Write Around the Corner-Don Reid
We travel to Staunton and the home of musical icon, multiple award winner, and Statler Brother legend, Don Reid. His book, The Music of Statler Brothers: An Anthology, is a deep dive into every album and song the Statler Brothers ever recorded. It’s a behind-the-curtain look at forty years of making music told with wisdom and more than a little wit!
-♪ Every day every day Every day ♪
♪ Every day I write the book ♪
-Welcome, I'm Rose Martin,
and we are Write Around The Corner
in Staunton, Virginia with musical icon,
multiple award-winner and Statler Brother legend,
We're talking all about his book,
The Music of the Statler Brothers: An Anthology.
Every chapter covers an album, and what he's done is
write about every song that has ever been recorded.
And we're going to talk about how he remembers that
a little bit later.
How they wrote it, why they chose it,
how they arranged it, the recording sessions,
with lots and lots of side stories
that I know you're going to love.
And, when I think about the Statler Brothers,
I think about humor.
I think about harmony.
And I think about people
who have been truly blessed and grateful.
There's no arrogance here, at least not with Don Reid.
Let's talk about the music.
Don, thank you for joining us.
-Thank you, Rose. I'm honored to be here.
I appreciate it so much.
-And one of the things that struck me
is the fact that when I read your book
and I've watched your shows, I think faith and family,
and you have one line that just struck me.
And it was "The words I use are only on loan to me."
-Exactly. That's how I felt.
They're not my words.
I don't know where they came from.
When you sit down and you have an idea for a song
and you start writing and some words would come
and, you know, the Lord smiles on you and says,
"Hey, try this." And it works.
And I'm just thankful for it.
-Well, and I think you also use the gifts that He gave you.
What a message to everybody.
You know, when you're given a gift,
say thank you and use it. -Use it, exactly. Right.
-And you did that in, in so many years.
Well, before we get to the current time
and the music and the,
some of the other things about your book,
let's go back a few years to your mom and dad
and the influence they had on you as a young man,
as a writer.
Did they have a musical or a writing background?
-They were not musical people. They weren't writers,
but they encouraged us to do what we enjoyed
and what we wanted to do.
And Harold and I found that we loved music,
and we were big into Southern gospel quartets.
And we bought all the records,
and that's what was our musical education.
We listened to those records.
We learned how to sing from that.
And we learned how to write from that.
-Well, and their influence, I think, carried you through
with those values that they brought forward
because there was a story about a broken butter dish early on.
And what was that story?
-There was-- it's a family story, yes.
And Harold had broken a butter dish.
And I told on him, and he got in trouble when we were kids.
And he said, "Hey, I was making you a sandwich.
That's what I was doing.
That's why I had the butter dish in my hand in the kitchen."
But I was just a little brat, you know.
-Well, and one of the things I love is how you take,
you took an event like that, and you turned it into a song.
And that last line of that song,
"I'm only proud that you're who's proud of me."
And I thought, oh, my gosh, I love that.
-That's how I felt about my parents.
Just I'm proud that they're the ones who's proud of me.
And that was, that was heartfelt.
And one of my favorite lines I've ever wrote,
to tell you the truth. I like that one a lot.
-And I also kind of feel that when you hear
how important your faith has been in your life
and in your music, that there's also that gratitude,
almost saying to the Lord, when You're proud of me,
that's something that means a lot to me, you know?
-'Cause we definitely don't want to disappoint.
-No, we're looking to please, to please Him.
That's what-- that's the meaning of life.
-Well, it's been-- it's so awesome
that you've invited us here to your home,
this beautiful home in Staunton, Virginia,
where you have your beautiful wife, Debbie,
and you have two sons, Langdon and Debo,
who are also musicians. -Exactly.
They certainly are. -And they contributed
not only on your songs,
but Langdon is part of a group now.
-He's part of the Wilson Fairchild, yes.
And he and-- Langdon and Debo and Will,
also my nephew, Harold's son,
they wrote a lot for us in our albums.
You'll see that. I talk about it.
