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It started March of '64, many years ago. We were hired by Johnny Cash to open up his show. Four boys, a worn-out Cadillac with a road-map on the dash. For the next eight and one-half years, we got paid by Cash.

- "We Got Paid By Cash," Harold Reid/Don Reid

"In the 37 years since the beginnings chronicled in the 1980 song "We Got Paid By Cash," the Statler Brothers have become an American institution. They have scored hits in four different decades, sold more than 15 million records, and performed live for millions of fans, including four

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Statler Brothers

presidents. Loved and respected by fans and peers alike, they have become the most awarded act in country music history-with 3 Grammys, 9 CMA Awards, 48 Music City News Awards, 32 song-writing awards, and 20 gold, platinum, double-platinum, and triple-platinum albums among their more than 500 honors.

The '90s saw them host TNN's highest-rated show for seven straight seasons, claim #2 spot (behind Frank Sinatra) in a national Harris Poll to name America's favorite singers, and draw a host of new fans to their sold-out concerts.

Now with the dawning of the 21st century comes "Showtime," a new album that sees the group bring fresh luster to the classic Statler sound. Harold and Don Reid, Phil Balsley, and Jimmy Fortune bring their timeless harmonies to 12 new songs, many of them penned by the group members themselves or by their talented offspring.

The project's first single is "It Should Have Been Me," a Don Reid penned look at loss and regret that touches an emotional chord often seen in Statlers music over the years.

"Memories and nostalgia are themes we turn to quite often," says Reid, the Statlers' lead singer. "We mention proms and parties and holding hands, the kinds of reminiscence that we often visit in song. It maybe comes across with a little more heartache this time, but it's very much the Statler Brothers."

The album also includes "I've Had A Good Time," a Don Reid-penned look back on a great life; "I'm In Love With You," a straight-ahead love song penned by Don and his son Debo Reid; "Too Long Ago," a bittersweet reunion song penned by Don and bass singer/brother Harold Reid; "She Never Altogether Leaves," a Kim Reid Weller (Harold's daughter) song with a classic Statler sound; and "The Other Side OF The Cross," and "Jesus On My Side" longtime concert favorites written by Don. The very contemporary "It's Too Late For Roses," "You Just Haven't Done It Yet," and "All I'll Need From You" was written by Langdon Reid and Wil Reid, respective sons of Don and Harold. "Look At Me" is a Jimmy Fortune song and "Darlin' I Do" was written for the Statlers by Gordon Kennedy and Steve Wariner.

"Showtime," on the Statlers' own Music Box label, finds the voices rich, the emotion strong and the magic intact--features that, coupled with their renowned humor and exciting stage presence, keep the Statlers in high demand on the road. The four dynamic yet unassuming men from Staunton, Virginia, continue to do about 80 shows a year, updating the show continuously to keep it fresh, and presenting a family-friendly mix of great music, nostalgia, and humor that plays as well in a Midwestern theater as it does in a Las Vegas showroom.

The Statlers got their start in Staunton, where they live to this day. Harold and Don Reid, baritone Phil Balsley, and tenor Lew DeWitt were known in the early '60s as the Kingsmen before choosing a new name from a box of tissues in a hotel room. They applied tight Gospel harmonies to country lyrics and found a sound that resonated with a wide audience. A mutual friend introduced them to Johnny Cash in 1964, and they opened his shows and accompanied him live and on record for the better part of a decade.

Their own first hit came on Columbia Records in 1965 with "Flowers On The Wall," a country standard which was taken again to the upper reaches of the charts in 2000 by rising star Eric Heatherly. After two more Top Ten hits in the '60s, the group found its chart activity slowing down. In 1969, they decided not to renew their contract with Columbia, talking instead with Mercury Records' Jerry Kennedy about joining his label. Kennedy was excited, but said he didn't have the time to find material--the boys would need to find their own.

It was the best possible situation. The Statlers' own song-writing skills had been underutilized, and now they could bring them to full fruition. The result was a string of hits that would make them one of country's most successful acts ever. "Bed Of Roses," "Do You Remember These," "Class of '57," "I'll Go To My Grave Loving You," "Do You Know YOu Are My Sunshine," and "Who Am I to Say" all hit #1 in the '70s. Lew DeWitt's health caused him to leave the group in 1982, but the quartet, with new tenor Jimmy Fortune, scored #1s in the '80s with Fortune-penned songs "Elizabeth," "My Only Love" and "Too Much On My Heart," and chart hits with Statlerized reworks of chestnuts like "Hello Mary Lou" and "O Baby MIne."

Along the way came the awards--hundreds of individual honors that signaled the continuing respect and affection granted the foursome by the industry and their fans. Their performances before presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush, and as part of Billy Graham's crusades, also symbolize the stature these four men have attained through the years.

The group's relationship to its fans can also be seen in its "Happy Birthday USA" event, a free Fourth of July concert/celebration the Statlers founded in 1970 and participated in for 25 years. From an initial crowd of 3500, the event grew to where nearly 100,000 attended. Musical guests included Reba McEntire, Mel Tillis, Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, and many others, and concessions raised a great deal of money for local charities.

The Statlers took their many talents to television, first with specials, then with a long-running TNN series that brought back the variety show format and consistently drew the network's biggest audience throughout its run in the '90s.


Another of the Statler's many accomplishments was opening the door for every group to follow them. At the time they formed, quartets were primarily backup singers, and self-contained units like Alabama were 15 years down the road. The Statlers broke new ground and helped prove the viability of musical approaches now taken for granted.

Just as importantly, they kept a hands-on approach to their career. Besides writing much of their own musical material, they also produced and wrote their TNN series. They established a headquarters in Staunton that is a model both of business efficiency and pure Statler-style nostalgia--it's in their old grade school.

That combination of talent, likability, and business savvy has given the Statlers a career that is among the most storied and successful in the annals of popular music. The fact that they continue to take the legend forward with a constantly updated tour and now with their new "Showtime" album comes as good news to music lovers everywhere.

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