August 12, 2008
Written by Lew DeWitt
Recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductees The Statler Brothers first polished their musical stylings singing gospel music, and Johnny Cash was so impressed with the group’s work at a 1963 show in Ohio that he invited them to join his tour. Two years later, they enjoyed their most famous success with “Flowers on the Wall”, the story of a man’s loss of romance and reality, and a perfect example of the quartet‘s ability to mix music with (dark) comedy.
Penned by founding member Lew Dewitt, “Flowers on the Wall” is full of desperate isolation as the abandoned narrator tells his former flame not to worry about him in the wake of her goodbye. The sarcasm reaches high level in the chorus, as he pretends that “counting flowers on the wall, that don’t bother me at all” while playing solitaire with a short deck and watching Captain Kangaroo. As he declares, “Now don’t tell me I’ve nothin’ to do”, his lost love must be sensing him slip. And as the song continues, he descends farther down into his own world, almost begging her to believe that “he’s havin’ quite a time” in the solitude of his room. His boredom borders on pathetic, but he still manages to maintain pride with a little wit and a lot of dishonesty.
The quirky cut connected with the country audience, reaching #2 in January 1966 and becoming the title track to the group’s first album, issued on Columbia Records later that year. The performance also won the quartet their first of three Grammy awards. They would continue to record and tour for over 30 years, even after the death of Dewitt in 1990, and also hosted their own highly-rated show on The Nashville Network in the 1980s.
“Flowers on the Wall” has become a popular culture magnet, gaining fame when Kurt Vonnegut dissected the lyric in his novel Palm Sunday and when Quentin Tarantino used the song in the movie Pulp Fiction. It has also received countless covers from artists such as Pat Boone and Nancy Sinatra, and country artist Eric Heatherly rode his remake to the Top Ten in 2000. But still, the Statler Brothers’ original remains the defining version.
“Flowers on the Wall” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.