Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers

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Overview

The beautiful and tragic saga of the Louvin Brothers—one of the most legendary country duos of all time—is one of America's great untold stories. Charlie Louvin was a good, God-fearing, churchgoing singer, but his brother, Ira, had the devil in him and was known for smashing his mandolin to splinters onstage, cussing out Elvis Presley, and trying to strangle his third wife with a telephone cord.

With a moving foreword by Kris Kristofferson, Satan Is Real is the incredible tale ...

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Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers

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Overview

The beautiful and tragic saga of the Louvin Brothers—one of the most legendary country duos of all time—is one of America's great untold stories. Charlie Louvin was a good, God-fearing, churchgoing singer, but his brother, Ira, had the devil in him and was known for smashing his mandolin to splinters onstage, cussing out Elvis Presley, and trying to strangle his third wife with a telephone cord.

With a moving foreword by Kris Kristofferson, Satan Is Real is the incredible tale of Charlie Louvin's sixty-five-year career, the timeless murder ballads of the Louvin Brothers, and the epic tale of two brothers bound together by love, hate, alcohol, blood, and music.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kris Kristofferston, who was employed as a janitor when he met Charlie Louvin, writes in his foreword, “The legendary Louvin Brothers’ hauntingly beautiful Appalachian blood-brothers harmony is truly one of the treasures of American music.” Now Charlie Louvin, who died January 26, 2011, at age 83, has written an engaging and entertaining look back at his gospel and country music career with his brother, Ira. The two grew up picking cotton and coon hunting in Alabama, and music became their escape route from rural chores to radio fame. They were in their teens when they began singing on Chattanooga radio, a showcase that led to paying gigs. They moved on to making music in Memphis, and by 1955, when they finally got to the Grand Ole Opry, their record sales soared. Ira’s heavy drinking and temper tantrums prompted Charlie to go solo; tragedy struck when Ira was killed in a 1965 auto accident. Packed with plenty of pictures, backstage gossip, and colorful anecdotes about the Louvins’ encounters with the great and near great, this memoir has a raw honesty, genuine grit, common sense and smokin’ down-home flavor that Louvin fans will relish. The fire-and-brimstone cover art and the book’s title are both taken from the duo’s 1959 gospel album, Satan Is Real. (Jan.)
New York Times
“One of the pre-eminent brother acts in country music and an inspiration to several generations of rock musicians.”
Los Angeles Times
“The most influential harmony team in the history of country music.”
Grove Dictionary of American Music
“Probably the greatest traditional country duo in history.”
Library Journal
The Louvin Brothers were the preeminent country harmony duo of the post-World War II era. With a repertoire of classic folk songs such as "Mary of the Moors" and originals like "When I Stop Dreaming," they realized their dream of becoming Grand Ole Opry mainstays and influences on generations of musicians. This book, titled after one of their most celebrated albums, tells their story from the viewpoint of the recently deceased Charlie Louvin, the younger brother who survived to carry their legacy into the 21st century. Ira, the more ambitious and mercurial brother, is portrayed as magnificently self-destructive via alcoholism, multiple ill-advised marriages, and fits of temper that would manifest in frequent onstage smashings of his out-of-tune mandolin. In the most effective passages in this volume, Charlie describes his rural Alabama childhood with an abusive father and a mother who teaches the boys their core repertoire. VERDICT An important part of American roots music history, told in an authentic voice. Recommended for any serious popular music collection.—John Frank, Los Angeles P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
