Statler Brother Harold Reid Passes At 80

The Statler Brothers member Harold Reid speaks on behalf of the group as The Statler Brothers accept Vocal Group of the Year from Dottie West and Lacy J. Dalton at “The 14th Annual CMA Awards” on Oct. 13, 1980, at the Grand Ole Opry House, live telecast on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Courtesy CMA

Bass singer, songwriter and humorist Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers died Friday (April 24) at age 80 of kidney failure.

Reid and the other members of his quartet were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. The Statler Brothers were the CMA Vocal Group of the Year every year from 1972 to 1977, then again in 1979, 1980 and 1984. The act hosted its own TNN cable TV series in 1991-98. It was the network’s top-rated program.

Don Reid was the group’s chief songwriter, but his brother Harold collaborated with him on a number of the act’s biggest hits of the 1970s, including “Do You Remember These” (1972), the Grammy Award-winning “Class of ‘57” (1972), “Carry Me Back” (1973), “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott” (1973), “Some I Wrote” (1978), “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” (1978), “The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Burrell” (1978) and “How to Be a Country Star” (1979).

In the 1980s, the brothers also co-wrote the top hits “Better Than I Did Then” (1980), “Don’t Wait on Me” (1981), “Whatever” (1982), “Guilty” (1983), “Sweeter and Sweeter” (1986) and “Let’s Get Started If We’re Gonna Break My Heart” (1988). On his own, Harold Reid contributed 1970’s “Bed of Rose’s” to the group’s hit repertoire.

The Statler Brothers performed Tuesday, June 6 in the Mercury Nashville during the 24th Annual Fan Fair 1995, The World’s Biggest Country Music Festival in Downtown Nashville. Pictured (L-R): Harold Reid, Phil Balsley, Don Reid, and Jimmy Fortune. Photo: Courtesy CMA

Harold Reid was also the foundation of the Statlers’ comedic alter ego, Roadhog Moran & The Cadillac Cowboys. He was the parody act’s leader, Lester “Roadhog” Moran.

Bass harmony vocalist Reid founded The Four-Star Quartet in 1948. The gospel act also performed as The Kingsmen. After Harold’s lead singing younger brother Don Reid joined, the quartet became known as The Statler Brothers in 1955. In addition to the Reids, the founding members were baritone Phil Balsley and tenor Lew DeWitt (1938-1990). When DeWitt’s health failed, Jimmy Fortune replaced him in the Statlers in 1983.

Based in Virginia, the group took its name from a box of Statler facial tissues. After working on the gospel-quartet circuit, the group was discovered by Johnny Cash. He made the Statlers part of his roadshow in 1964-71. They were also featured on Cash’s national television series in 1969-71.

DeWitt’s “Flowers on the Wall” launched the act’s string of hits in 1965. The record crossed over to the pop hit parade and earned the group its first Grammy Award.

The Statler Brothers in their seats at “The 18th Annual CMA Awards” on Oct. 8, 1984, at the Grand Ole Opry House, live telecast on the CBS Television Network. Pictured (L-R): Don Reid, Phil Balsley, Jimmy Fortune, Harold Reid. Photo: Courtesy CMA

A switch from Columbia Records to the Mercury label coincided with an explosion of popularity for The Statler Brothers. The group recorded more than 50 albums, garnering 13 Gold Records and eight Platinum ones. In addition to its nine CMA trophies, the quartet collected 48 Music City News Awards.

During its 1965-90 heyday as hit makers, The Statlers placed 66 titles on the country charts. Of these, 33 became top-10 hits. The act was a mainstay on the country concert circuit for decades. The Statlers toured for several years with Brenda Lee. Among the quartet’s opening acts who later became superstars were Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks.

The Statler Brothers remained in Staunton, VA throughout their career. Beginning in 1970, the act staged annual July 4th celebrations in Staunton. These “Happy Birthday U.S.A.” events lasted for 25 years and eventually attracted crowds approaching 100,000.

A huge fireworks display always capped the festivities. These fountains of explosion were launched near Harold Reid’s home, Boxley Farm. The city of Staunton dedicated a monument to the group in 2002.

That was the year that The Statler Brothers announced their retirement and went on a farewell tour. Balsley and the Reid brothers remained in Staunton. Fortune relocated to Nashville and launched a solo career.

The Statler Brothers were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Don and Harold Reid co-authored a history of the group titled Random Memories, published in 2008.

The bluegrass group Dailey & Vincent often perform Statler Brothers songs in their shows and have long cited the quartet as an influence. Harold’s son Wil and Don’s son Langdon perform as Wilson Fairchild and have recorded the tribute tune “The Statler Brothers Song.” (They were previously billed as Grandstaff). Harold’s daughters Kim and Karmen have also performed as a country duo.

Kyle Young, CEO for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, stated, “Harold Reid was a driving force in one of country music’s greatest quartets, the Statler Brothers. He helped steer the group to stupendous successes, and his stirring bass was the underpinning of dozens of classic hits. He was also a tremendous entertainer, and one of the world’s funniest people. For decades, he made us laugh and made us cry. As his alter ego, Lester ‘Roadhog’ Moran, would say, his contributions were ‘mighty fine.’ We mourn his loss while we celebrate a life well-lived.”

Funeral arrangements for Reid have not been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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