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 The Louvin Brothers’ last ride

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Nombre de messages : 41735
Date de naissance : 05/12/1964
Age : 59
Localisation : Aux portes des Monts d'Arées
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Date d'inscription : 10/03/2006

The Louvin Brothers’ last ride Empty
MessageSujet: The Louvin Brothers’ last ride   The Louvin Brothers’ last ride EmptySam 17 Aoû 2013, 09:16

The Louvin Brothers’ last ride

The Louvin Brothers’ last ride The-Louvin-Brothers

Posted on August 16, 2013 by Peter Cooper

Yes, George Riddle recalls the trip.

It was 50 years ago: August 18, 1963. It was 800 miles of tension, cigarettes, two-lane roads and arguments. It was the trip that ended classic country duo the Louvin Brothers, and that likely sealed the tragic fate of Ira Louvin, one of the greatest tenor singers — heck, singers, period — in country music history. And Riddle was along for the ride.

“Watseka, Illinois,” says Riddle, who back then was a 27-year-old entertainer, booked to play a couple of shows with the Louvin Brothers, Ira and Charlie. “The night before, Charlie and Ira and I played an air base in Kansas City, on a Saturday. That Sunday, we went to Watseka. We were a little late getting started: We had to pick Ira up, and he’d been drinking. They argued all the way out, in Charlie’s station wagon.”

It was roughly 450 miles from Kansas City to Watseka, a town in Iroquois County, 90 miles south of Chicago. Ira Louvin’s drinking was nothing new, and neither was Charlie Louvin’s belligerent reaction to it: The drinking made Ira Louvin erratic and temperamental, and his uneven personality was harming the Louvins’ reputation. A group, which had scored major hits in the 1950s including “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” “You’re Running Wild,” “Cash On The Barrelhead” and “My Baby’s Gone,” had generated no Top 10 hits over the past four years.

“Charlie had a good heart, and so did Ira,” says Nashville guitar great Jimmy Capps, who performed with the Louvins from 1958 until 1962, when he was drafted into the Army. “The demon — the bottle — is what split ’em up. Straight, you couldn’t ask for a better guy than Ira. But he was kind of Jekyll and Hyde when he drank. Being brothers, I thought they would never break up. But with the demon, it was worse than a bad marriage.”

The brothers cussed each other up and down on the way to Watseka, then played a show headlined by Ray Price. In Charlie Louvin’s 2012 memoir, “Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers,” he writes that Price and Ira Louvin found a bottle to share before the show, exacerbating Charlie Louvin’s agitation. The brothers played one show at 4 p.m. and another at 10.

The concerts themselves were fairly uneventful. Riddle sang some songs backed by the Louvins, then joined the brothers for their set. Riddle doesn’t remember what he was paid for the show, but the Louvins were paid $250, from which they had to pay a $25 commission to booking agent Bob Neal. After performing, The Louvins packed Charlie’s station wagon, pointed it south, and commenced another 370 miles of arguing, with Riddle as an uncomfortable witness and occasional driver.

On the way back, Ira Louvin said he was quitting the duo, something he’d said hundreds of times before.

“You’re right,” Charlie Louvin said, and his brother replied, “I know I’m right.”

In “Satan Is Real,” Charlie Louvin wrote that his next words were, “No, what I mean is that this is the last show we’ll ever do together.” When his brother confirmed, “That’s what I said,” Charlie Louvin replied, “Right, but now I’m saying it, and I’ve never said it before. I want you to know that I’m not (kidding) you. We’re gonna go home and that’s it.”

And they did, and it was. Thus ended the professional life of the Louvin Brothers. Riddle came to treasure the memory of that ride, as it was something of a historical occasion.

“I realized I was in the presence of country music greatness,” says Riddle, who performed on the “Grand Ole Opry” for many years and who is now a radio host in Marion, Ind.

Capps says years of enduring the brothers’ quibbling doesn’t diminish his respect for the Louvin legacy.

“They were the best duet I ever heard,” he says. “And to this day they are the most copied duet. It was a dream of mine to work with them. We’d go out on tour and 95 percent of it was on dangerous two-lane roads. That’s taking a chance on your life, just out of true love of the music.”

The Louvin Brothers’ final chart record was released in late 1962. It was “Must You Throw Dirt On My Face,” penned by Bill Anderson, who was riding high that long-ago summer of ’63 with his first No. 1 solo hit, a decidedly non-traditional, uptown ballad called “Still.” That song and Skeeter Davis’ elegant “The End Of The World” crossed into the Top 10 of the pop charts, something the Louvins’ antique harmonies could never do.

“‘Still’ and ‘The End Of The World’ were very progressive for the time, and very successful,” says WSM’s Eddie Stubbs, who helped compile a Louvin Brothers’ discography for Bear Family Records. “That was a tumultuous year, 1963, with the deaths of Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Patsy Cline, Randy Hughes and Texas Ruby. In a few months, John F. Kennedy would be dead.”

Following the Watseka to Nashville leg, Charlie Louvin began recording as a solo artist. His first hit was 1964’s “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” another Anderson composition. He performed as a member of the “Opry” until his death, from cancer, in 2011, 10 years after the Louvins were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ira Louvin never scored a Top 40 solo hit.

Without Charlie Louvin to hector him, his difficulties with alcohol became more pronounced. Confusion and disorder ruled his domestic life and music career, and in June 1965, police had a warrant out for his arrest on a drunk driving charge.

The warrant was never served. On June 20, 1965, Ira Louvin, fourth wife Anne, band member Billy Barksdale and his wife, Adelle Barksdale, died in 1965 in a head-on collision following a show near Kansas City. They were speeding back east on a two-lane highway. A drunk driver and his passenger were headed west. All were killed instantly in the crash.

The Louvins’ music lives on. It provides a template for musicians wanting to learn country harmony styles, and it has been a key influence on the music of Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and thousands more.

“I was playing guitar the other night on the ‘Opry,’ and a young artist, maybe 21-years-old, told me, ‘I just found out about the Louvin Brothers. I’m trying to collect everything I can.’ They’re the most influential duet, to this day,” Capps says. “When I say they were the best, I don’t think that would hurt anybody’s feelings. Anyone who hears them and tells the truth, that’s what they’ll say.”

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