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Charlie Louvin has no trouble naming his favorite song on his most recent album, The Sound of Days to Come. "The song 'Ira,' " says Charlie. "I'm proudest of that."
Charlie's song honors his late brother Ira Louvin -- the other half of The Louvin Brothers, the legendary duo inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. "I wish Ira could have been there for that," says Charlie of the induction. "He would have loved it."
Charlie and Ira grew up on the family farm in Henegar, Alabama, listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio with their parents and five sisters. "Three of my sisters sang really well, but they got married when they were 13 or 14," notes Charlie.
That left the two brothers to explore their close harmonies together. "We changed parts constantly," explains Charlie. "If Ira knew a certain line in a song was going to get too high for me to sing, I'd just drop down and do the low part. We could change in the middle of a word."
Offstage, things weren't always so harmonious. "It's hard for a brother to take orders from a brother," confides Charlie. "We worked it out that I would handle the business end of it and he'd handle the music."
The brothers played their first paying gig on July 4, 1940, for $3 apiece. "That was much easier than picking cotton!" laughs Charlie. "It was double what we had been making in a week." The Louvin Brothers went on to release 10 Top 20 hits, including "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby."
Unfortunately, Ira's drinking and erratic behavior led to the duo's breakup in August 1963. "I just didn't know how to handle a drinker," admits Charlie. "Still can't."
So the brothers went their separate ways. Charlie's very first solo hit, 1964's "I Don't Love You Anymore," went Top 5. Ira recorded one solo album before he was killed in an auto accident in 1965 at age 41. "I miss him still," says Charlie. "I can still hear his part when I sing a song."
Now 76, Charlie is still performing. He plays the Opry regularly, occasionally goes on the road and has another new album in the works.
"Even at my age, I still believe there's no such thing as 'work' if you enjoy what you're doing," he says. "I could make it without music these days -- but why would I want to?"