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Louvin returns to the silver platter

By Jon Johnson, December 1996

Page 2...

"But I'm not a gifted songwriter," says Mr. Louvin, with more than a little modesty. "If I dream it, all I have to do is write it down on paper. But I'm not a Roger Miller, or a Bill Anderson, or even an Ira Louvin. Ira could write about anything if you could give him an idea. I feel that I contributed in that if I heard somebody say [something] on the street, if it sounded like a song title, I'd write it down and take it to him. From the songs 'I See a Bridge' to 'Cash On the Barrelhead,' that's the way the songs happened."

"I'm looking forward to playing some dates," says Louvin, regarding plans to tour in 1997. "I just don't know if I'm ready to go back into the dance halls and beer joints. I have problems with people who drink too much and get loud. I worked with that kind of relationship for 23 years. I don't have to put up with what I was in the middle of for so many years," says Louvin.

Indeed, Ira Louvin doesn't come up much during the 90-minute conversation. But it's clear that, even 31 years after his death, he still casts a long shadow; as gifted and creative as he was troubled, such as his drinking problems.

"He was one of the greatest talents that I was ever associated with. He was a great entertainer. When he was straight, there was no way to beat him. And when he wasn't straight it would be very hard to find anybody worse."

Asked how he feels things might have gone if Ira had lived, Louvin is silent for a moment, and eventually responds, "Well, I'm sure that my lifestyle would be different than it is today. We could have been the duo of the century instead of just the fifties.Yeah, I have wondered about that."

If one thing appears to trouble Charlie Louvin about much of the re-emergence of interest in the Louvin Brothers' legacy, it's that he's been consulted so infrequently about any of it.

Though he cooperated extensively with Charles Wolfe and Germany's Bear Family label for their 1992 eight-disc boxed set, "Close Harmony," he's unhappy with the low royalties he receives under German copyright laws which, after deductions, amounts to about 50 cents from the sale of each $200 boxed set.

He's also unhappy that the boxed set's liner notes have been expanded, updated and published as the new book, "In Close Harmony: The Story of the Louvin Brothers" without his input.

He also expresses some regret that he wasn't consulted for Capitol's recent trio of re-issues, as well as for the Razor & Tie collection.

Louvin is interested in working with Razor & Tie on a future collection, however, which would be a 24-song collection of his post-Louvin Brothers solo recordings. Though such a collection is still only in the discussion stage, Louvin believes that such a collection would reach the Louvins' audience.

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Mr. Louvin responds, "Well, that's a loaded question. I'd like to be remembered as a dependable, believable person who was loyal to his music and to his friends. I truly believe in family values."

"You know, I worked a bluegrass festival in West Virginia a couple of ears back. I got there three or four hours early and I just got out in the audience and sat. And in about three hours-and-a-half I heard more than a dozen Louvin Brothers songs from the stage. That made me feel proud."

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