Country Music

Lonesome Onry and Mean: R.I.P. Vern Gosdin

"Don't you think you should've called

To tell me you were coming down

Oh, you look so out of place

On this troubled side of town"

- Vern Gosdin, "Do You Believe Me Now"

Lonesome Onry and Mean has been lax in his duties, not reporting that one of the greatest country singers of all time passed away April 28. The fact that Vern Gosdin was known simply as The Voice in a town filled with singers says about all there is to say about one of the few singers who could hang with George Jones come hell or high water.

Gosdin, who passed away at 74 due to complications of a stroke he'd suffered several weeks earlier, spent his entire life in music. He achieved some small success in Los Angeles, where he played in one of Chris Hillman's early bands, the Hillmen. But after a move to Atlanta and brief stint as the owner of a glass business, Emmylou Harris reconnected with Gosdin; two demo duets with her brought him to Nashville's attention and he signed with Elektra Records. "Hangin' On" and "Yesterday's Gone" were his first charting singles.

For LOM, the name Vern Gosdin will always recall his monster honky-tonk hit "Set 'Em Up, Joe" with the classic barroom line with its reference to the Ernest Tubb classic, "Set 'em up, Joe, and play 'Walkin' The Floor.'"

But Gosdin was hardly a one-hit wonder. Most of his singles were filled with ache and loneliness, and his tale of a man hitting bottom after a divorce, "Do You Believe Me Now," vaulted Gosdin into the George Jones category as a country vocalist. Other stellar barroom tunes that Gosdin stamped with his own personal brand were "Is It Raining At Your House," "If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong (Do It Right)," "I'm Still Crazy," "Way Down Deep," and 1989's Country Music Association song of the year, "Chiseled In Stone."

A consummate stylist as well as a gifted writer, Gosdin is in many ways the last of a breed we are not likely to see again. So set 'em up, Joe, and play "Walkin' the Floor."

RIP, Vern.

Gosdin on YouTube: "That Just About Does It," "A Month of Sundays"

Author's Note: It's a shame, but there isn't much vintage Gosdin video on the 'Net. Hopefully at some point someone will post a video of Gosdin performing "Set 'Em Up, Joe."

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
William Michael Smith