The Statler Brothers were a country/gospel vocal quartet with a great deal of crossover appeal as well as a comedic flair that became famous beginning in the mid 1960s. Formed in Staunton, Virginia in 1955, the original lineup consisted of Phil Balsley (baritone), tenor/guitarist Lew DeWitt (March 12, 1938 - August 15, 1990), Harold Reid (bass), and Joe McDorman (lead vocalist). Don Reid, the younger brother of Harold Reid, replaced McDorman as lead vocalist in 1960. DeWitt left in 1982 due to illness and was replaced the following year by Jimmy Fortune (b. March 11, 1955). First known as The Four Star Quartet and later as The Kingsmen, the group began as gospel singers performing mainly at local churches. In 1963, they renamed themselves The Statler Brothers after a brand of facial tissues to avoid a naming conflict with The Kingsmen (of "Louie Louie" fame). Their career breakthrough came in 1964 when they were discovered by Johnny Cash who hired them as backing vocalists on stage, record, and TV, and the group served as an opening act for his tours until 1972. During that time, The Statler Brothers were also regulars on ABC TV's "The Johnny Cash Show."
The Statler Brothers made their national debut in 1965 with the cheery DeWitt-penned "Flowers On The Wall," which became a Top 5 hit on both the Country and Pop/Rock charts and soon after went gold. This song won a Grammy the following year for Best Contemporary (R&R) Performance - Group (Vocal or Instrumental). The Statler Brothers topped the Country charts with "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine" (1978), "Elizabeth" (1983), "My Only Love" (1984), and "Too Much On My Heart" (1985). Their long string of hits, which continued through 1990, also included the Grammy-winning "The Class of '57" (1972) and such Pop/Rock crossover favorites as the Harold Reid-penned "Bed Of Rose's" (1971), "Do You Remember These" (1972), and "I'll Go To My Grave Loving You" (1975).
As one of country music's most successful vocal harmony groups of all time, The Statler Brothers toured and recorded actively over the years, releasing over 35 albums. From 1991-1998, they hosted their own weekly variety show on TNN. The group disbanded after completing a farewell tour on October 26, 2002, and Fortune went on to pursue a solo career. The Statler Brothers were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2007) and Country Music Hall of Fame (2008), and their numerous other awards and accolades included three Grammys and being named the top vocal group nine times by the Country Music Association. Don and Harold Reid co-wrote "Random Memories," a history of The Statler Brothers published in February 2008.
- For more info on the history of The Statler Brothers, visit thestatlerbrothers.com.
- Don Reid remembers The Statler Brothers' beginnings and discusses his new career as an author after the group's retirement in an interview with Gary James at classicbands.com.
- The New York Times remembers Statler Brothers tenor Lew DeWitt.
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The Statler Brothers
- Flowers On The Wall 1965
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