Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Statler Brothers, “Elizabeth”


The Statler Brothers

Written by Jimmy Fortune


#1 (1 week)

March 17, 1984

The Statler Brothers had been established stars since the mid-sixties and reliable hitmakers throughout the seventies. But they had more No. 1 singles in the eighties than in any other decade, and all of them came after a major lineup change.

Founding member Lew DeWitt exited the group in 1982 due to chronic health issues, though his vocals appeared on hits released through 1983.  The group replaced DeWitt with a new lead singer, Jimmy Fortune.  He more than lived up to his surname, as their first album together – 1983’s Today – produced three big hits. After “Oh Baby Mine (I Get So Lonely)” went top five and “Guilty” went top ten, the Fortune-penned “Elizabeth” became their first No. 1 single in six years.

I’m sure “Elizabeth” sounded like something from an earlier era when it was on the radio.  All of these years later, it’s best described as timeless.  It’s to Fortune’s credit that he’s able to blend in so beautifully with his groupmates, evoking the classic harmonies that had defined them for a quarter century. 

it’s a stunningly gorgeous record, one that weds their signature sound to a plaintive mountain melody that harkens back to the Carter Family.  It’s remarkable that they got this on to the radio in 1984, but it absolutely belonged there. The Statler Brothers have rarely sounded better.  

“Elizabeth” gets an A. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Great point on the fact the song sounds so old even for the 80’s. Thought this song would have been right at home in any decade that preceded the 80’s. I think the Louvin’s mention is perfect as after I read that it made perfect sense. This would have fit right at home in their catalog of music

  2. The Statler Brother’s bass singer Harold Reid once said of the band, “We’re patriotism, and nostalgia and Mom and apple pie and that’s it.”

    What flavour of sentimental nostalgia you liked determined how big a fan you were of the Statlers.

    It’s wild that the band who spent eight years playing with Johnny Cash, providing back up vocals (they were e with him at Folsom Prison) would also go on to have an insanely successful musical variety show on TNN sharing their hits, comedy, nostalgia, and gospel music in the nineties. It was the highest rated show in the network’s history.

    Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Was a fan of the Statlers and called them “America’s poets.”

    Given all of this embracing of the past, so much of their later work with Jimmy Fortune sounded timeless sung in whatever era or decade.

    Don Reid acknowledged this dynamic when he said, “The Statler Brothers are what happened to you yesterday , and who you are today.”

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