The tempestuous history of country music's Louvin Brothers, recalled by the younger musical sibling. Ira and Charlie Louvin were the last of the great harmony duos; in the '50s they launched a string of songs up the country charts and starred on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Here, Charlie (1927–2011) recounts the twosome's rise from hardscrabble beginnings in Alabama's cotton country to national fame. Basically self-taught, the brothers were reared on church singing before they launched an uphill professional career in the '40s. Louvin maps the pair's arduous journey through small-town radio gigs and endless regional touring, with flavorful, often profanely sketched observations about the hardships of making it on the road as a rising country act. Major music publisher Fred Rose took the Louvins under his wing, but after a pair of failed record deals, the brothers were ready to pack it in when they were signed to Capitol Records in the early '50s. Starting in gospel, they reached the top with secular hits like "When I Start Dreaming" and classic albums like Tragic Songs of Life. The second half of the book focuses on reckless elder brother Ira, a pugnacious, womanizing alcoholic whose violence led his third wife to shoot him six times (he survived). In the face of Ira's escalating madness, Charlie finally broke up the act in the early '60s, and Ira was killed in a 1965 road accident. Charlie never manages to put his finger on what drove his brother to such heights of destructive behavior, but he still paints a chilling portrait of a brilliant musician intent on self-annihilation. Along the way, he offers entertaining cameo renderings of such stars as Elvis Presley, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. The self-effacing Louvin dispenses with his solo work and latter-day career revival in a couple of brief chapters. Deep analysis is not his strong suit, but his amusing, prickly voice animates the book. An engaging look at a now-distant piece of country-music history.
Alex Abramovich
True to his subtitle, Charlie tells Ira's story, as well as his own, devoting 47 chapters to their shared lives and careers, and just three more to the years that followed Ira's death. He is profane, piquant and brutally honest in ways that are sure to offend the country music establishment but might have delighted Ira, who was no less of a demon than the ones the Louvins—who cut their teeth as a gospel duo, and never really left the church behind—so often sang about.
—The New York Times Book Review
Paper Magazine
“Satan Is Real has the best-designed book cover of 2012 .”
Oxford American
“The anecdotes alone offer significance to any person interested in the anthropology of Americana music. Magnanimous without feigning and brusque without malice, Charlie Louvin’s clear-eyed commentary is straightforward and unapologetic.”
Booklist
“A real classic of Americana.”
Daily Journal
“Simple and plain-spoken, yet powerful and resonant.”
Terry Teachout
“One of the most important and illuminating memoirs ever written by a country singer.”
Chris Talbott
“I think I’ve already found my favorite book of 2012.”
Alec Solomita
“Masterful [and] graceful.”
Ian Crouch
“The mix of light and darkness that filled their music was mirrored in their lives.”
Randy Lewis
“Grand themes of life, death, religion, salvation, damnation, human choices and, sometimes, joy.”
Emmylou Harris
“There was something scary and washed in the blood about the sound of the Louvin Brothers.”
Lucinda Williams
“Charlie…was a true punk, in the best sense of the word.”
Phil Everly
“They influenced everybody.”
Gram Parsons
“The Burritos’ favorite artists.”
Dolly Parton
“The Louvin Brothers were my favorite when I was young and growing up in the business.”
Vince Gill
“You can’t find anybody, I don’t think, that was not inspired by them.”
New York Times
“One of the pre-eminent brother acts in country music and an inspiration to several generations of rock musicians.”
Grove Dictionary of American Music
“Probably the greatest traditional country duo in history.”
Los Angeles Times
“The most influential harmony team in the history of country music.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062069030
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Pages: 297
  • Sales rank: 710,904
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Henagar, Alabama, Charlie Louvin recorded from 1947 to 1962 with his brother, Ira, as the Louvin Brothers. In 1955, they became members of the Grand Ole Opry and churned out thirteen hits on the Billboard country chart, including "When I Stop Dreaming," "Cash on the Barrelhead," and "Knoxville Girl." Charlie's solo career began in 1964 with the top five hit "I Don't Love You Anymore," and he followed it with twenty-nine Billboard-charting singles and four Grammy nominations.

