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Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers Hardcover – January 3, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Born the same year as Ralph Stanley and growing up very similarly on a hardscrabble Appalachian farm, Charlie Louvin gained fame in a brother act, too. Like the Stanleys, Charlie (1927–2011) and Ira (1924–65) Louvin made songs their mother taught them cornerstones of their repertoire. The songwriting elder brother in each pair drove it to eventual success, until Ira’s alcoholism broke up their act, leaving the sober sibling to carry on, to greater fortune. It would be false, however, to say that Charlie achieved greater repute on his own, for he and Ira had set the gold standard for harmony singing in country music. They did it by ear and intuition, Charlie reveals, freely exchanging melodic and harmonic lines in the same song, though Ira invariably sang the highest notes. Louvin concentrates on his and Ira’s relationship in this book, completed just two months before his death. Collaborator Whitmer wisely lets it seem entirely an as-told-to effort, like Stanley’s beautifully vernacular Man of Constant Sorrow (2009). Though probably as religious, Louvin is an earthier speaker than Stanley, more personally revealing, too, so that his is a case study vis-à-vis the social history Stanley affords. It’s no less marvelous, though—a real classic of Americana. --Ray Olson


“One of the most important and illuminating memoirs ever written by a country singer.” (Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal)

“I think I’ve already found my favorite book of 2012.” (Chris Talbott, Associated Press)

“Satan Is Real has the best-designed book cover of 2012 .” (Paper Magazine)

“The anecdotes alone offer significance to any person interested in the anthropology of Americana music. Magnanimous without feigning and brusque without malice, Charlie Louvin’s clear-eyed commentary is straightforward and unapologetic.” (Oxford American)

“Masterful [and] graceful.” (Alec Solomita, Wall Street Journal)

“Raw honesty, genuine grit, common sense, and smokin’ down-home flavor.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A real classic of Americana.” (Booklist)

“The mix of light and darkness that filled their music was mirrored in their lives.” (Ian Crouch, The New Yorker)

“[A] chilling portrait of a brilliant musician intent on self-annihilation.” (Kirkus)

“Grand themes of life, death, religion, salvation, damnation, human choices and, sometimes, joy.” (Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times)

“Simple and plain-spoken, yet powerful and resonant.” (Daily Journal)

“There was something scary and washed in the blood about the sound of the Louvin Brothers.” (Emmylou Harris)

“Charlie…was a true punk, in the best sense of the word.” (Lucinda Williams)

“You can’t find anybody, I don’t think, that was not inspired by them.” (Vince Gill)

“They influenced everybody.” (Phil Everly)

“The Burritos’ favorite artists.” (Gram Parsons)

“The Louvin Brothers were my favorite when I was young and growing up in the business.” (Dolly Parton)

“Probably the greatest traditional country duo in history.” (Grove Dictionary of American Music)

“The most influential harmony team in the history of country music.” (Los Angeles Times)

“One of the pre-eminent brother acts in country music and an inspiration to several generations of rock musicians.” (New York Times)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Igniter; First Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062069039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062069030
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I worked for Charlie for 12 years as bass player, harmony vocals, bandleader, record producer and very close friend. I am so glad that Charlie took the time to share he and his brother's life through the pages of this book. Charlie was often accused of being outspoken and opinionated but his beliefs and convictions never wavered. You always knew where he stood. There's absolutely no guessing. He had a very strong will, determination and character.
This book has so many great stories about Charlie's and his brother Ira plus an added bonus of lyrics to several of the duo's best loved songs. Charlie and Ira didn't always seen eye to eye but if you wanted to get on Charlie's bad side, just say something negative about his brother. Ira died in 1965 but until Charlie's dying day he loved his brother more than words could ever say. As much as Charlie loved music and performing, his family was the most important of all. I am honored to say that being on the road with Charlie I heard many of these stories but there's even some stories in the book that he never told. Whether you're a fan of the Louvin Brothers, Charlie Louvin or traditional country music you'll get a glimpse of love, life, family and the trails and tribulations for one of the most famous and most influential music duos. I think it should be required reading for university music degree programs or for those wanting to get in to the music business so they can understand what sacrifices artists made in paving the way for the next generation of up and coming acts. Definitely a must have book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Of course the stories Charlie Louvin tells are fantastic. The time he and his brother sneaked a listen to Roy Acuff, and later the time Johnny Cash sneaked a listen to them. The shiny hucksters. The small-time radio gigs. Crammed inside a tool shed to try out for the Opry, over and over. Roy Acuff's people calling him a liar. Hank Williams passed out drunk in a Shreveport gutter. Korean War. Walgreen's lunch counter. All of the "success" of his later years.

