Louvin Brothers Revealed In New Book, “Satan Is Real”

Charlie Louvin aired some of his family’s dirty laundry just before he died, writing a tell-all book.  The book has tidbits and stories that are just a hoot.  In addition, there are nuggets about classic country stars who rubbed shoulders with the Louvin Brothers, and more interestingly rubbed them wrong.

Charlie and Ira came up hard, on a tiny Depression-era cotton farm in southern Appalachia. Their mother taught them songs from the Sacred Harp hymnal, while their father worked and beat them, mercilessly, until they felt they had no choice but to sing their way off the land. “We were two determined little bastards,” Louvin recalls. “We were no good at quitting at all. Whether or not he meant to, I’d say that’s one of the greatest gifts Papa gave us.”       

That gift (a great inspiration to the Everly Brothers, the Byrds and many other harmony singers who followed in their footsteps) carried the Louvins through two difficult decades — it took them years to make it, and just as they did, Elvis Presley came along and swept the music world they’d known aside. The ups and downs were bad for Ira, who’d gotten the worst of his father’s beatings and turned into a meanspirited, self-destructive drunk. But they’re good for the book, which is full of fistfights, road stories and behind-the-scenes looks at fellow travelers: Presley, Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Little Jimmy Dickens and not a few others. In one chapter, titled “Duets,” Louvin recalls the Delmore, Monroe, Wilburn, Everly and Bolick brothers (the last performed as the Blue Sky Boys) — “duets that put out the most beautiful music you could imagine, but when they weren’t onstage, they wouldn’t speak to each other. And they wouldn’t speak to you, either, if you happened to like the other one.”  

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“Somehow,” he says, “Ira and I managed to remain some kind of friends.” If so, it was despite Ira’s own best efforts to ruin every relationship in sight. One night, drunk, he said a crude, racist thing, ensuring that Presley, who’d called the brothers “his favorite duet” and opened for Ira and Charlie on one of his first tours, would never record “The Christian Life,” “Satan Is Real,” or any other Louvin Brothers song. (“If I had to guess, I’d say that one statement by Ira cost the Louvin Brothers music catalog two or three million dollars,” Charlie says.) On other nights, Ira smashed and stomped his mandolin to pieces (he’d later glue it back together), fought with drunks in the audience or simply failed to show up, costing the brothers top-tier bookings and getting them banned from their regular, hard-earned slot on the Grand Ole Opry. “It was an ugly thing when he drank,” Charlie recalls, “and there was no fun in it.”

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In February 1963, Ira Louvin wrapped a telephone cord around his wife’s neck. She shot him six times with a .22-caliber pistol, and when the police arrived on the scene she was said to have told them, “If the blankety-blank don’t die, I’ll shoot him again.” Ira lived, and Charlie stuck by him (and, amazingly, the wife) and ignored Ira’s threats to quit the duet. But the Louvin Brothers broke up that year.       

Ira was traveling with a new wife (his fourth) and another couple on the night of his wreck. Atypically, according to Charlie, Ira — who had a D.U.I. warrant out for his arrest — seems to have been sober that night, while the driver of the car that hit him was “nine times over the legal limit for drunkenness.” Oddly, given his habit of smashing mandolins, Ira’s new mandolin — a four-stringed, electric instrument he’d designed himself — was “the only thing that wasn’t smashed to splinters.”    

Republicans Very Nervous If Rick Santorum Should Win Michigan

No one is about to let Rick Santorum be the Republican presidential nominee.

I feel that Mitt Romney wins Michigan.  While many Republicans may enjoy casting a ballot for someone they may agree with, they also are mindful they need a valid candidate who can win against President Obama in the fall.  There is no way that Santorum meets that test.  Combine that fact with more independent minded voters and come the Michigan Primary I am betting on a victory for Romney.

But let us assume the ‘hold an aspirin between your legs so not to get pregnant’ campaign pulls off a victory in Michigan.  What happens then?