Benjamin Whitmer is the author of the novel Pike and a lifelong country music fan. He lives and writes in Denver.

Born in Henagar, Alabama, Charlie Louvin recorded from 1947 to 1962 with his brother, Ira, as the Louvin Brothers. In 1955, they became members of the Grand Ole Opry and churned out thirteen hits on the Billboard country chart, including "When I Stop Dreaming," "Cash on the Barrelhead," and "Knoxville Girl." Charlie's solo career began in 1964 with the top five hit "I Don't Love You Anymore," and he followed it with twenty-nine Billboard-charting singles and four Grammy nominations.

Benjamin Whitmer is the author of the novel Pike and a lifelong country music fan. He lives and writes in Denver.

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Read an Excerpt

Satan is Real

The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers
By Charlie Louvin

Igniter

Copyright © 2012 Charlie Louvin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780062069030


Chapter One

MY BROTHER'S KEEPER
My older brother Ira and I were finishing a stretch of shows,
the last in Georgia, and we decided to stop by Mama and
Papa's place on Sand Mountain for a quick visit. Of course,
we'd barely got on the road before Ira reached under his seat
and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and he drank the whole
damn thing on the drive. When I pulled up to the house,
I stepped out on my side, and Ira just kind of poured himself
out on his.
Mama was out in the front yard, and you could tell how
excited she was to see us. She came running up to try to hug
Ira, but he put his arm out to hold her off. He was wobbling
on his feet, barely able to stand upright.
She knew what was going on. Mamas know everything.
"Aw, honey," she said, "Why do you have to do this to yourself?"
She wouldn't even take Communion in a church unless
they had grape juice instead of wine. She didn't use alcohol
and she didn't understand anybody who did.
She should have known better than to say that, though.
Nothing pissed Ira off like when somebody tried to put a
little guilt on him. "Aw, leave me alone," he said. "I ain't
hurting nobody."
"You're hurting yourself," she said. "That's who you're
hurting."
"Yeah, well, I don't remember asking you," he said, and
tried to light a cigarette. He was so drunk he couldn't even
get his lighter to make a flame. "Goddamn it," he said.
"That whiskey don't do you no good," she said. "It don't
do nobody no good."
Finally, he got his lighter to work, and he poked his mouth
at the fire to light the cigarette, but he missed.
"Your father's in Knoxville," she continued. "I sure am
glad he's not here right now to see you like this."
Ira threw the still unlit cigarette on the ground. "Will you
shut up, bitch?"
I can guarantee you the fucking fight was on then. I beat
the shit out of him right there in the front yard. He was lucky
it was just words, too. If he'd have touched her, I'd still be in
prison. Shit, if Papa was there, he might have killed him anyway,
but I just kicked his ass all over the place. Then I stuffed
him in the car, and we drove away.
"I know you ain't asleep," I said to him once we got on the
highway. He was curled up on his side of the car, holding his
busted face. "I'm only gonna tell you this once. If you talk to
her like that again, I'll beat the shit out of you again. I'll do
it every time. You can lump it or try to change it, but that's
the way it is."
"Oh, hell, I didn't mean nothing by it," he slurred. "That
was just that old whiskey talking."
"That ain't no excuse," I said. "Nobody forced you to drink
that stuff. And you'd better not ever do it again."
Then I stopped talking and just drove, fuming. And
I thought about that day, nineteen years ago, when I saw Roy
Acuff driving past the farm in his big air-cooled Franklin. I
thought it must be just about the best thing on earth to ride
in a car like that. Now I was driving down that same road, a
Grand Ole Opry star in an automobile almost as nice, and it
felt like I was suffocating. Like I was being buried alive in it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Satan is Real by Charlie Louvin Copyright © 2012 by Charlie Louvin. Excerpted by permission of Igniter. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2012

    Highly Recommemded - Very Informative

    It was well-written and supplied much essential information.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    I LOVED THIS BOOK

    i loved this book ,i thought it was honest ,sincere and funny .the language was bad but that is the way people talk .I LOVED THEM WHEN I WAS YOUNGER .NOW I LISTEN TO GOSPEL MUSIC AND THEY HAD SOME GOOD GOSPEL

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    A Tale of Demons for sure

    Aficionados of old time Country music know The Louvin Brothers by their great music, their association with The Grand Ole Opry, and because artists like The Byrds, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and others covered their tunes. But most people are probably aware of them because of their “Satan is Real!” album cover. It makes every list of worst album covers of all time without fail. It is a good choice for the title and cover of this biography.

    But after Charlie Louvin f-bombs a few times on the first page, the reader knows this is not a fundamentalist religious rant, nor idyllic, rustic hillbilly, show business fable. Charlie’s demons were pretty real, definitely down to earth nasty and in his face from the get go. His story is intelligently told in a straight forward, unapologetic, humanizing way here. You’ll meet Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, et al along the way. If you are interested in that kind of deal, I highly recommend you read this book. I read a lot of musician biographies, and this is one of my favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    If you loved Country Music when it was still Country, you'll love this book

    The Louvin Brothers were the first to master close family harmony. This book by Charlie Louvin tells the story of tough times growing up and tough times breaking into country music. It includes great stories about Johnny Cash and other.

    Great Book.

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  • Posted February 6, 2012

    Triumph and tragedy and nothing held back

    Charlie Louvin, who died a year ago, recorded some of the most beautiful and influential music of his time with his brother Ira. It's no secret that Ira had his demons which culminated in his early death, but Charlie was more grounded and soldiered on. His story of childhood hardship and hard-earned success (emphasis on the "hard") puts it all on the page. Charlie holds grudges and spares no one: friends, family, country superstars, least of all himself. If you're a regular Opry listener, you will recognize the names and the behaviors, but Charlie has his own voice and he knows some words and tells some stories that aren't in either Testament. The look of the book is distinctive, too--hard-cover with gaudily-illustrated boards and no dust jacket, it reinforces these tales of grandeur and horror.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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