I tell the songs that they wrote,
and they were just-- we had quite a stable of writers,
and a lot of them are family.
-Hm-mm. Well, and of course, I left off
one of your family members, Lucy.
We had a chance to meet Lucy. So, Debbie, Lucy, and the boys.
-[Don] Lucy, the dog, yes. Yeah. -[Rose] Yes, Lucy, the dog.
-She's the major part.
-Well, and something I read early on
is that you and Harold as brothers,
your dad didn't really call you that.
He called you Buck and Pete. Where did that come from?
-I have no idea. -Okay. [laughs]
-That was just his-- he nicknamed everybody.
Called my sister Jitterbug.
He just called my mother Maggie, and that wasn't even her name.
And he just nicknamed everybody.
And that happened to be what he called us.
-Well, I think when I get,
my mom calls me by my full name when I'm in trouble.
-Oh, yeah. We all got that. -You know, you get the first
and the middle name when you're in trouble.
You know, there are things that influence us, growing up,
that have a profound impact.
And starting so early as a songwriter,
but there was a tragedy that happened
when you were about 15 years old that impacted the future of,
I think, the music, and just the way you were.
What happened at 15 with your best friend?
-My best friend Bobby, we grew up together
from the time we were born next-door neighbors.
And when we were 15,
he got killed on Christmas Eve by a drunk driver.
And that did mold my life and mold the way I thought.
I'm a teetotaler. I have been all my life.
And it showed up in the way I live.
It showed up in the way I write.
I wrote about it in a song.
I talk about it in the book.
And it's-- it just has had an impact on me
as to who I am and whatever I have become.
-Well, and I love the fact that the Statlers,
you held true to your belief and your value
that you were not gonna do drinking songs.
You were not gonna do drug songs.
You were going to let that gospel influence
and those beautiful harmonies convey not only to gospel music,
to finding your own sound in country.
And you held to that your entire careers.
And our music was about memories or about nostalgia.
They were about family and plus also,
so many gospel songs, but it was like gospel harmonies
that we knew and learned as kids.
And we applied country lyrics to it.
And that's who the Statler Brothers were, musically.
-Do you think that those family harmonies come more naturally
than the harmonies you had to blend with, you know,
Lew and Jimmy and the others,
or was that just something you all melded together?
-We melded together 'cause we all grew up together.
The four of us. So, we kind of were like brothers,
even though not blood because we loved the same music.
We loved the same heroes.
And so, we knew where we wanted to go
and had that same feeling.
-One of the things I loved hearing you say
was that we leaned on our faith, and we leaned on each other.
You've always stayed true to your Virginia roots and values.
What were those that were so cemented for you,
that were so important?
-Family and friendship, camaraderie,
because out there on the road, it gets lonely.
It gets rough.
And it's-- can get long days and long nights.
We always had each other.
And we had each other to talk about old memories with.
That's how we got to write nostalgic songs
because we got to talk, "Hey, remember when we used to
go to the movies on Saturday morning,
we were kids."
And the Tex Ritter and Gene Autry and you know,
and then we just got to writing about these things
that we would talk about, and we always had each other.
And that helped.
-Well, and you talk about the faith
and family and each other,
but there was only one holiday that you didn't make it home.
And that was for one Thanksgiving
out of all those years.
That was, you know, most people would say,
"Oh, you know, I'm gonna miss the birthdays,
and I'm gonna miss Christmas. I'm gonna miss."
but you didn't.
-We always planned to be home for Christmas and Thanksgiving
and be there.
But we planned our family time
the way we planned our work time,
except one year.
And I'm thinking it might've been late '70s.
And we were on the West coast
and doing a Dean Martin Christmas special.
And we were doing it over Thanksgiving week.
Everybody else was on the show had--
they lived in California, and they had Thanksgiving.
So, we took one day off.
The Thanksgiving, but we couldn't fly home.
We had one day.
So, we spent that one on the road,
just the four of us.
And in the afternoon, we decided,
"Well, let's at least go somewhere
and eat dinner together." So, we did.
