The Statler Brothers kicked off the show 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' displaying the range and blend of the singers.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Statler Brothers more than satisfied the musical palates of a near-capacity Powers Auditorium crowd Wednesday night with a full menu of familiar '50s tunes and gospel favorites, and of course a large helping of their own well-known hits.
"So much of our music has to do with memories," said Don Reid, lead singer for the country group that formed as a teenage gospel quartet in the mid-1950s.
And musical memories are what the audience craved, showing their appreciation with applause at the beginning of their favorite tunes.
The other Statlers are Harold Reid (bass and clown); Phil Balsley (baritone) and Jimmy Fortune (tenor). The Reids are the only biological brothers in the group. The late Lew DeWitt was the group's original tenor, but resigned in the early 1980s. The Statlers took their name from a box of facial tissues in a hotel room (they say they've told that story more than 100,000 times).
The show began with an a cappella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which brought the audience to its feet and showed off the great range and blend of the four singers.
Rooted in gospel music, with groups like the Blackwood Brothers, the Statesmen and the Harvesters as their idols, the Statlers ended their performance with several gospel pieces, on which the probably did their best work.
In between, they sang medleys of '50s music and their own hit tunes such as "Elizabeth," "Class of '57," "Do You Remember These," "I'll Go to My Grave Loving You," and "Too Much on My Heart."
Unfortunately, the All American Band, which backs up the Statlers, overpowered the voices in some instances.
Country singer Tara Lynn, who has been the opening act for the Statlers for four years, belted out about 30 minutes of country favorites and was well-received by the audience.
The Statler's performance at Powers is part of a farewell concert tour which will end Oct. 26 in their home state of Virginia at the Salem Coliseum Civic Center after more than 40 years performing as the Statler Brothers.
"No one is sick and no one is mad," Don said. "We just want to cut back and kick back and spend some time with our families."
Not completely retiring
The Statlers say they plan to continue singing and recording. In fact, a new gospel album, "Amen," was released this summer.
They are ending the concert phase of their careers as one of country music's most honored, and one of the nation's best liked, singing groups. They have sold more than 15 million records since their debut March 9, 1964.
They have won numerous awards, including a 1965 Grammy as the Best New Country and Western Group; nine Country Music Association Awards as Vocal Group of the Year between 1972 and 1984; and Group of the year in 1972 and 1978 by the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Thirteen of their albums have gone gold, from the first, "The Best of The Statler Brothers -- Vol. l," in 1977, to "The Statler Brothers Gospel Favorites" in 1995. The "Best" album went on to become triple platinum.