The Statler Brothers

  • Country music and gospel vocal group formed in 1955 from Staunton Virginia. Phil Balsley sang baritone and Harold Reid sang bass for the entire 47 year run for the group.  Joe McDorman was the lead singer when the band was formed – he was replaced by Harold Reid’s brother Don Reid in 1960, who remained the lead singer until the band stopped recording and performing in 2002. Lew Dewitt was the original tenor – he was replaced by Jimmy Fortune in 1982, who remained with the group until the end. Most of their songs were written by Dewitt, Fortune or the Reid brothers.
  • Harold Reid, McDorman, Balsley and Dewitt were a quartet of vocalists who sang gospel tunes at local churches in Virginia in the 50s. McDorman left the group in 1960, and Harold’s brother Don joined to become the lead vocalist. The group continued to perform, first using the name The Four Star Quartet, and later, The Kingsmen. In 1963, Johnny Cash was performing a local concert. Prior to the show, the group met with the promoters of the concert, and they were invited to open the show for Cash. Cash was so impressed with The Kingsmen that he hired them to be his backup singers on tour. But before they joined Cash, the song Louie Louie was released by another band named The Kingsmen, so the quartet decided to change their name. They chose the name The Statler Brothers, after seeing a box of facial tissues in a hotel room that was made by the Statler Tissue Co.
  • The quartet remained with Cash from 1964 until 1971, taking their gospel harmonies to the world of country music. In 1964 they signed a recording deal, and the following year they released the single Flowers On the Wall. It was a huge hit, reaching #2 on the Country chart and #4 on the Hot 100 chart. When they released their debut album in 1966, they titled it Flowers On the Wall – it was their first of 38 studio albums. They won 2 Grammy awards in 1966, for Best New Country & Western Artist and Best Contemporary Performance for Flowers On the Wall.
  • While the group would not have another Hot 100 hit, they continued to be popular on the Country chart. Between 1969 and 1982, they had 19 singles reach the top 10 of the chart, with Do You Know You Are My Sunshine topping the chart in 1978.
  • The group was famous for their Independence Day Festival, held in their hometown of Staunton. They began the event in 1970, and it ran annually for 25 years.
  • In 1982, DeWitt was forced to leave the group due to Crohn’s disease – he recommended Fortune to be his replacement. This began the Statler’s most successful period – from 1983 to 1989, they had 13 singles in the top 10, with 10 in a row from 1983 to 1986. Three singles topped the chart – Elizabeth, My Only Love and Too Much On My Heart. 
  • In the 90s, their new music was less popular, but the group continued to be a big draw in concert. They were given their own television show in 1991 – The Statler Brothers Show ran on The Nashville Network for 7 years, and it was the top rated show on the network for its entire run.
  • After over 45 years of performing, the group decided to split up in 2002 – their final concert was at the Salem Civic Center close to Staunton in October that year. DeWitt died in 1990 and Harold Reid died in 2020. Don Reid and Balsley still live in Staunton, while Fortune moved to Nashville where he continued to record and perform.
  • The Statler Brothers were legendary with their harmonies. It earned them 3 Grammy awards and spots in the Country Music and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. I’d see them on TV back in the 70s and 80s and I was in awe of how great they sang – particularly Harold Reid’s bass vocal. Give a listen here to their Grammy winning song Flowers On the Wall.

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