Harold Reid, Statler Brothers Bass Singer, Dies at 80

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Harold Reid (L) with the Statler Brothers, circa 1970.

Harold Reid, who sang bass for the Grammy-winning country group the Statler Brothers, has died after a long battle with kidney failure. He was 80.

Reid died Friday in his hometown of Staunton, Virginia, his nephew Debo Reid said.

The Statler Brothers frequently sang backup for country icon Johnny Cash. Some of their biggest hits included 1965′s “Flowers on the Wall” and 1970′s “Bed of Rose’s.”

Harold Reid was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. He was also a comedian.

“He is and will always be loved by his family, friends and millions of fans,” a statement on the band’s website said. “His singing, his songwriting and his comedy made generations happy. He has taken a piece of our hearts with him.”Reid and three boyhood friends — Lew DeWitt, Phil Balsley and Joe McDorman — formed the Four-Star Quartet in 1948. The group, later known as the Kingsmen, sang mostly gospel music. McDorman quit and was replaced by Don Reid, Harold’s younger brother.

DeWitt once said the group changed its name again because several other acts — all better known — were billed as the Kingsmen. The new name came from a box of Statler tissue, he said.

The quartet switched to country music in 1964, after meeting Cash and joining his road show.

Over the next two decades, the Statlers won three Grammy Awards and were named top vocal groups nine times by the Country Music Association.

“He leaves a large and loving family and millions of fans who remember his stage and TV antics with smiles and cherish his music that will live with the ages,” Debo Reid said in a statement.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young also issued the following statement: "Harold Reid was a driving force in one of country music’s greatest quartets, the Statler Brothers. He helped steer the group to stupendous successes, and his stirring bass was the underpinning of dozens of classic hits. He was also a tremendous entertainer, and one of the world’s funniest people. For decades, he made us laugh and made us cry. As his alter ego, Lester 'Roadhog' Moran, would say, his contributions were 'mighty fine.' We mourn his loss while we celebrate a life well-lived."

“Harold and the Statler Brothers were a staple on many of the great CMA Awards shows throughout the 1970s,” Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer, said in an emailed statement. “When I passed Harold backstage at TNN during a taping for their long-running television show, he always had a hello and a bright smile. When I heard of his passing on Friday, I immediately thought of his legendary bass vocals on so many era-defining Country and gospel classics.”

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