And every place we pulled into is packed.
I never knew that.
-Never knew people go out to eat on Thanksgiving. Right?
-And they do.
And I never knew because I've always eaten at home.
And we must've gone around to
three or four or five or six restaurants
before we were able to get in because the places were packed.
So, it was a new experience for me.
I learned something and had a memory,
but I wasn't with family.
-And you didn't want to ever have it again.
-No, I didn't want to do it again.
-We're going to make sure we reserve that time.
You know, I remember seeing you when, it was back in the '60s
at Ponderosa Park with my family.
And, you know, one of the things that was so great
is that it was for families.
You know, it didn't matter.
Your families could load up the kids,
sit on the picnic tables or go to the shows.
And you knew that everybody was going to leave feeling good
and having an amazing experience.
Was that a conscious choice going through
when you first started, or did it just evolve
as you solidified your sound and your act?
-Oh, I don't know. It evolved. Things happen like that.
And you know what I remember about Ponderosa Park,
there were two shows.
We'd go out like two o'clock on a Sunday afternoon,
you do a show,
and then you would stop and sign autographs.
And have another show like at five,
and all these people would stay.
So, you couldn't do the same show.
That's what I loved about it.
So, we would take requests while we were signing autographs.
We'd encourage people. "What do you want to hear?"
So, by the time we all four get back to the bus
and get ready to go on for the second show,
we've all got a list. "Hey, I got this request."
And we go back on the second show
and answer requests.
So much fun. -Well, and I was there for both.
-You were there for both.
You stayed all day. Right? -So, yeah. So, I had a chance.
It was like we had two shows. We got really lucky to have two.
We got really lucky to have two shows.
You know, I think along the course of your career,
you not only have had a chance to meet your heroes,
but I wonder if you realize the impact that you have
as a hero to so many others along the way,
just because of the way you've chosen to live your life
and share your music.
-We hear from people every day, we always have,
that we are now their he--
and that's hard for me to register.
You know, I had my heroes, but when somebody say,
"Well, I look at you the way you looked at Roy Rogers,"
and I'm thinking, "Wow."
I didn't ask for that kind of responsibility,
but I'm touched by it.
-Well, and so, it's so well-deserved.
This book, this beautiful conversational journey
through every album, through every lyric,
you brought us all into a world in such an intimate way,
and that's quite a gift.
And I've got to say, to be able to write a song
from songwriter, where you're telling a story
in three minutes or four minutes,
then to writing a novel, what was that transition like?
-It was difficult.
It took some readjusting because, all of a sudden,
you tell your story, you got three minutes to do it.
And don't take longer, or they won't play your record.
So, and then, all of a sudden,
you've got three or 400 pages to go with.
You have to turn something off in your mind
and turn something else on.
And you think, now I can flesh this out.
I can write more, and I can explain more.
And it was a revelation.
-And you listened to every single song to take you back?
That had to be an emotional experience.
-I loved doing it.
I would sit and Debbie can tell you,
she would walk by my office at nights,
I'd be writing, and she'd come in and sit down
and listen to some songs with me.
And it was just great memories. And I would sit.
Some of those songs I hadn't heard for 20 and 30 years.
'Cause I don't go back and play our music a lot.
-No, I really don't.
Matter of fact, until I wrote this book,
people would ask me about certain songs.
I'd say, "You know, I don't remember much about that.
I'd have to go back and listen." But I just don't.
-Well, and there were so many,
and we'll talk a little bit later
about a few of the ones that got away
and the ones you shared with other people,
but I've got to take a look at these stats.
So, all right.
First of all, the fact that most award-winning act
in the history of country music.
The fact that at 20, you had your first major worldwide hit
withFlowers on the Wall .
And there was a little thing about going pop,
going country, going gospel. We'll get back there.
But three Grammy awards, The Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award.
Over 400 awards, more than anyone in country music,
nine CMAs, 48 Music City TNN awards,
13 gold albums, eight platinum albums,
nine times CMA vocal group of the year,
over 250 songs on your own.
