Harold, Phil, Lew, Jimmy and Don
This weeks column is dedicated to some of my best friends from Staunton, Virginia The Statlers. Since meeting them in Amarillo in the early 70's, they have become very close to my heart. I personally spent 18 summers in Staunton during the Happy Birthday U.S.A. celebration. It became like a family reunion to me as we made lots of good friends there.
There were many nights spent under the stars sitting in lawn chairs in line to get the best seats available for the free event held in Gypsy Hill Park. There is a granite monument in the park to the Brothers for their efforts of 25 consecutive years of giving back to the city that they loved. Just recently in the Wharf parking area in downtown Staunton, a newer memorial was dedicated to them for giving and never asking from a city that still LOVES Them.
I have assembled a few items about the Statlers from various web sites and want to share them with you. Please enjoy
Harold Reid, the brother with the deep voice, was born August 21, 1939 in Augusta County, Virginia, and he met Lew DeWitt in the fourth grade in Staunton, Virginia. He and Lew, who sang tenor, joined Phil Balsley in a quartet organized by Joe McDorman, who later dropped out of the act. They called themselves the Four Star Quartet and made their first public appearance in 1955 at the Methodist Church in Lyndhurst, eight miles out of Staunton. Joe McDorman arranged the date, nobody was paid, and forty people came and applauded.
In March of 1965, the group cut a twisted little song written by Lew DeWitt called "Flowers On The Wall" on Columbia Records. This song found the land where pop, folk and country met. It became a top five record on both the pop and country charts toward the end of 1965. After walking the line between pop and country, they committed themselves to country. They had to be different, and wanted to steer clear of the cheatin' and drinkin' songs. So they began writing songs about their roots, their past and their home.
In November 1981, Lew DeWitt was unable to carry on with the group. Since he was a teenager, he had suffered from an intestinal inflammation called Crohn's Disease. His replacement, first temporary, then permanent, was Jimmy Fortune. Lew had returned for one show in June 1982, but couldn't face an upcoming tour and bowed out. He recuperated a little and tried for a solo career in 1985. Health problems resurfaced, and forced Lew to retire completely. Lew DeWitt died on August 15, 1990 of heart and kidney failure. The Brothers were on tour when Lew fell seriously ill, but they came to see him just two weeks before he died.
THE STATLERS have been known for many years as a group that listeners can rely on for good, classic, down-home country music. Their patented harmonies, good humor and keen lyrical sense have highlighted countless hit songs over the years, including "Bed of Rose's," "Pictures," "Do You Remember These," "Class of 57," "Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott," and seemingly countless others.
Harold Reid, the clown of the group, even in the company of friends , never stops. But the clowning hides a sharp mind and organizational skill on a grand scale. Harold was not only responsible for much of the Statler Brothers' onstage humor, but supervised all their album covers, as well as coordinating their bookings. When he's not on the road, Harold relaxes on his farm, making music with his wife, Brenda, and family. Harold and brother Don were writers for the Statler Brothers shows, as well.
Don Reid was one of The Statlers' prime songwriters and spokesman; he was called the "Mystery Man" for those quiet moments of contemplation that may end up as a song like "Class of '57" or "Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?" Don lives in Staunton with his wife Deborah and family. He is an omnivorous reader, consuming books and expanding his knowledge with current events and exploring via his computer. His quiet professional demeanor is like that of any leader.
Phil Balsley is called "The Quiet One" because he constantly kept track of the Statlers' business and administrative affairs. After all, before the Statlers went professional, Phil kept the books at his father's sheet metal factory, and his knack for numbers and details has made him an expert in routing town-to-town mileage over the Statler years on the road. He also devours several newspapers a day. At home, Phil likes to relax with his wife, Wilma, and family.
Jimmy Fortune was raised on Gospel in a family used to harmonizing uplifting melodies at home; he proved in the past 17 years his ability to share the Statler background by playing in bands for years before enjoying a big break. He has contributed to the continued success of the Statlers by writing such songs as "Elizabeth" and "My Only Love." Jimmy now lives in Tennessee with his wife, Nina, and family. He enjoys most outdoor activities such as tennis, skiing, horseback riding and, yes, even basketball
Some Large, and Small, Facts about The Statlers
Statler Brothers Début. March 9, 1964.
Brothers? Harold and Don are the only biological brothers.
Time Together. They have spent over 200,000 hours together in the process collecting over 4,500 movies and, of course, remaining the very best of friends.
Interviews. The Statlers have given over 35,000 interviews.
Name Explained. They have explained the origin of the name "Statler Brothers" over 100,000 times. (It was taken from a box of tissues in a hotel room.)
The most consecutive sold out shows at Jamboree U.S.A.
Their annual "Happy Birthday, U.S.A." concert, which they hosted in their hometown of Staunton on July 4th for 25 years, drew crowds of up to 100,000 people to Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park for the three-day charity event.
It is estimated that their TV show was viewed by an average 7,664,000 households per week.
Ratings and Rankings:
Their syndicated TV special, AN EVENING WITH THE STATLER BROTHERS, was the 1982 Country Music Syndicated Special of the Year Highest rated by AC Nielsen.
Their own Statler Brothers Show premiered and received the highest ratings on TNN as well as the entire cable network.
They were #1 on TNN for seven seasons.
How can you get any better than that
I wish Harold, Don and Phil many years of happy retirement. They paid their dues many times over during their many years together making us happy. To Jimmy, I hope that your career in music continues to many more awards. To Lew DeWitt, the Statler that I enjoyed the most Rest in Peace, my friend.Percival A. Friend, Retired
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