So I Met This Bloke Charlie Louvin

Reg with Charlie

So I met this bloke backstage at Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He told me his name was Charlie and he sang the low harmony. I told him I was Reg and I sang the high harmony. Charlie used to sing with his brother Ira as The Louvin Brothers and it was their sound, the divine duo, that influenced The Everly Brothers The Byrds and countless more after. And they influenced my duo The Panic Brothers. Although different material we also aspired to that twinning of voices, that normally only came with siblings where the phrasing was so tight and in tune that it sounded like two parts of a perfect whole. I got as close as I ever had to achieving that unique sound with my brother in song, Richard Morton Sadly Ira, the writer, mandolin player and high tenor voice had passed on many years before. I told Charlie we had met once before when he came to play The 100 Club in London with his new Hi Tenor partner, Charles Whitstein, and The Panic Brothers supported them. Charlie graciously made out he remembered.

Ever since hearing Charlie’s rich, dark honey voice I’d harboured a secret desire to sing the soaring, angelic parts that ‘Brother Irie’ would sing with such beautiful clarity, and that night I came the closest I ever had to realising that ambition. As we chatted I told Charlie that one of my favourite all time Louvin Brothers songs was one that Ira wrote at the very end of his short and often troubled life, Stormy Horizons. Ira was notorious for his temper and hard drinking. He would often smash his mandolin on stage if it went out of tune, but then he would gather all the tiny pieces and take it home and rebuild it ready for another gig. He married four times, his third wife shot him three times but he survived to marry once more and was killed with his fourth wife, Anne, in a head on car crash in 1965. Ironically, although his white Cadillac was smashed to pieces, his Mandolin was found in the wreckage complete and unscathed.

Charlie was to perform on The Grand Ole Opry stage within the hour but he beckoned me to a small side room along with his guitarist and harmony singer and the three of them sang, just for me, Stormy Horizons, and a bonus Beulah Land. Luckily I had a recorder with me and of course I joined in with the fourth harmony. I discreetly shied away a tear as we shook hands, and I thanked Charlie and his duo, and he promised that next time he was in England we would do a duet together. Sadly I never saw Charlie again, he died in 2011 at a ripe old age, but when I choose to recall it, those sublime voices come back to me on the night I realised one of the sweetest singing moments of my life.

Reg Meuross Singer Songwriter Storyteller