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Published: 4/26/2002

Statler Brothers: We'll miss fans, not travel

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Touring for four decades, the Statler Brothers figure, is enough.

“It's been wonderful for nearly 40 years,” said Don Reid, lead singer of this enduringly popular group. “We've traveled and we've done everything we've wanted to do.”

The group brings its four-part country harmonies and good humor to Toledo's Stranahan Theater at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, and to Lima's Veterans Memorial Civic Center at 3 p.m. Sunday. Both shows, billed as part of the group's farewell tour, are sold out. In fact, all 65 or 70 venues on the tour are sold out or are expected to sell out shortly after tickets go on sale, Reid said.

“Besides being just blessed, we owe it to the fans. They've been very loyal,” said Reid, 56, in a deep, smooth voice. He spoke from the group's office in Staunton, Va. “I will miss the time on stage. That's always fun. But as far as the travel, I won't miss that.”

The origins of this award-winning quartet date to the mid-1950s in the Shenandoah Valley, when teenagers Harold Reid (Don's older brother) and Phil Balsley began singing with friends in Staunton. Eventually, Don joined, and later, Jimmy Fortune added tenor vocals. The men range in age from their late 40s to early 60s.

In 1964, they got a break when they were hired to open for Johnny Cash concerts, a gig that continued for eight years. A year later, they hit the even-bigger time with “Flowers on the Wall,” written by Lew DeWitt, a member at the time. Its folksy blend of genres and offbeat lyrics catapulted the group to the top of both the country and pop charts.

Since then, the Statler Brothers have recorded 50 albums. Nostalgia, love, and gospel infuse their songs, not cheatin' and drinkin'. “We write about what we know and we don't know a lot about that,” Reid said. Among their hits: “Bed of Rose's” (1970), “Class of '57” (1972), “Elizabeth” (1984), and “More than a Name on a Wall” (1989).

They estimate they've spent 200,000 hours together, have given 35,000 interviews, and explained the origins of their name 100,000 times. They were the Kingsmen until the mid-'60s, when a rock group with the same name had a smash hit called “Louie, Louie.” They knew they had to make a change. Inspired by a box of Statler tissues they had spotted in a hotel room, they borrowed the name.

In that spirit, their song list is sprinkled with a few silly titles: “You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith Too” and “I Believe in Santa's Cause.”

Always down to earth, the group has made astute business decisions. “In this business, you never know how long this is going to last. It could be over at any minute,” Reid said.

He said he plans to write a book about heroes and outlaws of the Bible. The group will record occasional albums and a new gospel album, “Amen,” is slated for release this summer. The group's final concert will be Oct. 26 in Salem, Va.



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