Charlie (left) and Ira Louvin
|Origin||Henagar, Alabama, U.S.|
|Years active||July 4, 1940–August 18, 1963|
The Louvin Brothers were an American musical duo composed of brothers Ira and Charlie Louvin (Lonnie Loudermilk, April 21, 1924 – June 20, 1965, and Charlie Elzer Loudermilk, July 7, 1927– January 26, 2011). The brothers are cousins to John D. Loudermilk, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member.
The brothers wrote and performed secular country music, as well as fire-and-brimstone gospel music. Ira played virtuoso mandolin and generally sang lead vocal in the tenor range, while Charlie played rhythm guitar and offered supporting vocals in a lower pitch. They helped popularize the vocal technique of close harmony in country and country-rock.
After becoming regulars at the Grand Ole Opry and scoring a string of hit singles in the late 1950s and early '60s, the Louvin Brothers broke up in 1963 due in large part to Charlie growing tired of Ira's addictions and reckless behavior. Ira died in a traffic accident in 1965. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and Charlie died of cancer in 2011.
The brothers adopted the name Louvin Brothers in the 1940s as they began their career in gospel music. Their first foray into secular music was the minor hit "The Get Acquainted Waltz", recorded with Chet Atkins. Other hits included "Cash on the Barrelhead" and "When I Stop Dreaming". They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and stayed there until breaking up in 1963.
Their songs were heavily influenced by their Baptist faith and warned against sin. Nevertheless, Ira Louvin was notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and volcanic temper. He was married four times; his third wife Faye shot him four times in the chest and twice in the hand after he allegedly tried to strangle her with a telephone cord  Although seriously injured, he survived. (Faye is reported to have said, "if the bastard don't die I'll shoot him again!"). When performing and drinking, Ira would sometimes become angry enough on stage to smash his mandolin when he was unable to tune it, and - when sober - glue it back together. His style was heavily influenced by Bill Monroe, and his brother Charlie Monroe, who had a tempestuous relationship with Ira, considered him one of the top mandolin players in Nashville 
In his New York Times review of Charlie's biography Satan Is Real, Alex Abramovich said, "Ira Louvin was a full head taller than his younger brother, played the mandolin like Bill Monroe and sang in an impossibly high, tense, quivering tenor. Charlie strummed a guitar, grinned like a vaudevillian and handled the bottom register. But every so often, in the middle of a song, some hidden signal flashed and the brothers switched places — with Ira swooping down from the heights, and Charlie angling upward — and even the most careful listeners would lose track of which man was carrying the lead. This was more than close-harmony singing; each instance was an act of transubstantiation."
In 1963, fed up with Ira's drinking and abusive behavior, Charlie started a solo career, and Ira also went on his own.
Ira died on June 20, 1965, at the age of 41. He and his fourth wife, Anne Young, were on the way home from a performance in Kansas City when they came to a section of construction on Highway 70 outside of Williamsburg, Missouri where traffic had been reduced down to one lane. A drunken driver struck their car head-on, and both Ira and Anne were killed instantly. At the time, a warrant for Ira's arrest had been issued on a DUI charge.
Charlie died of pancreatic cancer on January 26, 2011 at age 83.
Emmylou Harris had a hit with the brothers' tune "If I Could Only Win Your Love" in 1975. Her cover version reached number four on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and earned the top spot on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.
In 2001, The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The tribute CD Livin', Lovin', Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers, produced by Carl Jackson and Kathy Louvin and released in 2003, won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Country Album.
Although the brothers are still remembered today for their musical talent, they are also remembered for the unusual cover used for their 1959 album, Satan Is Real. Designed by Ira Louvin, the cover features the brothers standing in a rock quarry in front of a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) plywood rendition of the Devil as several hidden tires soaked in kerosene burn behind them as fire and brimstone. While some reviewers count this as being one of the "greatest iconic album covers of all time", the cover can also be found today on several Web sites celebrating unusual or bizarre album covers. The cover has also become an Internet meme on a number of Web sites such as Fark.com, where it has been posted in discussion threads as an example of religious views of the era.
The opening bars of the album's title track "Satan Is Real" can be heard at the beginning of Hank Williams III's "Medley: Straight to Hell / Satan Is Real", on his Straight to Hell album of 2006. It is also excerpted in Will Ferrell's 2009 one-man Broadway show, You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush.
|1955||"When I Stop Dreaming"||8|
|1956||"I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby"||1|
|"Hoping That You're Hoping"||7|
|"You're Running Wild"||7|
|"Cash on the Barrelhead"A||7|
|"Plenty of Everything but You"||14|
|1958||"My Baby's Gone"||9|
|1959||"The Knoxville Girl"||19|
|1961||"I Love You Best of All"||12|
|"How's the World Treating You"||26|
|1962||"Must You Throw Dirt in My Face"||21|