Saturday Song: Charlie Louvin Gospel “In The Sweet Bye And Bye” “I Feel Like Traveling On” “Grave On The Green Hillside” “Where The Roses Never Fade”

This past Monday night James and I had dinner with two retired couples.  One of the couples is planning a trip to Nashville and asked if they should stop at the Grand Ole Opry.

“Should you stop?” I asked with every consonant gaining steam and tempo.

One of the reasons I told them to attend the Opry on this trip is that the older singers that are the touchstones to the formative days of the oldest radio show are slowly passing away.

A few days after that dinner conversation one of the Opry legends, Charlie Louvin, died from pancreatic cancer.

Much has been written and said about Charlie Louvin and his music, the magic that he and his brother Ira made when they wowed audiences with perfect harmony, and the impact Louvin had on contemporary singers of all genres.

However, one of the missing parts of the Louvin story in much of the news coverage this week was the gospel music he recorded. Some of the best recording sessions late in life that Louvin put on tape were the ones when he added a bluegrass touch to songs such as “Where The Roses Never Fade” and in “The Sweet Bye And Bye.”

Since You Tube did not have what I wanted for today’s Saturday Song I made some of my own.  (Four gospel videos, to be precise.) Readers will note that while the music is different for each video here today the images are the same.   That it takes time to produce these videos should be enough reason as to justify why they look the same.  That each song is of a different length but the same number of photos were used meant I needed to adjust duration of spacing between photos.   While it took time, I wanted to honor Charlie Louvin, a singer I really respect.

In the big world of You Tube the sameness of the photos in the videos will be less apparent than for the readers to this blog post.

With that I trust my readers will understand, and just turn up the computer speakers.

Charles Elzer Loudermilk was born in Henagar, Alabama, on July 7 1927. He grew up in poverty and worked with Ira – three years his senior – as a field hand in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama. Avid churchgoers, the boys tried to copy the “shape note” gospel harmony singing they heard in their local Baptist church and were still in their teens when, with Ira learning mandolin and Charlie the guitar, they won a local talent show and started performing together at a small radio station in Chattanooga.

Nothing was ever the same.

The family of Charlie Louvin has opened the country music pioneer’s funeral to the public.

There will be visitation from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home in Nashville. The funeral will immediately follow Sunday’s visitation.

Letter From Home 1/26/11

As the day started to slow down I put an album on the stereo.  I lounged on the sofa and listened.  It was more a tribute to a singer than the need to relax and kick back in the early evening. 

The warmth of the LP that oozed from the speakers was more pronounced than just because it was vinyl.  Compact discs never can compare to the musical experience of an album.  But there was more to the music that floated around the room than just another album on the turntable.

Decades ago I placed this album on a record player of my youth and watched it spin countless times.  Tonight the words of the songs flooded back, and certain notes struck deep and hard.

That is what music should do.  Transport the listener somewhere else, outside of themself.

The album “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes” by Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery was played because Louvin died early this morning.  He was one of the old standard bearers of a time when singers were really interested in their fans and made it to the top of the charts based on ability as opposed to slick promotional managing.  I deeply respect that.

The album was one that my mom had in her collection, having bought it about 35 years ago.   A couple of years ago I gathered up all her albums and records and brought them home.  They were after all more a connection between mom and myself than anyone else in the family.

The old record player is one I can see in my mind.  It was one of those where the speakers folded onto the top of the player and it all could be carried like a small suitcase.  The player was never just left out but alway cared for.  Mom folded the wires for the speakers in place and tucked it behind the sofa after each use.

This evening as “Don’t Believe Me” played I thought what mom might say to hear it played in surround sound.  The deep sounds, piano chords and guitar licks make the song a country classic.  She would have loved it. 

As the songs spun the LP needed to be flipped and I thought about the memories music allows for. 

One singer out of Alabama with a desire to do more than pick cotton his whole life.  A woman in Hancock, Wisconsin who liked music and picked up the singer’s album at Tempo or Woolworth’s on a Saturday shopping trip.  A record player that was kept in pristine condition as it brought so much entertainment to the home.  A kid who fell in love with the genre of music that speaks to the central components of life.

They say that singers never die as the music lives on forever.

That is certainly true.  In the case of Charlie Louvin and this album the music was very much alive tonight.

Thank you Charlie.

Memories From Wisconsin Dells Of Charlie Louvin, Grand Ole Opry Star And Country Legend, Dead At 83

It is with sadness that I write about the death of Charlie Elzer Loudermilk.

The world knew him as Charlie Louvin.  It was decided early on that Louvin was a better show business name.

When I read  today about Charlie Louvin’s death I wondered where to begin to write a post about this news.  It took me about three seconds to consider how to start this blog entry.

Some memories never fade.

The night Charlie Louvin and I chatted behind a Wisconsin Dells music theatre stands out as if it happened yesterday.  That it took place in 2006 makes the point about the kind of man Louvin was.   

Charlie Louvin took time to talk with me.  He did not need to.  The fact he did take the time made an impression that lingers.

Using my pen that I had brought along for him to sign my guitar and put “06”, he continued using it to provide autographs for others as they ambled along.  As Louvin did so he continued our line of discussion.  I had asked him about the formative days when he and his brother, Ira, traveled the country.

He was 79-years-old at the time and had just released a new CD featuring one song with Elvis Costello. Charlie also did a number of shows with Elvis Presley in the 1950′s.  While standing and chatting he smoked a few cigarettes and seemed to me to be caught up in recollections.  The longer he spoke the more nostalgic he seemed to become.  I do not think he ever got over the death of his brother.

The famed brothers are noted for the harmony and style which featured Charlie on guitar and lead vocals with his brother on mandolin and high tenor harmonies.  Pure magic.

Charlie Louvin told me how many a week would end for the famous brothers as they made a mad dash from far-flung places to get back to “The Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium and their set for the Opry stage.  To be a member of the Opry one had to perform 26 times a year, and was paid $15.00, a far cry from what could be made on the road.  Charlie estimated that an act lost on average over $50,000 per year, but he was proud to be a part of the Opry and never complained. 

Charlie Louvin was one of those stars with true talent at showmanship, which is far different from just being a solid singer or musician with a great manager.  He and his brother were two of the voices that started during the formative days of the Opry, creating music that still resonates. 

Almost to the end of his life Charlie Louvin was standing tall and proud  on that round circle at center stage at the Opry.

Early this morning Charlie Louvin passed away.  Betty his wife of  61 years, along with their children were at his side.

At the Grand Ole Opry, and in the hearts of classic country music fans world-wide there is sadness at this news today.  But somewhere  above one thing is clear.  Two brothers are again together to make remarkable music.