Music

Country Flashback: Johnny Cash Joins The Statler Brothers For 'This Old House'

Screengrab via YouTube

The original Statler Brothers lineup of Lew DeWitt, Phil Balsley, Don Reid and Harold Reid's mastery of country and gospel music found them joining Johnny Cash's touring show in 1964, a year before "Flowers on the Wall" became a crossover hit.

Later on, The Statler Brothers, country music pioneers The Carter Family and "Daddy Sang Bass" writer Carl Perkins went from constant tour mates of Cash to regulars on The Johnny Cash Show, a primetime ABC series that ran from 1969 to 1971. The show was filmed at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorum.

Through this platform, The Statler Brothers could share their songs of home, family and Christian faith, both as a quartet and by teaming up with the show's host. Examples of Cash sitting in with the Statlers include an electrifying rendition of a gospel song ready-made for five-part harmonies, "This Old House."

Singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen wrote the song, with some legends tying its origin to one of Hamblen's hunting trips with John Wayne. Despite being a Biblical metaphor on par with the songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither and other Southern gospel icons, Hamblen's composition found its greatest success in pop music. Rosemary Clooney made it a crossover hit in 1954, and Welsh rocker Shakin' Stevens took it back to the top of the UK charts in 1981.

Beyond the Statler Brothers and other gospel-leaning vocal groups, numerous country singers cut the song over the years, including Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Ray Stevens and the duo of Dolly Parton and Brenda Lee.

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The Statler Brothers thanked the Man in Black and June Carter Cash for their variety show hospitality, first through the literal and figurative lyrics of "We Got Paid By Cash" and later by bringing the series' format back for fans of old-time country music via TNN's The Statler Brothers Show.

Statler Brothers co-founder DeWitt passed away in 1990, eight years after his retirement opened up a spot for another all time great tenor, Jimmy Fortune. Harold Reid, a member of the group since its origins as the Staunton, Virginia-based Four Star Quartet in 1955 and the Kingsmen in 1961, died on April 24, 2020.

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Country Flashback: Johnny Cash Joins The Statler Brothers For 'This Old House'