Monday, 31 May 2010

Reasons to love youTube No.4 - Wilburn Brothers

Continuing the long line of brother-duos, the Wilburn's were probably the last bona-fide act in the tradition. Had rock 'n' roll not materialised in the mid-50's I'm sure the Everly Brothers may have claimed that honour, but it did and they can't! The brothers, Doyle and Teddy were born in Hardy, Missouri in 1930 and 1931 respectively, the final kids in a bunch of five. Before they reached puberty they were part of the Wilburn family band with brothers Lester and Leslie and sister Geraldine, playing on guitars, mandolin, and fiddle that their dad had bought from the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. A series of local gigs soon made way to appearances throughout the south until in 1940 they came across, and impressed Roy Acuff who arranged for them to join the Grand Ole Opry. They lasted for six months until the Opry were forced to drop them because of child labour infringements.

In 1948 they joined the legendary Louisiana Hayride and had formed a close allegiance with future Hall of Famer Webb Pierce. This exciting period was scuppered by the Korean conflict which saw both Doyle and Teddy called up for action. When they returned from duty they were forced to become a duo as the elder brothers had left the business and Geraldine had gotten herself hitched. Webb Pierce was by now working at the Opry and with the two Wilburns old enough to fight for Uncle Sam and therefore definitely old enough to sing on the radio (!) they rejoined the famed Nashville show. They became a part of Pierce's backing band and signed in their own right to Decca records.

They enjoyed their first hit record in mid 1954 when Sparkling Brown Eyes spent four months on the charts, peaking at number four. They made national television appearances on both The Arthur Godfrey Talent Show and American Bandstand. Over the next 15 years they notched up 30 hit records, including Go Away With Me, Which One is to Blame, Trouble's Back in Town, It's Another World, I Wanna Wanna Wanna, I'm So in Love With You, Go Away With Me, Roll Muddy River, and their biggest single, 1966's Hurt Her Once for Me. From a rocking point of view there was only one record to warrant mention. As with most country artists in the 50's they were tempted into taking a stab at rockabilly. They cut little known but pretty good rocker, Oo Bop Sha Boom which was released as a single (Decca 9-30591).

Their talents didn't just end on the performing front though. They formed the Wil-Helm Talent Agency with former Hank Williams sideman Don Helms and started a music publishing house called Sure-Fire. These helped the early careers of among others, Sonny James, the Osbourne Brothers, Jean Shepherd and most controversially of all, Loretta Lynn, who parted in a sour manner from the set-up. When she collaborated with Hollywood on her biopic Cole Miner's Daughter the Wilburn Brothers were omitted completely from the story line despite their massive role in her career. Such was the ill feeling between the three after the split that Loretta started to use other writers instead of writing herself and letting Sure-Fire get the publishingIn 1963 they started their own weekly TV show, in colour, The Wilburn Brothers Show, that ran until 1974. They were named Duet of the Year in the Music City News Awards in 1967 and were nominated for Vocal Group of the Year at the 1972 CMA Awards.

Doyle died of cancer on October 16, 1982, which left Teddy to carry on as a solo act on the Grand Ole Opry until his own death from congestive heart failure on November 24, 2003. As with most acts from the past, their artistic talent is long forgotten by the country music industry but real fans of the real sound still hold them close to their hearts. Their harmonising and countrypolitan sound still has a freshness today which outshines the majority of stuff the Nashville labels are producing today. If they are to be the last of the sibling duos they certainly carried the torch with proud. The stage is set for someone to take the throne, but when and who will that be?

Top Ten Picks:

1. Trouble's Back In Town - Top 5 hit from 1962 is countrypolitan Nashpop that has the Big O and Jim Reeves written all over it.

2. Trouble Keeps Hanging Around My Door - The Wilburn's revived the Delmore Brothers style on this great Ted Daffan ballad. All that was missing was a Wayne Raney blast on harmonica.

3. Hey, Mr Bluebird with Ernest Tubb - A perfect slice of Nashville pop from the pen of the late-great Cindy Walker that sees Ernest as tuneful as he ever got.

4. Which One Is To Blame - 1959 hit record in the Ray Price shuffle beat. You'd swear the Cherokee Cowboys were backing the boys here.

5. I Wanna, Wanna, Wanna ­ Louisiana music guru J.D. Miller penned this uptempo two minute chunk of fiddle laden hillbilly.

6. Somebody's Back In Town ­ Top ten honky tonker written by Teddy and Doyle and Don Helms.

7. Arkansas ­ a deviation into the folk field that suits the guys to the ground.

8. Sparkling Brown Eyes with Webb Pierce ­ this classic split tempo number was their first hit.

9. Fighting A Mem'ry ­ pure honky tonk from the pen of Danny Walls.

10. Hurt Her Once For Me ­ their biggest hit from 1966 which reminds me of Buck Owens.

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