January 26, 2011

Charlie Louvin, Country Singer, Dies at 83 (BILL FRISKICS-WARREN, 1/27/11, NY Times)

Despite their conservative cultural and musical leanings — their initial ’50s hits were recorded without drums, which were then commonplace in country music — the Louvins’ greatest acclaim came with the advent of rock ’n’ roll, when rebellious sentiments and loud backbeats were in ascendance. Their biggest single, “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” was a No. 1 country hit for two weeks in 1956. They also reached the country Top 10 with songs like “When I Stop Dreaming” and “Cash on the Barrelhead” during this period and were headliners in a touring revue that included Elvis Presley.

The Louvins’ popularity waned as the ’60s unfolded, and in 1963 declining record sales and Ira’s drinking led the brothers to dissolve their partnership and pursue solo careers. Charlie Louvin placed 16 singles in the country Top 40 over the next decade, including “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” a Top 10 hit in 1964. He went on to make a pair of albums with the singer Melba Montgomery in the ’70s and a record with the bluegrass duo Jim and Jesse in 1982.

Mr. Louvin was by then known primarily as a star of the Grand Ole Opry, a reputation that persisted into this century, when another wave of rock bands, including the Raconteurs and Cake, embraced his music. In 2007 he released the first of several albums for the New York label Tompkins Square and appeared at the Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tenn. “Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers,” a tribute record for which Mr. Louvin’s niece Kathy Louvin served as an executive producer, won the Grammy Award for best country album in 2004.

Charlie Elzer Loudermilk was born on July 7, 1927, in Section, Ala. One of seven children, he grew up working on the family farm in nearby Henagar, a small community in the northeastern part of the state. John D. Loudermilk, the writer of hits like “Abilene” and “Tobacco Road,” was his first cousin.

Reared on the harmonies they learned in church, Charlie and Ira Loudermilk first sang together professionally as the Radio Twins in 1942. They changed their name to the Louvin Brothers, believing that Louvin was easier than Loudermilk to say and spell, in 1947. They also began making records that year, releasing singles on several labels before finding success with Capitol in 1952, following Charlie Louvin’s return from the Korean War. More than just singles artists, the Louvins also recorded a series of gospel-themed concept albums, including “Satan Is Real,” its outré cover photo depicting the two men before an outsize effigy of the Devil.

Country hall of famer Charlie Louvin dies at 83 (KRISTIN M. HALL, 1/26/11, The Associated Press)
The unique sound of Charlie and his brother, Ira, was highly influential in the history of both country and rock and they were inducted into the hall in 2001.

Among their hits were "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby," which was No. 1 in 1965, "When I Stop Dreaming," "Hoping That You're Hoping," and "You're Running Wild."

The brothers decided to disband their duo in 1963. Ira died in a Missouri car accident two years later. Charlie later recalled that differences in personality and Ira's drinking created friction between them, but said they probably would have reunited if Ira had lived.

Charlie Louvin recorded regularly after his brother died, most recently releasing "The Battle Rages On," a collection of war songs, last winter. His biggest solo hits were "See the Big Man Cry" in 1965 and "I Don't Love You Anymore" in 1964.

The Louvins influenced harmony acts from the Everly Brothers onward. Emmylou Harris had a hit with their "If I Could Only Win Your Love" in 1975. The Notting Hillbillies recorded the Louvins' "Weapon of Prayer" in 1990.

Interest in his music resurged as Louvin reached his 80s. In 2007, his first studio album in years, "Charlie Louvin," boasting appearances from artists like George Jones and Elvis Costello, was nominated for a Grammy as best traditional folk album.

A year later, his "Steps To Heaven" was nominated as best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album. It was one of two albums he put out in 2008; the other was "Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs."

-ARCHIVES: Charlie Louvin (NPR)
-AUDIO: Country Music's Charlie Louvin Rises Again (Fresh Air from WHYY, November 27, 1996)
-AUDIO: Charlie Louvin: Country Meets Gospel, Again<>/a> (David Dye,12/24/07, World Cafe)

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 26, 2011 3:12 PM
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