Mr. Chris's Blog:
down to earth
We Need More Statler Brotherness
April 11, 2016
In my work life as a CPA, my “boss” lives just outside of Nashville and has long been in the media industry there. When I first told him that I am originally from Staunton, VA, we entered into a conversation about the Statler Brothers, as they are also from Staunton. A little reference for anyone unfamiliar; the Statlers are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame following a long, successful career in writing and recording music, and with concert touring and television. All of those years, they kept their homes and business offices in Staunton, and they were able to maintain normal lives in our small town.
My boss, a pure business guy, let me know that it was a running joke years back in the Nashville media industry that if you wanted to make something profitable you should just add something by the Statlers. He even gave an example.
Growing up in Staunton, my family has long been friends with the individual Statlers and their families, and I had a peek into some of their “behind the scenes” as a kid. They are one of my favorite music artists, partially as they are from Staunton and the same culture of music that my family is from, but also because I just really love their music and act. They had a recognizable sound, wrote great songs, and were masters of the stage. However, at the end of the day, they really were just a gospel quartet who sang country songs and told jokes. That leads me to this question – so why were they so successful?
Around our town, the Statlers used to say that it takes 20% talent and 80% luck to get a break in the music business. I am sure there was some “right place and right time” for them, and obviously a ton of hard work and smart people, but it wasn’t until my “boss” from Nashville brought up the notion of the Statler financial engine that I performed any real analysis around why the Statler Brothers were so successful. Beyond their great songs, singing talent, and stage comedy, this is what I came up with:
1. Authenticity – The Statlers were always small town people and their act wasn’t that different. Anyone from Staunton would tell you that. They held a free July 4th concert every year in our town, solely to benefit the local charities. Fans came from all over for what was essentially an annual hometown picnic. The people of Staunton were so welcoming to fans, and fans heard first-hand accounts of how these guys lived around town. I think people really connected with the fact that these “celebrities” were pretty much normal people in Staunton, very much like the image they portrayed on-stage.
2. No Stars – Each member sang and was highlighted in the group, regardless of his individual talent. There certainly could have been select “stars” or those who could have gone solo, and fans knew that I am sure, but the Statlers didn’t operate that way. They were friends who grew up together, achieved creative success together, and ran a business together. They all had various roles on-stage and off-stage. The limelight was always about the group, not any particular individual. I think people truly appreciated this concept, which is rarely the case with successful music groups, yesterday or today.
3. Politics were Private – The Statlers never endorsed politicians, parties, or certain views publicly. They performed at the White House for Presidents in both major parties and spoke highly about each. No one felt excluded at a Statler show because of their political views. The Statlers were very public about their support for one thing however - America. They always waived the flag as part of their endeavors and were always very public about their love for America. They connected with so many people who felt the same. I am not sure who I could point to in the music or entertainment industry who has done this so well, relative to politics or America.
4. Class – The Statlers have always had a clean-cut and mature image. They never accepted sponsorships from beer companies, never used bad language in their act, and always had a good sense of judgment on stage. Additionally, everything they did seemed to have the entire family in mind. I think people loved that they were Dads who felt strongly about family values. Right, wrong, or indifferent, they were inherently set-apart from the pack for this reason; so were their fans. This is absolutely lost in popular culture today.
5. Secular but Sacred – The Statlers were a secular country music act, but they always included gospel material in their recordings and shows. They always showed appreciation for that foundation. Few artists have ever been able to successfully achieve this bridge. The Statlers did it well as it wasn’t a bridge, it was who they were, and still are. For fans, it was also who they were. People loved the Brothers for staying true to their Christian roots. Setting aside “earthly facts” for a moment and considering “heavenly factors,” I truly believe the song “How Great Though Art” was written for the Statlers to impact this world. Regardless of design, that is what happened.
6. Consistency – The Statlers’ music and act certainly evolved through the years, but for the most part, it didn’t change a lot. I have a friend from Staunton who told me he had been to every Statler July 4th concert and that it was the same show every year, just with a few new songs and jokes. That is probably true. However, he said that he loved them for that reason. The Statlers didn’t chase the latest fads and didn’t try to be something they weren’t to stay relevant and sell product. They kept true to what they knew, and like my friend, I think people loved them for that consistency.
At the highest level, I concluded that people loved the Statlers because of what they were on-stage, but equally for who they were off-stage. I call it an analysis, but actually these points just represent my off-the-cuff view, and I could go on and on with so many warm personal experiences and professional data points about the Statler Brothers. I have many. However, these are values that I think were at the core of Statler Brothers’ brand, a brand that so many people connected with.
I would like to conclude with a personal story that involves Statler Brother Don Reid. I have never shared this with Don or his sons. I have a cousin in Staunton; she and her husband had new next-door neighbors sometime in the mid-80’s. The new family was from far away and had moved to Staunton due to the father’s job/company. They had a young son who entered the local elementary school around the time the school was about to have their annual PTA event, where prizes were to be won by the students. The grand prize that particular year was a Statler Brothers jacket. This kid had never heard of the Statler Brothers before moving to Staunton, but quickly learned about them as all of the kids at school were talking about “winning that jacket” at the PTA event. Long story short, this boy didn’t win the jacket and he went home a bit upset. Don Reid just happened to be in town and evidently got word of this situation. Don personally showed-up at the front door of this family’s house later that same night to deliver this young boy a Statler Brothers jacket.
That warms your heart, huh? This story represents just one small example of one huge reason why I believe the Statler Brothers were so successful. We need more Statler Brotherness in our popular music and entertainment today.
Until next week,
© Chris Campbell. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.