In addition to the telling great stories and showcasing his devotion for his brother, Charlie Louvin got it right in the way the stories are presented. Louvin and Ben Whitmer have put together a phenomenal book in terms of structure, for one thing. Each story is presented in a few pages -- sometimes three, sometimes five or six. Each one can stand all alone, like a short story, but each story informs the entire narrative, like chapters in a book.

This book is kinda like the quilt your grandmother and her friends had hanging from that frame in the ceiling, the one they worked on every afternoon while you watched tv and drank iced tea and listened to them out of the corner of your ear. Each little square they worked into the quilt had its own narrative, its own reason. And they worked, piecing them together in a tapestry, the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts. Each square a work of art, and the whole quilt a piece of each of them, a memory of warmth, passed down for generations.

Charlie Louvin told great stories, and Benjamin Whitmer Pike (Switchblade) has worked them together into an amazing collection.

Whether you're interested in country living or country music, in American history or personal history, SATAN IS REAL is a remarkable achievement and, more importantly, an amazing and rewarding read.
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Format: Hardcover
I read hundreds of books a year but this was one of the most enjoyable books I've read in years. I had always heard of the Louvin Brothers but to be honest I didn't know a whole lot about them. After reading "Satan is Real", that is no longer the case. This book is informative, fun, and written in a manner that is simple and easy to follow. After finishing the book I rushed to You Tube to watch videos of Charlie & Ira and I have to agree they are as fine a duet as I've seen. What sweet harmony to be hold. Their life story is told from their rough & poor childhood in Alabama, to the begining of their musical careers as struggleing artists and on to the Grand Ole Opry. The book continues right up to the deaths of Ira in 1965 and Charlie in 2011. A timely novel that any lover of music will want to read right away and then go tell all their friends about. I am now a full fledged fan, chasing down their music, and memorbilia. Oh and I amost forgot to mention, the book also has one of the coolest, if not the coolest covers I've ever seen. The jacket is taken from an actual Louvin Brothers album cover, and is a story in itself. The photo shoot for it is covered in the book as well. Great stuff, this book has it all. After reading this one you will also want to seek out Benjamin Whitmers debut novel "Pike", a terrific crime novel debut.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a rare thing for a music legend to ever be truly honest with the public. Too much honesty can be bad for sales. But after a more than half-century in the music business, Charlie Louvin didn't feel he had anything to hide.

And this book is pure Charlie: candid, rough-hewn, unpretentious, thoughtful. Charlie's honesty about the brutality visited upon Ira (and himself, but more Ira) by their father, about Ira's nasty, alcohol-fueled behavior, about the hard times in general, is breathtaking. Charlie doesn't sugarcoat anything, but his simple recollections carry no taint of scandalmongering in order to sell a book either. Here, he says, is just how it was.

Co-writer Benjamin Whitmer (of PIKE fame) has done a superlative job of eliciting and organizing the stories of Charlie's life, clarifying and illustrating his words without ever once getting in the way of Charlie's natural voice. Thus not only the music and the brothers are revealed here, but also there is a glimpse into mid-century rural Appalachian culture, a time when small family farms were worked by hand, a time when communities came together around a single radio. And also a time when a man could with impugnity beat his children senseless; when a sixth-grade education was all most children of Appalachia could aspire to; when racial slurs were accepted conversation; a time and place of grinding poverty that could yet yield the finest of vocal harmonies. Along the way, Charlie talks about the celebrities of his day and industry, not namedropping but recognizing the roles these people played in his life: Roy Acuff, Fred Rose, Hank Williams, Elvis, Colonel Tom Parker, and Kris Kristofferson. And the chapter about the loan Johnny Cash made to Charlie is worth the price of the book all by itself.
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