Country Singer Charlie Louvin, 83, died at his home in Wartrace, Tennessee, on January 26. Born Charles Elzer Loudermilk in Henegar, Alabama, he and his brother Ira, and their five other siblings, grew up on Alabama’s Sand Mountain, a region of strong musical and religious traditions. Charlie and Ira sang as a gospel duo on the radio beginning in 1942 in Chattanooga, calling themselves the Radio Twins. They began performing as the Louvin Brothers five years later. Louvin served during both World War II and the Korean War.
Recording both sacred and secular music, the Louvin Brothers released dozens of singles and albums, on Capitol and other labels. Among their early hits was “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” which rose to the top of the country charts in 1955. That same year, the Louvins joined the Grand Ole Opry. The brothers disbanded as a duo in 1963, and Ira Louvin died in 1965. Charlie continued performing solo, appearing on the Opry and recording. During the past decade his music reached a new level of popularity, as he released albums on Tompkins Square and other labels, and appeared at the Bonnaroo festival.
The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Although more than half of Charlie Louvin’s career took place after his brother’s death, still, he told interviewer Terry Gross on NPR, he found himself reflexively stepping to the left when he sang, to make room for Ira to join him at the microphone to sing harmony.