Charlie remembers: “We sat there for ten minutes and were completely ignored. Ira had this attitude that, even if they throw us out, I’m gonna say this anyway. So he finally said, ‘Well, Mr. Denny, we’ve got to go. We’ll see you on the Friday Night Frolic.’ [That’s what they called the Friday night Opry in those days.] And Denny looked up over his hornrims and said, ‘Boys, you’re in tall timber. You better s——t and get it.’ And Ira said, ‘Well, we got the saws, you just show us where the woods are.’“ A couple of hours later they were on the Opry stage, singing “Love Thy Neighbor” and getting called back for an encore. The tall timber was starting to fall. There was a time when close-harmony duet singing dominated country music.

In the mid-1930s the sounds of the Delmore Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, Karl and Harty, the Monroe Brothers and the Callahan Brothers filled the airwaves and the recording studios. That era passed, though, and by the 1950s many thought the duet style was about as trendy as a Model A Ford. Then came the Louvins; in the space of a few years they single-handedly reinvented the duet style, sharpened the old harmonies, and crafted new songs that became country standards. Though their career in the big time lasted only about eight years, and though they only had ten charting records, their sound and style were to haunt singers for decades to come.

Many consider them the finest of the country duet singers, and artists from Emmylou Harris to Vince Gill have revived their songs and kept their style alive. Songs that hardly charted at all during the Louvins’ career have managed to remain in print and have become standards. “When I Stop Dreaming” spent exactly one week on the Billboard charts, but is today considered a masterpiece of hard country harmony. “How’s the World Treating You” spent one week as a best-seller; “Love and Wealth” didn’t even do that well.

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