Well for Democrats we just sit back and watch the rabid dogs chase their tails.

A tippy-top Republican, unprompted, yesterday sketched the germ of a plan for a new candidate if Rick Santorum upsets Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28. Our friend brought visual aids: chicken-scratched versions of prosaic documents that are circulating among GOP insiders like nuclear-code sheets: In case of mayhem, break glass!

Our friend handed us a printout of FEC deadlines for ballot access, with five of them circled and starred: California (March 23), Montana (March 12), New Jersey (April 2), New Mexico (March 16) and South Dakota (March 27). The point: Even after Feb. 28, it might be possible to assemble a Hail Mary candidacy that could garner enough delegates to force a CONTESTED convention (a different nuance than BROKERED, which implies that someone is in charge).

Under RNC rules, the delegate count builds slowly: just 15% before Super Tuesday, March 6; 19% through Super Tuesday (brings you to 34%); 17% in the rest of March (brings you to 51%); with 48% in April, May and June (21%, 12%, 15%).

Our friend said: “If somebody came on the scene that week after Super Tuesday with, ‘I’m coming in. I’m taking a look at this,’ there are enough delegates. He would suck all the oxygen out of the race. People wouldn’t even give a shit who won on these other dates in March that are after Super Tuesday. I mean, seriously, who would care? It would all be about a new savior.”

AT THAT VERY MOMENT, ABC’S JONATHAN KARL was at the Capitol, having a conversation that resulted in this Richter-rattler: “A prominent Republican senator just told me that if Romney can’t win in Michigan, the Republican Party needs to go back to the drawing board and convince somebody new to get into the race. ‘If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate,’ said the senator, who has not endorsed anyone …

“The senator believes Romney will ultimately win in Michigan but says he will publicly call for the party to find a new candidate if he does not. ‘We’d get killed,’ the senator said if Romney manages to win the nomination after he failed to win the state in which he grew up. ‘He’d be too damaged’ … Santorum? ‘He’d lose 35 states,’ the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich. It would have to be somebody else, the senator said. Who? ‘Jeb Bush.'”

Even West Virginia Is Talking About Legal Rights For Gay Couples

Up front let me state again that nothing is acceptable for gay men and women other than marriage rights in both name and full legal definition.

Having said that however I do want to note that even West Virginia has proposed legislation that works to level the unequal divide between those who can be married, and those who are unfairly denied that right.

A West Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would give gay and lesbian couples the same legal protections as heterosexual married couples.

Delegate John Doyle says he introduced the bill Thursday to start a conversation about family equality. The Jefferson County Democrat says that gay and lesbian couples should have the same safety net to deal with the death of a parent or the loss of a job as married couples.

Fairness WV, which advocates on behalf of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, says this is the first time a civil union bill has been introduced in the West Virginia Legislature.

Does Kim Jong Un Have Any Choice About North Korea’s Future?

There is intense curiosity about the political landscape inside North Korea.  Will the new leader, Kim Jong Un, have any real ability to move his country in a direction that allows for economic growth?  Does he have the mental depth to attempt an exploration of options?  Even if Kim Jong does have the personal capability will the powers that surround him even let new economic experiments be discussed?

What about better relations with the international community?  Will every positive step forward have to be bought with a shipload of wheat to the starving nation?

Time magazine has an insightful cover story about the 29-year-old leader of the most closed off country in the world.

Today everyone in a position of power in North Korea is at least twice Kim Jong Un’s age and vastly more experienced. But they will nonetheless snap off salutes to him. Any deviation has meant at minimum a sentence in North Korea’s notorious gulag and at worst death. Consider one especially brutal case: in the mid-1990s, just as the famine that would eventually kill millions of North Koreans was taking hold, reports of grumbling and dissent in a prominent Korean People’s Army’s division reached Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il, according to an intelligence source, had the unit’s officer corps–several dozen men–arrested and then made the enlisted men watch what happened next. The arrested officers were forced to lie in the middle of a road, their hands and legs tied. Several tanks rumbled forward and ran back and forth over the officers, crushing them to death. This combination of ruthlessness, ideology and isolation leads many observers of North Korea to believe that “there is no question Kim Jong Un will be making the decisions now,” says a former intelligence analyst in East Asia.