And there's so many people and so many other awards,
but there's one that I've just got to ask you about.
So, it's 1965, and you're at the Grammys.
And true or false, you're up in the category
for Grammy best contemporary performance,
not gospel, not country.
Okay. So, people in the category:
the Beatles,Help ;
Herman's Hermits,Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter ;
Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs, Wooly Bully ;
The Supremes, Stop In The Name Of Love ;
and winding out the category, the final nominee,
the Statler Brothers withFlowers on the Wall .
-Yeah. -And the winner.
-The Statler Brothers. -[Rose] Yay!
-And we were shocked as anybody else,
but we were tickled to death.
What a night that was.
It was a heady experience that. Wow. We had no idea.
-And you're looking at each other saying,
"Did they just call our name?
-Yeah. Should we go up there? Are you sure?
-Should we just-- should we go up there?
Well, you know, 38 years of sold-out houses
and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame,
the Country Music Hall of Fame.
There's a story where a couple years ago,
you had a chance to go with your family
on a little trip to Nashville.
And you've been there so many times,
but this one was different.
-Nashville is like a second home,
but we went this time with the family.
And the boys arranged the whole thing
and took the grandkids out of school.
And all the grandkids went.
And we went around to the Hall of Fame
and to where our plaques were and displays
and the other museums.
It was just a wonderful night.
And then Wilson Fairchild performed
at the Grand Ole Opry that night.
And we went to that, and all of a sudden,
my personal life and my professional life
came together in that one day.
And it was just almost more than the heart could take.
Debbie and I sat and talked about it that night
and said, "What has happened today?"
It was almost like you could feel the magic.
And it was just a wonderful time to have my grandkids there
and my kids all together.
-And what a gift for your family,
but also what a gift for you
almost with a divine moment of, "Let me show you why."
You know, all those years of everything.
-I wasn't even sure they wanted to see why,
but then after we got there, I found out they did.
They did enjoy it. They did care.
And that made me feel even prouder.
-And there's a picture,
I don't remember if it's in your book or on your blog,
and it's you.
Someone took it from the back, and it's just, you kind of,
you know, just in a moment of reflection,
looking at that wall.
And it gave me goosebumps. I thought, "Wow."
-Yeah, I think it's on the back of the book.
It's on there. It's somewhere in there.
Yeah, I didn't know that was being taken.
I really was standing, looking at our plaque
and reading what it said.
And it was a big.
I think that was one of the bigger nights of my life,
the night we went into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Of all the awards we got, that one was very special.
And now here I was, sharing it with my family.
-Well, and being on the road with, with your brother
all of those years-- I'm the oldest of five.
And I know what it's like
to be with my sisters and my brother for,
you know, holidays and extended periods of time.
I'm thinking, gosh, every day traveling.
And then, not only that, you wrote together,
besides singing together.
And yet, there wasn't a competitiveness.
It was more collegial.
And it wasn't like, you know,
"I wrote two lines, you got three;
I get my name first, you get your name second."
It wasn't like that, though, was it?
-We wrote it, years later,
we'd go back and look at some of the songs we wrote.
And we honestly could not remember
who wrote what line.
It wasn't important to us.
It was our song, is how we thought of it.
And we didn't remember who contributed what.
Harold and I were very close,
probably as close as two brothers could possibly be.
And we enjoyed our friendship together,
our brotherhood together,
and certainly, our profession together.
-And there are so many stories.
-Ha! I loved every one of them.
-So, the process of putting together this book,
I have to know what, you know, what prompted you
as a young guy at 15-- you're writing songs--
to journal and keep such impeccable records
in order to do this.
-I don't know, Rose. I really don't know.
I've thought all through the years,
I kept records of the clothes that we wore on each show,
the songs we did, the comedy routines we did,
when I wrote songs,
where I was at when we wrote the songs.
I didn't know why I was doing it then.
And when I started writing this book, I thought,
"Hey, I just, now I know why, so I could write this book."
But for 40 years, I didn't know why I was doing that.
