The Statler Brothers' Harold Reid Dies at Age 80

The Statler Brothers, Phil Balsley, Don Reid, Harold Reid, and Jimmy Fortune, from left, accept their awards as Entertainer of the Year at the 21st annual Country Music Awards show in Nashville, Tenn., on June 8, 1987. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Harold Reid, the wise-cracking bass singer for country icons the Statler Brothers, died on Friday (April 24) after a long battle with kidney failure. He was 80.

Harold's younger brother and fellow Statler Brothers co-founder Don Reid announced the passing on his website.

"He is and will always be loved by his family, friends and millions of fans," read the statement. "His singing, his songwriting and his comedy made generations happy. He has taken a piece of our hearts with him."

Reid, a native of Augusta County, Virginia, began singing in 1955 with high school gospel group the Four Star Quartet. In 1961, he and his brother Don reorganized the act as the Kingsmen. To avoid confusion with the garage band behind "Louie, Louie," the group selected new name the Statler Brothers after a brand of tissues.

The Statlers, then featuring the late Lew DeWitt (1938-1990) and Phil Balsley, caught a huge break in 1964 when they joined Johnny Cash's road show. The Cash connection spanned eight years of touring and three seasons of Cash's variety television show.

In 1965, the group proved its value as a recording act when the DeWitt composition "Flowers on the Wall" became a top 5 crossover hit. It earned the quartet Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Performance, Group and Best New Country & Western Artist.

A late '60's jump from Columbia to Mercury Records teamed the group with producer Jerry Kennedy. That pairing led to numerous hits, including the Reid brothers' Grammy-winning co-write "The Class of '57," and nine CMA (Country Music Association) Vocal Group of the Year awards between 1972 and 1984.

Long before Dierks Bentley fronted a band with a comedic alter-ego, Reid shook things up in the '70's as Lester "Roadhog" Moran, the leader of hillbilly radio stars billed as His Cadillac Cowboys. The alternate universe Statlers premiered on the 1972 album Country Music Then and Now. Moran got his own album with 1974's Lester "Roadhog" Moran & His Cadillac Cowboys: Live at the Johnny Mack Brown High School.

DeWitt's health issues forced the group to replace him in 1982 with Jimmy Fortune. Over the next 20 years, the final Statler Brothers lineup represented classic country and gospel music through albums, tours and a top-rated Saturday night television show on TNN.

"Another one of our greats Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers has left for home," wrote TG Sheppard in a Tweet. "Some of my fondest memories was being on tour with him back in the day."

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There's a couple of lesser-known instances of Harold and Don's family chasing Nashville stardom. Sisters Kim and Karmen Reid performed as a duo in the '80's, cutting their own version of Statler Brothers standard "Bed of Rose's" with Kennedy. A decade later, Harold's son Wil and Don's son Langdon Reid formed the duo Grandstaff, which later changed its name to Wilson Fairchild, a combination of the cousin's middle names.

The Statler Brothers retired from touring in 2002. Since then, Reid's become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

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The Statler Brothers' Harold Reid Dies at Age 80