Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Countryobit: Charlie Louvin

Charlie Louvin, one of the country era-straddling Louvin Brothers, has died.

Although playing solid country, the guitar-and-banjo harmony-driven duo had an influence which leaked well beyond their genre, touching everyone from Elvis Costello to Uncle Tupelo.

He was born Charlie Elzer Loudermilk in 1927, a farm-boy with connections to the country music scene (his cousin John was a hit songwriter). He formed a duo with his brother, Ira, choosing the name Louvin in the belief that it was easier to say and spell than Loudermilk.

A number of singles for various labels were scattered around in the late 1940s never quite formed into a career; it wasn't until Charlie's return from service in Korea that the duo got the formula right. A contract with Capitol started a run of hits.

The rock and roll they were to influence at first was their undoing; a decline in popularity hit Ira particularly hard; he hit bottle hard; and his drinking hit the partnership. Charlie continued as a solo artist, but as he told NPR in 1996, he never quite got used to not working with his brother:

“When it comes time for the harmonies to come in, I will move to my left because my brother and I always used to use one microphone,” he said of performing solo. “Even today, I will move over to the left to give the harmony room, knowing in my mind that there’s no harmony standing on my right.”
Charlie Louvin died in Wartrace, Texas. He was 83.

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