-Now, did your kids know, and Debbie know
that you were keeping these really impeccable
detailed journals all along? -Oh, I think they knew.
I don't know if they ever actually looked at it,
at my journals or my diary, but they're there for whomever.
And they probably were as surprised as I was
that I had all of that. I've had people even laugh.
Say, "Are you sure you didn't make up some of that?"
"No, I swear. I didn't. Everything I got is there."
-Well, and as I'm starting to read it, I'm like,
"How on earth does he remember that?"
-I didn't remember it all. I had it written down.
-You had it written down.
-But you know, when you have notes,
then all of a sudden, it sparks the memory.
Oh, I remember that night so well.
-And that had to be an emotional roller coaster,
going back over all of that, to go through and make those,
you know, go through those memories again,
especially the one that's tender about your mom, Maggie.
-Yeah. -[Rose] Yeah.
-"I wander today to the hill, Maggie"
the old song, we recorded that,
and that was my daddy's nickname for Mom.
He called her-- it wasn't even her name.
He called her Maggie.
And that song was always difficult for me to sing
and difficult to listen to.
And I think I said in the book,
I went about 30 years and never played it
until I got to write in this book.
And I played every song.
And Debbie will tell you, she would come by sometimes.
I'd be up in my office at nights writing.
And she'd come by and sit and listen
to some of the songs with me.
But some of these were-- they tugged at the heart.
-Yeah. Well, and I love the one story
about Debbie talking about your piano
and how, you know, you didn't play it very often,
except for just before tour.
And she got a chance to listen again to that.
-Yeah. I go in and warm up with some.
singing some old songs on the piano.
-I think what's special also is,
the book is written in a conversational style.
It's in a way that we feel like we're kind of with you
in the moment, that I'm there with Johnny Cash.
I'm there when you're singing at their house.
I'm there when they give you that antique music stand
to come home with.
And I'm thinking, those tender moments,
those things that went into the writing of the song
meant, you know, even though it was very--
it seemed like it was very easy for you.
It was a natural gift,
but yet they were still so focused and poignant.
And they just, you captured it in a moment.
And you took us around with you. So, thank you.
-Well, I thank you.
I just felt like I was talking to the reader,
and I think that's important to be relatable.
-So, I understand that Harold actually
started this book with you.
You wrote the first, the other books together,
and he shared-- he understood the--
read the chapters and had a chance to do that
as the book got started?
-Yes. He didn't.
We didn't start writing it together.
Like I said, he wasn't in health,
good enough health at the time to do it,
but I did write it.
And as I wrote each chapter, I would send it to him.
And he read every chapter, approved of it and everything
before he passed away, which happened in April 2020.
-And that emotional. you know, it's hard.
It's hard to lose a family member.
And most of us don't spend 24/7, 365 days a week to,
you know, a year together.
So, when you think about,
I love some of the things you said about
that he was your best friend and that, you know,
there were times that, you know,
he made that graduation deal with God.
-Yeah. -[Rose] Yeah.
-Yeah. He was having trouble
and didn't have enough credits to graduate
when he was in high school.
And I was younger than he, and he was confiding in me that,
and he said, "I'd made a promise
that if the Lord let me graduate next month,
when I get home after graduation,
I'm going to read the 119th Psalm
before I go to bed."
Well, anybody that knows Psalm, it's the longest one.
-Right. -I mean, it's-- and he did.
He graduated, and he came home that night.
He came home late, two or three o'clock in the morning,
but he sat on the edge of the bed.
And I know; I was there when he did it.
We shared a room,
and he read 119th Psalm before he went to bed.
That's the kind of faith he had
and the kind of commitment that he had.
And I think because of his commitment,
it was part of his nature, part of his character,
is one of the main reasons the Statler Brothers made it
because he persevered even in those early days.
He pushed it and sold it. And he was a driving force.
-Well, and a natural comedian,
the stage presence that you all share,
and the blended beautiful harmonies.
I wonder if you think that there's a natural harmony
that siblings have, and I know you noticed it
with your son and Will as in their group, too,
that is easier for family members.
