The New York Times Book Review carries a good review of the late Charlie Louvin’s memoir (written with Benjamin Whitmer), Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers. As the review notes, Charlie Louvin died last year just after the manuscript of his memoir was completed. (The book borrows the title of the Louvin Brothers gospel album with the memorable fire and brimstone cover.)
Who the heck is Charlie Louvin? He made up one-half of one of the great brothers acts in country music until Charlie’s brother Ira died in an automobile accident in 1965. In the video below you can hear Charlie Louvin singing the old Louvin Brothers’ song “Love and Wealth” on The Nashville Network in 1987. Backing Louvin on the harmony vocals are Emmylou Harris and Vern Gosdin. They bring out the world of hurt in the song.
The Byrds recorded a Louvin Brothers’ song on their pioneering Sweetheart of the Rodeo album in 1968. For many of us, it was the first time we’d ever heard of the Louvin Brothers. Sad but true.
The Byrds’ connection is all over the video. Former Byrds Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons discovered Miss Emmylou. Parsons immediately understood that she was a brilliant harmony singer, as one can hear in the video.
Before the Byrds were formed and Hillman was recruited to join them, he began his career as a member of a group that featured Vern and Rex Gosdin. In Hillman’s honor it was renamed the Hillmen. Like the Byrds, it was a group with talent to burn. Ex-Byrd Gene Clark later recorded his first solo album with the Gosdin Brothers when he left the Byrds.
In the video you can hear America singing.
How about one more? Let’s watch the Louvin Brothers at work. In the video below the Louvin Brothers perform “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” on the Grand Ole Opry television show in 1956. It’s an incredibly beautiful song: a nightmare with a happy ending. And when you’ve heard the Louvin Brothers out, check out what Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas make of the song.