The Louvin Brothers

Charlie Louvin (July 7, 1927- )

Ira Louvin (April 21, 1924-June 20, 1965)

1991 Inductees Alabama Music Hall of Fame (Lifework Award)

Charlie and Ira Louvin rose out of the close-harmony brother acts of the 1930s to become one of the most influential duos in country music history.

Blending Ira’s pure high tenor with Charlie’s smooth melody tenor, the brothers learned their craft from the Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers and other family duos of the previous generation. Preserving the old-time flavor of those traditional acts, the Louvins carried the duo-brother genre into the modern country music world of the 1950s. Together they added their distinctive touch to any type of material they recorded, from folk and gospel to hillbilly and pop. Songs created or popularized by the Louvins were revived in subsequent generations by Americana acts ranging from country superstar Emmylou Harris (“If I Could Only Win Your Love”) to roots rocker Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters (“Knoxville Girl”).

Born and raised in the Appalachian mountain town of Section, Lonnie Ira Loudermilk began playing mandolin while his younger brother Charlie Elzer Loudermilk learned to play guitar. The harmonizing duo began performing on an early-morning show at a local radio station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After Charlie returned from service in the U.S. Army, the brothers moved to radio stations in Knoxville, Tennessee, where they abandoned their given name for the stage name of “Louvin.” (Their cousin, John D. Loudermilk, retained the family name.)

In 1951, the Louvins signed with MGM Records in Nashville and recorded a dozen songs over the next year. Eventually they earned the attention of Acuff-Rose owner Fred Rose, who signed the duo to a publishing deal and helped them negotiate a recording contract with Capitol Records. The Louvins’ debut single for the label, “The Family Who Prays,” proved to be a moderate success before Charlie was recalled by the Army to serve in the Korean War.

After Charlie’s discharge, Capitol convinced the Grand Ole Opry to hire the duo. While they never abandoned gospel, the brothers began writing and performing secular material starting with the Top 10 hit “When I Stop Dreaming” (1955) and the No. 1 smash “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” (1956). The Louvins also released the popular albums Tragic Songs of Life and Nearer My God to Thee. In 1957, they recorded the hits “Don’t Laugh” and “Plenty of Everything But You.” The single “My Baby’s Gone” reached the Top 10 in 1958. Their classic version of the traditional ballad “Knoxville Girl” climbed into the Top 20 the following year.

The Louvin Brothers continued to record in the early ’60s, turning out theme albums that included tributes to the Delmore Brothers and Roy Acuff as well as the gospel collection Satan is Real. The duo released three more singles – “I Love You Best of All” (which peaked at No. 12), “How’s the World Treating You” and “Must You Throw Dirt in My Face?” – before disbanding over a series of personal and professional disputes in 1963.

Charlie’s debut single as a solo act, “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” hit No. 4 in 1964. He would record 30 chart hits over the next decade. Shortly after the breakup, an alcohol-fueled argument between Ira and his third wife resulted in a shooting that nearly killed him. He continued to perform afterward, singing with his fourth wife, Anne Young. The husband and wife were performing a week of concerts in Kansas City, Missouri, when they were killed in a car crash in 1965. After Ira’s death, his solo single “Yodel, Sweet Molly” became a modest hit.

The reputation of the Louvin Brothers continued to grow in the decades following their breakup. 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 were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Chart Songs as a Songwriter


Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
Are You Teasing Me Carl Smith 1 1952
I Take The Chance Browns 2 1956
Is Zat You Myrtle Carlisles 2 1953
If I Could Only Win Your Love Emmylou Harris 4 1975
Cash On The Barrelhead Louvin Brothers 7 1956
I Take The Chance Ernie Ashworth 7 1963
When I Stop Dreaming Louvin Brothers 8 1955
Just As Long As You Love Me Browns 11 1956
I Love You Best Of All Louvin Brothers 12 1961
Plenty Of Everything But You Louvin Brothers 14 1957
Shake A Leg Carlisles 15 1954
Come And Knock On The Door of My Heart Roy Acuff 20 1959

*Chart position is based on Billboard Magazine Pop, Country, R&B, & A/C Charts. Other music industry charts may have shown higher chart positions.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

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The Louvin Brothers were an American country music duo composed of brothers Ira Lonnie Loudermilk (1924–1965) and Charlie Elzer Loudermilk (1927-2011), better known as Ira and Charlie Louvin. They helped popularize close harmony, a genre of country music.

 

The brothers adopted the name Louvin Brothers in the 1940s as they began their career in gospel music. Their first foray into secular music was the minor hit "The Get Acquainted Waltz", recorded with Chet Atkins. Other hits included "Cash on the Barrelhead" and "When I Stop Dreaming". They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and stayed there until breaking up in 1963.[1]

Their songs were heavily influenced by their Baptist faith and warned against sin. Ira Louvin was notorious for his drinking and short temper. Married four times, his third wife shot him three times in the back after he tried to strangle her. When performing and drinking, Ira would sometimes become angry enough on stage to smash his mandolin; otherwise his style was heavily influenced by Bill Monroe. He died on June 20, 1965 when a drunken driver struck his car in Williamsburg, Missouri.[2] At the time, a warrant for Ira's arrest had been issued on a DUI charge.

