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Last week it was announced that Charlie Louvin who just turned 83, has been diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer. Charlie has a six hour surgery scheduled at the Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville on July 22nd, two days after his new album Hickory Wind : Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross GA is released.
Being the tough guy that Charlie is, he’s already planning to start touring again by August 21st if all goes right, and when he does, it will not be a big shot booking agency filling Charlie’s calendar, but an agency who books bands like Joe Buck and The .357 String Band, that being the Bucket City Agency.
Charlie Louvin, just like many aging country music greats, is finding a soft landing in the grass roots built by Outlaw and underground country artists. As radio support and media coverage dwindles, labels, booking agencies, and managers who are tooled to deal with smaller-sized performers rise up to meet the task. Many greats like Charlie are also finding that their fan base is filling with younger folks, and that they get better turnout at venues that typically cater to younger crowds and rock bands. Just like in the 70′s, when the Outlaws created a strange mix of cowboys and hippies, these older artists are mixing old with young fans.
And Charlie isn’t the only one. Bucket City also books the 90-year-old T-Model Ford. When Merle Haggard went to release his album If I Could Only Fly he did so under punk label Epitaph Records, home of the bands Bad Religion and Rancid. Charlie explained his issues with label and radio support in a must-read article by Juli Thanki:
“When I was on the road, people would say â€śI wish youâ€™d record again.â€ť So Iâ€™d go home, wipe the savings account out and record the CD. Of course, Iâ€™m too poor to send a copy to 3500 disc jockeys, and most radio stations wonâ€™t play an indie label period, no matter who sings it. So you see those same people a year later and theyâ€™d say â€śI thought you were going to put out a CD,â€ť and Iâ€™d say, â€śI did, about nine months ago.â€ť”
“They donâ€™t grade what they play by the quality of its content. They play it because the person whoâ€™s singing it is young, and cute…And it seems that the major labels own most of the radio stations…Radio is supposed to be a community project, and too many stations are getting their orders from somewhere else. And what New York City would like isnâ€™t necessarily what Manchester, Tennessee would want to hear.”
When Hank Williams III first signed with Curb Records, they sent him to Branson to cut his country teeth. One of the acts he opened for was Charlie Louvin. Hank III later paid his respects by adding a portion of the Louvin Brothers gospel hit “Satan is Real” to the beginning of his song “Straight to Hell.”
Our thoughts are with Charlie and his family, and we look forward to seeing him back out on the road soon!