Charlie Louvin Book Chronicles Offstage Battles With Brother Ira
Charlie Louvin aired some of his family’s dirty laundry just before he died, writing a tell-all book that hit stores this week. The country legend and his late brother, Ira, born as Charlie and Ira Loudermilk, comprised the hugely successful country duo, the Louvin Brothers. The siblings charted over a dozen songs during their more than 20-year tenure as a duo before splitting up in 1963 to pursue solo careers. But while the Grand Ole Opry stars scored harmonious hits like ‘I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby’ and ‘Cash on the Barrelhead,’ there was another, more combative side to the brothers that until now has remained relatively private.
Charlie, who passed away last year at age 83, penned an autobiography before his death, chronicling the brothers’ professional and personal highs and lows. ‘Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers,’ which takes its title from one of the duo’s most acclaimed albums, dispels any notion of family harmony offstage. The first chapter recalls an angry brawl the brothers had when Ira, who had a long history of alcohol abuse, verbally berated their mother while intoxicated. (Ira died in a 1965 car accident at age 41).
“I beat the [tar] out of him right there in the front yard,” Charlie recalls [quote via the Los Angeles Times]. “He was lucky it was just words, too. If he’d have touched her, I’d still be in prison.”
The book also details the motivating force behind the Louvin Brothers’ need to succeed. More than dreaming of fame and fortune, the Alabama natives were two of seven children who spent their early years working on the family’s cotton farm. The grueling work became the motivation the young men needed to find another way to make a living. “One night, while climbing into bed, bone-tired after another day of picking, [Ira] said to me, ‘We ain’t got no choice, Charlie. You know that,’” Charlie recalls in one of the chapters.
“‘No choice about whether or not we make it as singers,” Ira continued, choked up by emotion and exhaustion. “‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life.’”
Although Charlie went on to chart more than 15 songs as a solo artist after their break-up, it’s the flawless “close harmony” the brothers shared on stage for which they are most remembered. “You can’t find anybody, I don’t think, that was not inspired by them,” Vince Gill notes. “They were the kingpins of that family harmony.”
Charlie began writing the book in his early eighties after enjoying a rise in popularity among a new wave of younger fans, thanks to a Grammy-winning tribute album, ‘Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers,’ which included guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Ronnie Dunn, Glen Campbell, Joe Nichols and Dolly Parton. His last album, ‘The Battle Rages On,’ was released in 2010.