-I think everybody will talk about that family sound,
when you hear sisters sing, or you hear a brother.
And I think there's something to that. Yeah.
But all four of us were not brothers,
only Harold and I.
And then it was Phil and Lew and later Jimmy that came in,
and everybody just had the same musical trail
that we wanted to follow.
And so, we were able to share that.
-And we'll talk about that a little bit.
I'd love the idea of Jimmy when he first came in thinking,
well, this is my one time only with them.
I'm going to make it good. I'm going to remember forever.
Don't know where it's going after that.
But anyway, would you be willing to read something for us
fromThe Music of the Statler Brothers ?
-I will. I will. -All right. What did you choose?
-Well, let me say, we were just talking about Virginia.
So, I wrote a song called One More Summer in Virginia ,
and I will. I'll share that with you.
"Well, if I'm here, to be honest--
"and I guess I am
"or I would have no other reason for doing this--
"then I have to make a candid and true confession.
"This one leaves me kind of weak in the stomach.
"Even after all these years,
"no, especially after all these years,
"it comes home to me from the first line to the last.
"I wrote it in a sentimental state of mind,
"and it has its effects on me to this day.
"We sang our hearts out on this one
"and put everything I heard as a writer on the record
"for all to hear.
"We didn't wait for the arranger Cam Mullins
"to bring the strings in halfway through.
"We let him kick it off with him.
"And he got right to the heart of the matter immediately.
"This one is truly a love affair with the state of Virginia.
"The old dominion.
"And I said everything I wanted to say
"and exactly like I wanted to say it.
"We started in Virginia, have always lived in Virginia,
"and retired to Virginia.
"Thank you, Lord.
"One more summer in Virginia, one more August in her arms.
"Let me sit and rock on her front porch
"and watch the nights go by.
"Let me spend just one more summer
"in Virginia before I die.
"Virginia's been looking for a new state song for years.
"Some feel the one we have is outdated
"and not suitable for all our citizens.
"When Chuck Robb was governor from '82 to '86
"and our US Senator from '89 to '01,
"he had us to Richmond during his term
"for different occasions.
"And he and Lynda Byrd have been guests of Debbie's and mine
"in our home in Staunton.
"He told us even back then to give him a song,
"and he'd see that it got all the attention it could get
"to be the next Virginia state song.
"People encouraged me to submit this one
"as a front runner, but as time went on,
"we had friends that got in the contest
"of submitting their songs for that honor.
"And I decided I didn't want to get in that horse race
"and turn friendships into competition.
"I've got friends to thank, a wife to hold,
"and kids to kiss goodbye.
"Let me spend just one more summer
in Virginia before I die."
-Hmm. That's so beautiful.
-So, so beautiful. And I think again,
the magic and the words that you put on paper,
like you said, they're borrowed, but they resonate,
and they touch people's hearts
in a way that not too many people can do.
So, you're retired now, and these words,
this legacy is going to live for a long, long time.
-Thank you, Rose. I appreciate it.
-Thank you so much.
My special thanks to icon Don Reid
for sharing his life, his stories,
and the amazing Music of the Statler Brothers.
You know, page two pretty much sums it up about this book
and the Statler Brothers.
"When it comes down to the skinny of it all,
it's simply about the music.
That's what motivated us, and that's what made us.
That's what maintained us, and that's what kept us."
It starts with a song, then an appealing arrangement,
capped with a personal performance,
the lyric, the melody.
It's all about the music.
Special thanks to Don Reid
for the legacy that he's left to the world.
Please check out more of our conversation online
because we're going to talk about the green hat.
We're going to talk about a couple of the songs
that got away.
We're going to dig into the music a lot more.
Tell your friends all about us.
I'm Rose Martin, and I'll see you next time
Write Around The Corner .
-♪ Every day every day Ev ery day every day every day ♪
♪ Every day I write the book
♪ Every day every day Every day ♪
♪ Every day I write the book
♪ Every day every day Every day ♪
♪ Every day I write the book
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