The Statler Brothers (sometimes referred to in country music circles as simply The Statlers) were an American country music, gospel, and vocal group. The quartet was formed in 1955 performing locally and, in 1964, they began singing backup for Johnny Cash.
Originally performing gospel music at local churches, the group billed themselves as The Four Star Quartet, and later The Kingsmen. In 1963, when the song "Louie, Louie" by the garage rock band also called The Kingsmen became famous, the group elected to bill themselves as The Statler Brothers. Despite the name, only two members of the group (Don and Harold Reid) are actual brothers and none has the surname of Statler. The band, in fact, named themselves after a brand of facial tissue they had noticed in a hotel room (they joked that they could have turned out to be the Kleenex Brothers). Don Reid sang lead; Harold Reid, Don's older brother, sang bass; Phil Balsley sang baritone; and Lew DeWitt sang tenor and was the guitarist of the Statlers before being replaced by Jimmy Fortune in 1983 due to DeWitt's ill health. DeWitt continued to perform as a solo artist until his death on August 15, 1990 from heart and kidney disease.
The band's style was closely linked to their gospel roots. "We took gospel harmonies," said Harold Reid, "and put them over in country music."
The group remained closely tied to their gospel roots, with a majority of their records containing at least one gospel song. They produced several albums containing only gospel music and recorded a tribute song to the Blackwood Brothers, who influenced their music. The Statler Brothers also wrote a tribute song to Johnny Cash, who discovered them. The song was called "We Got Paid by Cash", and it reminisces about their time with Cash.