. Wait For The Light To Shine

2. The Precious Jewel

3. We Live In Two Different Worlds

4. The Great Judgement Morning

5. Branded Wherever I Go

6. Wabash Cannonball

7. Low And Lonely

8. The Great Speckled Bird

9. Wreck On The Highway

10. Lonely Mound Of Clay

11. Not A Word From Home

12. Stuck-Up Blues

x

Track List: I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

1. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

2. Alabama

3. Lonely Mound Of Clay

4. When I Loved You

5. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

6. Blues Stay Away From Me

7. The Price Of The Bottle

8. Mary Of The Wild Moor

9. She Will Get Lonesome

10. Are You Teasing Me

x

Track List: When I Stop Dreaming: The Best Of The Louvin Brothers

1. Broadminded

2. The Family Who Prays

3. When I Stop Dreaming

4. Pitfall

5. Don't Laugh

6. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

7. Hoping That You're Hoping

8. The First One To Love You

9. In The Pines

10. Knoxville Girl

11. Cash On The Barrelhead

12. You're Running Wild

13. My Baby's Gone

14. I Wish It Had Been A Dream

15. While You're Cheating On Me

16. If I Could Only Win Your Love

17. You're Learning

18. The River Of Jordan

19. The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea

20. Southern Moon

21. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar

22. The Great Atomic Power

23. Wreck On The Highway

24. Stuck Up Blues

x

Track List: Close Harmony

Disc 1

1. Alabama

2. Alabama

3. Seven Year Blues

5. The 'get Acquainted' Waltz

6. Weapon Of Prayer

7. They've Got The Church Outnumbered

8. Do You Live What You Preach?

9. You'll Be Rewarded Over There

10. I'll Live With God (To Die No More)

11. Robe Of White

12. The Great Atomic Power

13. Insured Beyond The Grave

14. The Gospel Way

15. The Sons And Daughters Of God

16. Broad Minded

17. The Family Who Prays (Never Shall Part)

19. Let Us Travel, Travel On

21. Born Again

22. Preach The Gospel

23. From Mother's Arms To Korea

24. If We Forget God

25. Satan And The Saint

26. Satan Lied To Me

27. God Bless Her ('cause She's My Mother)

28. Last Chance To Pray

Disc 2

2. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

3. Nearer My God To Thee

4. Make Him A Soldier

6. Just Rehearsing

7. Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself

8. Where Will You Build

9. Pray For Me

10. When I Stop Dreaming

11. Pitfall

12. Alabama

13. Memories And Tears

14. Don't Laugh

15. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

16. Childish Love

17. In The Middle Of Nowhere

18. Hoping That You're Hoping

19. The First One To Love You

20. I Cried After You Left

23. In The Pines

24. What Is Home Without Love

25. Mary Of The Wild Moor

26. Knoxville Girl

27. Kentucky

28. Katie Dear

Disc 3

1. My Brother's Will

2. Take The News To Mother

3. Let Her Go, God Bless Her

4. A Tiny Broken Heart

5. Plenty Of Everything But You

6. Cash On The Barrelhead

7. You're Running Wild

8. The New Partner Waltz

9. I Won't Have To Cross Jordan Alone

10. Praying

11. Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus

12. This Little Light Of Mine

13. I Steal Away And Pray

14. There's No Excuse

15. Are You Washed In The Blood

16. Lord, I'm Coming Home

17. Thankful

18. Take Me Back Into Your Heart

19. Here Today And Gone Tomorrow

20. We Could

21. Tennessee Waltz

22. Too Late

23. Are You Teasing Me

24. Nobody's Darling But Mine

25. Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die

26. I Wonder Where You Are Tonight

27. Why Not Confess

28. Making Believe

Disc 4

1. Have I Stayed Away Too Long

2. Call Me

3. I Wish You Knew

4. Dog Sled

5. When I Loved You

6. My Baby's Gone

7. She Didn't Even Know I Was Gone

8. My Baby Came Back

9. Are You Wasting My Time

11. Lorene

12. I Wish It Had Been A Dream

14. If I Could Only Win Your Love

15. You're Learning

16. Blue From Now On

17. Today

18. My Heart Was Trampled On The Street

19. Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On

20. On My Way To The Show

21. Read What's In My Heart

22. Red Hen Hop

23. She Will Get Lonesome

24. I Wonder If You Know

25. Blue

26. The Angels Rejoiced Last Night

27. Dying From Home And Lost

28. Satan's Jeweled Crown

29. The River Of Jordan

Disc 5

1. I'm Ready To Go Home

2. The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea

3. Satan Is Real

4. The Christian Life

5. Are You Afraid To Die

6. He Can Be Found

7. There's A Higher Power

8. The Drunkard's Doom

9. I See A Bridge

11. The Stagger

12. Nellie Moved To Town

13. What A Change One Day Can Make

14. Ruby's Song

15. The Last Old Shovel

16. Midnight Special

17. Brown's Ferry Blues

18. Southern Moon

19. Sand Mountain Blues

20. Nashville Blues

21. Blues Stay Away From Me

22. When It's Time For The Whippoorwill To Sing

23. Put Me On The Train To Carolina

24. Freight Train Blues

25. Weary Lonesome Blues

26. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar

27. It's Christmas Time

28. Santa's Big Parade

Disc 6

1. Love Is A Lonely Street

2. If You Love Me Stay Away

3. I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow

4. I Love You Best Of All

6. Scared Of The Blues

7. I Have Found The Way

8. He Set Me Free

9. Kneel At The Cross

10. Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