After the group's breakup, each brother pursued a solo career. The brothers are cousins to John D. Loudermilk, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member.

Country-rock pioneers The Byrds recorded the Louvin-penned "The Christian Life" for their seminal 1968 release Sweetheart of the Rodeo.[1]

In 2001, the Louvin brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.[3] The tribute CD Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers, produced by Carl Jackson and Kathy Louvin released in 2003, won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Country Album.

 

Although the brothers are still remembered today for their musical talent, they are also remembered for the unusual cover used for their 1960 album, Satan Is Real. Designed by Ira Louvin, the cover features the brothers standing in a rock quarry in front of a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) plywood rendition of the Devil as several hidden tires soaked in kerosene burn behind them as fire and brimstone.[4] While some reviewers count this as being one of the "greatest iconic album covers of all time,"[5] the cover can also be found today on several Web sites celebrating unusual or bizarre album covers. The cover has also become an Internet meme on a number of Web sites such as Fark.com, where it has been posted in discussion threads as an example of religious views of the era.[6]

The opening bars of the album's title track "Satan is Real" can be heard at the beginning of Hank Williams III's "Medley: Straight to Hell / Satan is Real", on his Straight to Hell album of 2006. It is also excerpted in Will Ferrell's 2009 one-man Broadway show You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush.

 

Partial discography:

1956: The Louvin Brothers (MGM)

1956: Tragic Songs of Life (Capitol)

1957: Nearer My God to Thee (Capitol)

1958: Ira and Charlie (Capitol)

1958: The Family Who Prays (Capitol)

1958: Country Love Ballads (Capitol)

1959: Satan Is Real (Capitol)

1960: My Baby's Gone (Capitol)

1960: A Tribute to the Delmore Brothers (Capitol)

1961: Encore (Capitol)

1961: Christmas with the Louvin Brothers (Capitol)

1962: The Weapon of Prayer (Capitol)

1963: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus (Capitol)

1964: The Louvin Brothers Sing and Play Their Current Hits (Capitol)

1965: Thank God for My Christian Home (Capitol)

1966: Ira and Charles (Hilltop)

1967: Two Different Worlds (Capitol)

1967: The Great Roy Acuff Songs (Capitol)

1968: Country Heart and Soul (Capitol)

1973: The Great Gospel Singing of The Louvin Brothers (Capitol)

1975: Live at New River Ranch (Collectors Classic)

1976: I Don't Believe You Met My Baby (Hilltop)

1978: Songs That Tell a Story (Rounder)

1990: Early MGM Recordings (Rounder)

1992: Close Harmony (Bear Family Records)

1995: Greatest Hits (Capitol)

1995: When I Stop Dreaming: The Best of the Louvin Brothers (Razor & Tie)

2006: The Essential Louvin Brothers 1955-1964: My Baby's Gone (Raven)

 

References:

1^ a b Wolfe, Charles K. (1996). In Close Harmony: The Story of the Louvin Brothers. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-0-8789-5892-1.

2^ Strauss, Neil (November 28, 1996). "The Pop Life". New York Times. Retrieved January 22, 2010.

3^ Country Music Hall of Fame entry for The Louvin Brothers. Retrieved January 21, 2010.

4^ KtB - Satan is Real

5^ Aquarium Drunkard: MP3 Blog, Music Blog » The Louvin Brothers :: Satan Is Real

6^ "Example of meme-posting of album cover on Fark.com". Fark.com. 2008-11-17. Retrieved 2008-11-17.

7^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 246. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.

Source: The Louvin Brothers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

 

 

 

The Official Charlie Louvin Web Site: The Official Charlie Louvin Web Site

Interview: Charlie Louvin - Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA | Awaiting the Flood

More info: A Word with Charlie Louvin - State of Mind Music

Livin', lovin', losin' the Louvins way – October 2003

CMT.com : The Louvin Brothers : Biography

Charlie Louvin Takes us From 1927 to 2010 | Raised Country!

The Louvin Brothers: Information from Answers.com

Satan Is Real, The Louvin BrothersSongs That Tell a Story, The Louvin BrothersTheir Very Best, The Louvin BrothersCountry Love Ballads, The Louvin BrothersMy Baby's Gone, The Louvin BrothersSing and Play Their Current Hits, The Louvin Brothers

Listen: The Louvin Brothers - Download The Louvin Brothers Music on iTunes

Listen: Amazon.com: Louvin Brothers: Songs, Albums, Pictures, Bios

Video: YouTube - Louvin Brothers - I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

Video: YouTube - Music critic Bob Mehr on Charlie Louvin

Obituary: Charlie Louvin, Country Hall Of Fame Singer, Has Died : The Record : NPR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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