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The Louvin Brothers

So in a conversation with my mom, who considers herself a country music devotee, an astonishing gap in her musical education came shamefully to light: she had never heard of the Louvin Brothers, AT. ALL. Needless to say, I straightaway raced over to YouTube so as to put her back in the good graces of the Lord again. To wit:


The Louvin Brothers story is a fascinating one, which is true of a great number of legendary country artists from the 50s and 60s Golden Age of the genre.

The Louvin Brothers were an American musical duo composed of brothers Ira (April 21, 1924 – June 20, 1965) and Charlie (July 7, 1927 – January 26, 2011) Louvin ( Loudermilk). The brothers are cousins to John D. Loudermilk, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member.

The brothers wrote and performed countrybluegrass and gospel music. Ira played mandolin and generally sang lead vocal in the tenor range, while Charlie played rhythm guitar and offered supporting vocals in a lower pitch. They helped popularize the vocal technique of close harmony in country and country-rock.

After becoming regulars at the Grand Ole Opry and scoring a string of hit singles in the late 1950s and early ’60s, the Louvin Brothers broke up in 1963 due in large part to Charlie growing tired of Ira’s addictions and reckless behavior. Ira died in a traffic accident in 1965. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and Charlie died of cancer in 2011. Rolling Stone ranked the Louvin Brothers No. 4 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.

As a great many brother- and/or sister-duos (think the Everly Brothers, just to name one example) seem to have in common, Charlie and Ira could not possibly have been more different in terms of character and personality and thus, as with Don and Phil Everly, the boys didn’t get along worth a damn. While both the brothers were devoutly Christian, steeped in the teachings of their Southern Baptist faith, Ira was something of a hellraiser nonetheless, with a serious bent towards boozing, brawling, and chasing those wild, wild women. Charlie, for his part, was much more conservative, quiet, and straitlaced.

Which makes Ira’s story the more interesting of the two, at least for me.

In 1963, fed up with Ira’s drinking and abusive behavior, Charlie started a solo career, and Ira also went on his own.

Ira died on June 20, 1965, at the age of 41. He and his fourth wife, Anne Young, were on the way home from a performance in Kansas City when they came to a section of construction on Highway 70 outside of Williamsburg, Missouri where traffic had been reduced down to one lane. A drunken driver struck their car head-on, and both Ira and Anne were killed instantly. At the time, a warrant for Ira’s arrest had been issued on a DUI charge.

How ironic, that a man with his own LE want for DUI should get snuffed in a head-on crash with…a drunk driver.

After the tragic split that ended the Louvin Brothers as a brother-brother singing duo for good, Charlie went on to have significant success as a solo artist. This next selection (from 1968, I believe, three years after his brother’s demise) is one I consider to be probably the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, in any musical genre.


Gorgeous, plangent vocal harmonies; a real earwig of a guitar riff; a forlorn, plaintive lyrical narrative that penetrates the heart so deeply it actually, literally hurts to hear—man, if THAT ain’t country music, I sure don’t know what might be.

As it happens, up until The Sugar™ rendered my entire life all pear-shaped for me, I had a side-project yclept the Parodi Kings with two of my perennial partners in musical crime: Tom “Mookie” Brill, and one of my oldest and dearest friends, known here in the CF comments section as simply “brack.” Also as it happens, the Parodis regularly performed both of the above Louvins classics. I suspect they might be findable on YT someplace or other, but ain’t gonna go trying to dig ’em up right now myself because reasons.

Any interested parties should try poking around on Eric Benson’s YT channel, if he has one; he’s a friend of ours who for several years there took down every one of our shows via videocam, and made some really terrific, high-quality recordings too. If you do decide to go a-hunting, be sure to watch our version of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. That one makes me giggle to this very day, I swear it does. Take my word for it, folks, you haven’t truly lived until you’ve heard that song played on the doghouse bass.

4

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