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Two issues are critical for North Korea. Will it liberalize its economy, as its chief patron China did more than 30 years ago, and finally allow its citizens to get at least a whiff of the prosperity that surrounds them in East Asia? And will it give up its pariah status as a rogue nuclear state–a choice the other six-party governments practically begged Kim Jong Il to make, to no avail, in return for economic and diplomatic blandishments to help reinvent the country? The time that young Kim Jong Un spent in Switzerland, dressing in Dennis Rodman jerseys, playing video games and befriending Westerners, prompts some to think the young man must know these decisions are no-brainers. He experienced the outside world and then witnessed the abject, criminal poverty of his own country. After all, didn’t Deng Xiaoping, the mastermind of China’s opening, spend time in France with Zhou Enlai when he was young?

Could Kim Jong Un cajole or even threaten the old guard into going along with policies that might benefit the benighted citizens of North Korea? A man who knew his father and who has dealt with the leadership in Pyongyang–and who shook Kim Jong Un’s hand at Kim Jong Il’s funeral–waves the question away. To ask it, he suggests, is to misunderstand the regime. The system needs the dynasty to persist because without it, the entire edifice of power in North Korea could collapse. In that sense, Kim Jong Un is a necessary front man. But the notion that he will pull all the policy strings, stay abreast of palace intrigues and tell senior cadres and military officers what to do is “a fantasy,” says the insider. “He’s just a boy. He is soft.”

Saturday Song: The Mavericks “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”

Roy Acuff Home For Sale In Nashville

So I asked James how he would feel about having a home in the south where the temperatures are always warmer, and we could attend the Grand Ole Opry on a regular basis.

I am sure he will have an answer following his running out the door and screaming down the street.

Seriously, this house would be a hoot to own, and there must be a thousand stories associated with it that I would love to know.

Roy Acuff is a national treasure, and one of the critical foundations of not only the Grand Ole Opry, but also of Nashville.  Whom ever owns this home is one very fortunate person,

Long live the memories of Roy Acuff.

Not many people can play the fiddle like Roy Acuff, but a fortunate country music fan — or even an ordinary homeowner — will have the opportunity to own the nine-room log cabin where the Grand Ole Opry star lived in Nashville’s Inglewood neighborhood.

The house, at 3614 Brush Hill Road, played an active part in Acuff’s career, says its current owner, Jack Hardin, who bought the property out of foreclosure. Acuff lived there from 1945 to 1950, a period when he was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor and broadcast a radio show, Supper With Roy Acuff, from the downstairs game room.

Hardin, who has placed the restored home on the market with a list price of $499,900, hopes the property’s connection to Nashville’s music industry will continue.

Acuff apparently was a good neighbor. In the years after World War II, he had one of the few telephones on the street and was happy to share. He used a horn, the same one he used while fox hunting, to call his neighbor to the phone, author Elizabeth Schlappi said in her 1978 book, Roy Acuff, The Smoky Mountain Boy.

Even after he moved away, Acuff visited his old neighborhood, says Ellen Blanton, who has lived next door since 1956. A secretary at WSM, the radio station that broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry, she knew Acuff well.

“Roy came back (to the house) occasionally. He had a tennis court out front,” Blanton says.

After he moved, Acuff let another Opry performer live in the house but soon kicked him out, she says.

“He shot holes in the pantry door, shooting at his wife,” says Blanton, who declined to name the performer.

After that, Acuff sold the house to T. Tommy Cutrer, who emceed the Opry in the 1950s and ’60s and was a radio personality on WSM. Like Acuff, Cutrer later went into politics, serving for several years in the Tennessee Legislature.