The Statler Brothers were not actually a family band -- they took their name from a stay at the Statler Hilton -- but they sang with the same sort of close harmonies as brother acts like The Louvins, so the claim to sibling status seemed to make sense. Johnny Cash discovered the Statlers while they were slogging away on a local circuit in Virginia, and for several years in the 1960s and early '70s they were part of his road show (a time immortalized in their 1981 song, "We Got Paid By Cash...") and it was during this time they struck gold with the goofy breakup-novelty song, "Flowers On The Wall." The group refined its gospel quartet/barbershop-style country vocals when they went solo, plying it to a string of nostalgia-laden Top 20 hits; most of their songs have an awkward, belabored lyrical structure, but it's this kind of "square peg" quality that helps make them sound unique... While they may not qualify as "great" country artists, I still find them consistently engaging, and I usually want to find out how the stories in their songs work out... Here's a quick look at their career...
The Statler Brothers "The Best Of The Statler Brothers" (Mercury, 1974)
Their first best-of collection had a lot of gems -- "Bed Of Rose's," "The Class Of '57," "Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott?" and (of course) "Flowers On The Wall." There have been plenty of spiffy, more comprehensive best-ofs since this one came out, but for a snapshot of their early years, this is a pretty handy set.
The Statler Brothers "Greatest Hits" (Mercury, 1988)
The Statler Brothers "30th Anniversary Celebration" (Mercury, 1994)
This lavish 3-CD set is a pretty definitive look at a long-lived band that many folks have pegged as mere one-hit wonders. For a lot of folks, the Statler Brothers begin and end with "Flowers On The Wall," which is understandable, since that is one of the greatest, poppiest country songs ever written. Of course, the quartet went on to record quite a few fine songs (and big hits) after that. The Statlers started out as a featured act in the Johnny Cash road show, melding barbershop harmonies with wry, off-center novelty humor... When they established themselves as a successful solo act, emerging from the shadow of the Cash family, their sound evolved into somthing more subtle and complex... The barbershop-isms were still there, but they were put into a new context, as the Statlers began to specialize in songs about nostalgia and bygone days, lamenting the passing of smalltown, Middle America, maltshops and movie matinees... It was just the right note to hit in the Nixon-Ford era, when the relentless grind of conservative-vs.-counterculture politics drove a lot of Americans to look for a little time-out. Their hits dried up by the end of the '80s, but the band continued recording and performing throughout the '90s -- the third disc in this collection covers the later period in their career, but even if that's a for-fans-only kinda thing, this collection is still worth it for the earlier stuff... It's the perfect introduction to this oddball ensemble!
The Statler Brothers "The Definitive Collection" (Mercury Nashville, 2005)
A fine, single-CD overview of their best work... You might get more bang for your buck from the the Gold collection listed below, but this one's nothing to sneeze at... Recommended!
The Statler Brothers "Gold" (Universal, 2006)
For folks who are trying to save on shelf space, this 2-CD best-of is a fine replacement for the 1994 30th Anniversary Celebration box set -- it's missing a few great songs, notably "Whatever Happened To Randolph Scott," but it covers their career pretty thoroughly, from "Flowers" to their Vietnam vet tribute, "Not Just A Name On A Wall." Fans will be pleased.
The Statler Brothers "Favorites" (Universal, 2006)
The Statler Brothers "When We Sang For Him" (Sony Special Products, 2001)
This CD is a near-complete reissue of the Statler's third full-length album, a gospel offering from 1969 entitled Oh Happy Day. This edition includes ten tracks and omits, ironically, only one track from the original album the title song "Oh Happy Day." This was their last album for the Columbia label, as well as their first all-gospel record, giving a hint of things of come when the Statler Brothers would devote themselves more or less full-time to Southern Gospel and other religious music. Included is their version of "Daddy Sang Bass," which was also covered by Johnny Cash (with them singing backup).
The Statler Brothers "Christmas Collection" (Mercury Nashville, 2004)
With their penchant for nostalgia-based material, the Statlers were the perfect candidates to make a Christmas album... In fact, they've made quite a few! This disc reissues one of those records in its entirety, 1978's Statler Brothers Christmas Card, which has a nice mix of old classics and new material. The new stuff is best: the boys pick out plainspoken, sentimental songs like "I Believe In Santa's Clause" and "Christmas To Me" that wonder what's happened to the old-fashioned, love-your-neighbor flavor of the holiday, and long for the good old days... And you really believe 'em when they sing about it... Good record; not too corny and certainly worth checking out.
The Statler Brothers "Flowers On The Wall/The Big Hits" (Wounded Bird, 2009)
A swell twofer reissues, combining their first two albums, Flowers On The Wall, from 1966, and The Big Hits, from '67...