11. O Why Not Tonight

12. You Can't Find The Lord Too Soon

15. I Feel Better Now

16. O Who Shall Be Able To Stand

17. If Today Was The Day

20. Away In A Manger

21. The Friendly Beasts

22. Hark The Herald Angels Sing

23. Good Christian Men Rejoice

24. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

25. The First Noel

26. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Disc 7

1. O Come All Ye Faithful

2. O Little Town Of Bethlehem

3. Silent Night

4. Deck The Halls

5. Joy To The World

7. How's The World Treating You

8. Every Time You Leave

10. I Died For The Red White And Blue

11. From Mother's Arms To Korea

12. Searching For A Soldier"S Grave

13. At Mail Call Today

14. A Soldier's Last Letter

15. There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere

16. There's A Grave In The Wave Of The Ocean

17. Mother I Thank You For The Bible You Gave

18. The Great Atomic Power

19. A Seaman's Girl

20. Robe Of White

21. The Weapon Of Prayer

22. Broken Engagement

25. Love Turned To Hate

26. Must You Throw Dirt In My Face

Disc 8

1. The Great Speckled Bird

2. Wabash Cannon Ball

3. Lonely Mound Of Clay

4. Wreck On The Highway

5. Wait For The Light To Shine

6. Low And Lonely

7. We Live In Two Different Worlds

8. The Precious Jewel

10. Branded Wherever I Go

11. Not A Word From Home

12. Stuck Up Blues

14. I'm Glad That I'm Not Him

16. Thank God For My Christian Home

17. I'll Never Die

19. I've Known A Lady

20. He Included Me

21. Keep Watching The Sky

22. Now Lord, What Can I Do For You

24. Gonna Shake Hands With Mother Over There

25. He Was Waiting At The Altar

26. Oh Lord, My God

x

Track List: Satan Is Real

1. Satan Is Real

2. There's A Higher Power

3. The Christian Life

4. The River Of Jordan

5. The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea

6. Are You Afraid To Die

7. He Can Be Found

8. Dying From Home, And Lost

9. The Drunkard's Room

10. Satan's Jeweled Crown

11. The Angels Rejoiced Last Night

12. I'm Ready To Go Home

x

Track List: Tragic Songs Of Life

1. Kentucky

2. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

3. Let Her Go, God Bless Her

4. What Is Home Without Love

5. A Tiny Broken Heart

6. In The Pines

7. Alabama

8. Katie Dear

9. My Brother's Will

10. Knoxville Girl

11. Take The News To Mother

12. Mary Of The Wild Moor

Comments

Report as inappropriate
They are real good...GLORY !
Report as inappropriate
I'm a 33 year old man that grew up with this music in my life , I wouldn't trade it for the world , modern country sucks a**
Report as inappropriate
Love it!
Report as inappropriate
Charlie and that crazy brother of his, Ira.
Report as inappropriate
The Louvin Brothers had much better harmony and versatility than most other groups. It makes one think, if tragic events had not occurred, their career could have been endless.
Report as inappropriate
Their harmony was fantastic! Ira probably had a lot of demons that we are in no position to judge. Both of them were great artists & I hope Ira found peace and tranquility in the Promised Land!
Report as inappropriate
Great message!
Report as inappropriate
Did they have a tighter harmony than the Everlys, or is that my imagination?
Report as inappropriate
The Louvin Brothers - What can you say, but wow! Now that's country!
Report as inappropriate
My heart and soul just flies when I listen their music.
Report as inappropriate
The louvin brothers were a great duo and what great harmony ! Excellent music!
Report as inappropriate
jeremy.bumba l o u g h 8 2 1 9
Great singing and pickin!!!
Report as inappropriate
Great stuff!
Report as inappropriate
I have a correction. The radio station in Birmingham was WVOK, not WOVK. But actually, at that time in the early 50's it was WVOD (The Voice of Dixie) but later changed to WVOK because owner C.M. Brennan thought it sounded too much like a venereal disease. I'm not making this up. I was a family friend.
Report as inappropriate
Sibling harmonies like the Louvins and the Everlys ae hard to beat.
Report as inappropriate
ronayaccount s
Going to miss Charlie.
Report as inappropriate
I love their music. I listened to it (relgious) every Sunday morning. The music brings back loving memories of my family when we were all much, much younger and better times.
Report as inappropriate
that word broadminded is spelled S-I-N
Report as inappropriate
Amen!
Report as inappropriate
lindabrown68
I grew up hearing them. I love their music.
Report as inappropriate
The Louvin's have been a favorite of mine since I first saw them live in the late 50's. Their harmony is unique and the poetry of the songs is wonderful!
Report as inappropriate
Best close harmony ever!
Report as inappropriate
there has been no better duet than Charley and IRA. i love everything they ever recorded.
Report as inappropriate
I still think the Louvin Brothers were the best of the best. I have
been fortunate enough to see them in person in real life away from the
stage. They were real. Yes, Ira had a big problem but he was good as
gold when he was off of the alchohol and he wrote some of the most
touching songs I have ever heard.
Report as inappropriate
beulahsoemak e r
love their harmony
Report as inappropriate
beulahsoemak e r
love their harmony

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