Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin, who with his brother Ira ranked with Ralph and Carter Stanley as one of the greatest duos in bluegrass history, passed away overnight. Louvin, 83, had been receiving experimental treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Nashville-based entertainment reporter Jimmy Carter said on Twitter that Louvin's wife Betty told him Charlie died around 1:30 a.m.
The Louvin Brothers influenced an entire generation of country and, later, alternative country artists, including Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and Uncle Tupelo. While Parsons was with the Byrds, the group recorded the Louvins' "The Christian Life" on 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo; Harris' first hit was a cover of "If I Could Only Win Your Love. "
Tupelo recorded "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and "Atomic Power" on the band's third LP March 16-20, 1992. Willie Nelson did "Satan" on his Grammy-nominated 2010 album Country Music.
Parsons recorded Louvin's "Cash on the Barrelhead" on his album Return of the Grievous Angel, considered one of the seminal alternative country albums, in 1973, and it was a staple of his repertoire.
Louvin, who is probably best known for his hit "See the Big Man Cry," cancelled a gig scheduled for Dec. 15, 2010, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck due to surgery and his medical treatments. He had announced a winter "Satan Is Real" tour in September of last year and was scheduled to perform at Nashville roots venue the Exit/In Feb. 4.
Louvin became prolific in his later years. His self-titled 2007 album contained duets with George Jones and Tom T. Hall, plus several younger performers he had influenced including Elvis Costello, Marty Stuart and Tupelo and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. After Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs and the live set Hickory Wind, both released in 2009, his final album was last year's The Battles Rage On.
Born Charles Ezra Loudermilk - a cousin of prolific Nashville songwriter John D. Loudermilk - in Henagar, Ala., on July 7, 1927, the Louvin brothers began singing gospel in Chattanooga, Tenn., in the early 1940s. After a stint in the military during World War II, the Louvins relocated to Knoxville and later Memphis.
They began performing secular music in 1955, first recording with legendary Nashville guitarist/producer Chet Atkins.
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Along with the Stanley Brothers and the Delmore Brothers, the Louvins helped define the close-harmony singing style in bluegrass. They became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, but their success was hampered by Ira, who has been described as a tortured soul.
Ira had serious alcohol problems and anger issues, and was known for smashing his mandolin onstage in piques of anger. Shot in the back three times by his wife after he tried to strangle her, Ira Louvin died in an automobile accident with a drunk driver in 1963.
A tribute album, Livin', Lovin', Losin': The Songs of the Louvin Brothers won a Grammy in 2004. It featured performances by Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Pam Tillis, Glen Campbell and others.