The Statler Brothers were an American country music vocal group founded in 1955 in Staunton, Virginia. Originally performing gospel music at local churches, the group billed themselves as The Four Star Quartet, and later The Kingsmen. In 1963, when the song "Louie, Louie" by the garage rock band also called The Kingsmen became famous, the group elected to bill themselves as The Statler Brothers. Despite the name, only two members of the group (Don and Harold Reid) are actual brothers and none have the surname of "Statler".
Originally performing gospel music at local churches, the group billed themselves as The Four Star Quartet, and later The Kingsmen. In 1963, when the song "Louie, Louie" by the garage rock band also called The Kingsmen became famous, the group elected to bill themselves as The Statler Brothers. Despite the name, only two members of the group (Don and Harold Reid) are actual brothers and none have the surname of "Statler". The band, in fact, named themselves after a brand of facial tissue they had noticed in a hotel room (they joked that they could have turned out to be the Kleenex Brothers). Don Reid sang lead. Harold Reid, Don's older brother, sang bass. Phil Balsley sang baritone and Jimmy Fortune sang tenor after replacing original tenor Lew DeWitt in the early 1980s due to the latter's ill health. DeWitt died on August 15, 1990 of heart and kidney disease, stemming from complications of Crohn's disease.
The band's style was closely linked to their gospel roots. "We took gospel harmonies," said Harold Reid, "and put them over in country music."
The group remained closely tied to their gospel roots, with a majority of their records containing at least one gospel song. They produced several albums containing only gospel music and recorded a tribute song to the Blackwood Brothers, who influenced their music. The Statler Brothers also wrote a tribute song to Johnny Cash, who discovered them. The song was called "We Got Paid by Cash", and it reminisces about their time with Cash
Since forming, the Statler Brothers have released over 40 albums. They received Grammy Awards in 1966 and 1973. Two of their best-known songs are their first big hit, Flowers on the Wall, and the socially-conscious Bed Of Roses. Late in their career they had a regular variety show on the cable television channel then known as The Nashville Network. Throughout their career, much of their appeal was related to their considerable ability for comedy and parody that they frequently interspersed into their musical act; they were frequently nominated for awards for their comedy as well as their singing. They recorded two comedy albums as Lester Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys, and one-half of one side of the album Country Music Then and Now was also devoted to satirizing small-town radio stations' Saturday morning shows.
The group disbanded and retired after completing a farewell tour on October 26, 2002. Balsley and the Reid brothers continue to reside in Staunton, while Fortune has relocated to Nashville, where he is continuing his music career as a solo artist. He has released three albums as a soloist. The Statlers continue to be the most awarded act in the history of country music.
Since the Statlers' retirement in 2002, Don has pursued a second career as an author. He authored or co-authored three books: Heroes and Outlaws of the Bible, Sunday Morning Memories, and You'll Know It's Christmas When.... He and Harold co-wrote a history of the Statler Brothers titled Random Memories released in February 2008.
The Statler Brothers have been credited as the first country music act to transfer the genre's nostalgia from a rural to a suburban setting. They have also been called "America's Poets" by Kurt Vonnegut.