The Statler Brothers "Flowers On The Wall" (Columbia, 1966)
The Statler Brothers "The Big Hits" (Columbia, 1967)
The Statler Brothers "Oh Happy Day" (Columbia, 1969) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Bed Of Rose's" (Mercury, 1970)
The Statler Brothers "Pictures Of Moments To Remember" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Innerview" (Mercury, 1972)
The Statler Brothers "Country Music Then And Now" (Mercury, 1972) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Country Symphonies In E Major" (Mercury, 1972)
The Statler Brothers "Carry Me Back" (Mercury, 1973) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Thank You, World" (Mercury, 1974) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Alive At The Johnny Mack Brown High School" (Mercury, 1974)
The Statler Brothers "Sons Of The Motherland" (Mercury, 1974)
The Statler Brothers "Holy Bible - Old Testament" (Mercury, 1975)
The Statler Brothers "Holy Bible - New Testament" (Mercury, 1975)
The Statler Brothers "Harold, Lew, Phil And Don" (Mercury, 1976) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "The Country America Loves" (Mercury, 1977)
The Statler Brothers "Short Stories" (Mercury, 1977) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Entertainers On And Off The Road" (Mercury, 1978)
The Statler Brothers "Christmas Card" (Mercury, 1978)
The Statler Brothers "The Holy Bible: The Old And New Testaments" (Mercury, 1978) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "The Originals" (Mercury, 1979) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "The Best Of The Statler Brothers Rides Again" (Mercury, 1979)
The Statler Brothers "10th Anniversary" (Mercury, 1980) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Years Ago" (Mercury, 1981) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "The Legend Goes On" (Mercury, 1982) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Today" (Mercury, 1983)
The Statler Brothers "Atlanta Blue" (Mercury, 1984) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Pardners In Rhyme" (Mercury, 1985)
The Statler Brothers "Christmas Present" (Mercury, 1985) (LP)
The Statler Brothers "Radio Gospel Favorites" (Mercury, 1986)
The Statler Brothers "Four For The Show" (Mercury, 1986)
The Statler Brothers "Maple Street Memories" (Mercury, 1987)
The Statler Brothers "Live And Sold Out" (Mercury, 1989)
The Statler Brothers "Music, Memories, And You" (Mercury, 1990)
The Statler Brothers "All American Country" (Mercury, 1991)
The Statler Brothers "Words And Music" (Mercury, 1992)
The Statler Brothers "Today's Gospel Favorites" (Mercury, 1992)
The Statler Brothers "Home" (Mercury, 1993)
The Statler Brothers "Sing The Classics" (Heartland, 1995)
The Statler Brothers "Showtime" (Crossroads, 2001)
The Statler Brothers "Amen" (Crossroads, 2002)
The Statler Brothers "Farewell Concert" (Compendia, 2003)
The Statler Brothers "The Gospel Music Of The Statler Brothers, v.1" (Gaither, 2010)
The Statler Brothers "The Gospel Music Of The Statler Brothers, v.2" (Gaither, 2010)
Johnny Cash "At Madison Square Garden" (Columbia Legacy, recorded 1969/released 2002)
The Statler Brothers are generously repersented on this fine set of prevously unreleased live Johnny Cash goodies from his commercial heyday in 1969. This disc repeats the success of his earlier concert albums, but here he's performing for the city slickers in the Big Apple, instead of some convicts in a penitentiary. Johnny is joined by the reconstituted Carter Family, brother Tommy Cash, and fellow Sun Records veteran Carl Perkins (as we hear on a track intro at the very end of the album, June Carter Cash wasn't able to attend as she was six months pregnant at the time...) It's an efficient, professional presentation, yet one that gives some nice glimpses into Cash's inner life, mostly through the spoken introductions that accompany many of the songs. The most telling is the intro to "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream," in which Cash addresses the thorny issue of the Vietnam War. Stumbling nervously, hoping not to offend anyone one way or the other, Cash recalls how he and his show went to entertain the troops overseas, declaring, "I may not be a hawk... But maybe I'm a dove with claws..." He also introduces a few songs with asides about his down-home background; back then, these monologes may have been a bit hokey, but they've added resonance as Cash has gotten older and his legend increased. Also of interest is an angry, emotional reading of his Native American rights protest song, "As Long As Grass Shall Grow," which is one of the most powerful performances of Cash's career. There are also plenty of religious tunes, which he also puts his heart into. There are some rushed moments, but on the whole, this is an album well worth checking out, and certainly a delight for longtime Cash fans who have never heard this material before.
Dailey & Vincent "Sing The Statler Brothers" (Rounder/Crackerbarrel, 2010)
(Produced by Jamie Dailey & Darrin Vincent)
Now wait a minute... Was is really me, a couple of years back, who pegged Dailey and Vincent as having a Statler Brothers vibe to their work? Why, yes it was...! Not that I'm bragging or anything, but I do know a nice harmony when I hear one... Anyway, here it is in 2010, and they've gone whole-hog with a tribute to one of the most successful country vocal acts, and boy, does this sound good. The music is flawless, the harmonies are sweet, and the lyrics stand out in ways they didn't in the Statler Brothers originals... Despite their obvious talent and chart success, the Statlers had a bit of a novelty-act sheen to their work, but here, played straight by Dailey & Vincent, the songs emerge more clearly as sentimental, evocative, nostalgic gems. No matter which band you're a bigger fan of, this record ought to knock your socks off. Highly recommended!
Hick Music Index