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Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of the Jan. 27 obituary of musician Charlie Louvin misidentified a member of the duo known as the Blue Sky Boys. His name was Bill Bolick, not Jim Bolick. This version has been corrected.

Charlie Louvin, 83; influential country singer, Grand Old Opry performer

In a Jan. 29, 2009, file photo, Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin is shown in his home in Manchester, Tenn. Louvin, half of the Louvin Brothers whose harmonies inspired fellow country and pop singers for decades, died early Jan. 26 of pancreatic cancer.
In a Jan. 29, 2009, file photo, Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Louvin is shown in his home in Manchester, Tenn. Louvin, half of the Louvin Brothers whose harmonies inspired fellow country and pop singers for decades, died early Jan. 26 of pancreatic cancer.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 11:27 PM

Charlie Louvin, 83, a celebrated country singer and Grand Ole Opry performer who as half of the Louvin Brothers duo influenced later performers such as the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris and the Byrds, died Jan. 26 at his home in Wartrace, Tenn., of complications from pancreatic cancer.

The brothers Charlie and Ira Louvin rose to prominence in the mid-1950s. They were renowned for their gospel songs and lost-love laments such as "If I Could Only Win Your Love," which later became a hit for Harris.

They also updated many traditional folk songs, such as "In the Pines" and "Knoxville Girl" on their 1956 album "Tragic Songs of Life."

"With some of country music's most beautiful harmonies, traces of 19th-century hymn singing and vividly rendered ballads about hunting fatalities, railroad accidents and crimes of passion, 'Tragic Songs of Life' is among the best albums ever to have been recorded in Nashville," music critic Neil Strauss wrote in the New York Times in 1996. "It speaks for a time that became a memory when Elvis Presley ushered in the era of rock-and-roll."

The Louvin Brothers' style evolved from such Depression-era brother duos such as the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys (Bill and Earl Bolick), all of whom sang in close sibling harmony.

The Louvin Brothers popularized this older vocal style for modern audiences by adding electric guitar solos - many by a young Chet Atkins - and a driving beat from an upright bass, Charlie's rhythm guitar and Ira's mandolin.

Their biggest hit, the rollicking "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby" (1956), anticipated the Everly Brothers' pop-country synthesis. Between 1955 and 1959, they had 10 songs on the Billboard Top 20 country chart - a popularity consolidated by their appearances on the Nashville-based Grand Ole Opry radio show.

They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

After the brothers split up in 1963, Ira Louvin died in a car accident two years later. Charlie Louvin continued as a soloist and remained an Opry regular. He had a No. 1 country hit in 1966, "See the Big Man Cry." His most recent album, "The Battle Rages On," was completed after Mr. Louvin's cancer surgery last July and released in November.

The Louvin Brothers early material continued to inspire later groups. The Byrds recorded the Louvins' "The Christian Life" on their 1968 "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" album.

In interviews, Mr. Louvin often cited Ira Louvin's heavy drinking and temper as the reason for the duo's breakup.

In 1955, while headlining a tour with a young Elvis Presley, a drunken Ira Louvin swore at Presley and criticized him for performing rock-and-roll.


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