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Satan Is Real

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
With an introduction by Kris Kristofferson, this book easily ranks as one of my favorite music biographies of all-time, and I've read many. Satan Is Real, The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers was written by Charlie Louvin with Benjamin Whitmer (Igniter press, published January 3, 2012 a year after Charlie's passing).

inline imageHere's a prescription for sanity: Friday night I turned off the computer and cracked open the book. A great one grabs you by the throat in the first few paragraphs and never lets up. Sadly, by 9:00 p.m. Saturday night, page 320 rolled by with nothing more to enjoy so I spun a few Louvin classics I'd not listened to in awhile. Man, were they something. And so is this book.

Their influence spread far and wide. From bluegrass purists to country rockers to folkies, hard core rockers, pop icons, punkers, seems about anyone that was into music has been influenced by their work or sang their songs. From Waylon to Thile, from Dolly to The Beatles, The Everly Brothers to Willie Nelson and the Dead to Emmy Lou. David Grisman certainly was influenced as you'll soon see.

Few works I've felt stronger about, hence this post. But don't take my word for it. Rave reviews by respected sources are easily found online from sites such as The New Yorker, Time Out Chicago, not to mention a nearly perfect reader review rating on

In the sake of brevity I won't give up any details, but one gem stuck in our mind, like the time Bill Monroe loaned Ira his mandolin for a gig. Afterwards Bill invites both Louvins (actual last name was Loudermilk. Louvin was a stage name.) for coffee. Over what starts as serious conversation, Ira asks Bill if he'll sing at his funeral when he passes. Conversation continues until Bill and Ira agree to sing at each other's funerals depending upon who dies first. They're laughing with glee at the thought while Charlie is stunned thinking the entire conversation is morbid. Monroe ultimately interrupts a tour to return to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at Ira's funeral backed by the Jordanaires. Powerful.

Louvin Brothers on stage at the Grand Ole Opry

A quote from Part 2 of our 2010 interview with David Grisman included this little gem:

"I shocked Sam Bush one time while we were working in my studio when I opened a case to reveal Ira Louvin's unique Martin 2-15 which he himself had customized with pearl inlaid flames surrounding the f-holes, pearl binding and his own "IRA" in the headstock. Sam had been commenting earlier that afternoon about this instrument when he noticed it in a photo of the Louvin Brothers hanging on the studio wall."

1947 Martin 2-15 customized by Ira Louvin

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to purchase Charles Wolfe's In Close Harmony: The Story of the Louvin Brothers. At twice the price of Satan Is Real, it's a bargain if it's half as good.

I'll let you know after I've read it.

Louvin Brothers - I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby

Additional resource: Louvins from This Day In History

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Updated Jan-03-2017 at 7:30am by Mandolin Cafe (updating a broken link)

General Mandolin Comments


  1. JeffD's Avatar
    On your recommendation I just ordered it.

    I have many Louvin Brothers songs on my CD and on a trip last summer through Virginia I played all of them. The cumulative effect became evident in my mandolin playing that evening.

    Most of what I know (not much) about them came from that excerpt of a documentary on brother groups in country music, for which there is a youtube, and random things picked up in conversations. I look forward to reading the book and getting the whole story.
  2. Larry S Sherman's Avatar
    I picked it up tonight. It looks like a cool pulp fiction novel.

  3. Scott Tichenor's Avatar
    You tell me if I'm wrong. This is a great read.
  4. sbarnes's Avatar
    i read it on kindle....thouroughly enjoyed it....
  5. Scott Tichenor's Avatar
    Just found this Charlie Louvin trailer on Milk Products Media web site.

  6. still_fiddlin's Avatar
    Just finished the Kindle version. What a great story. Charles Louvin's story is clearly told in his own voice. (If you weren't raised within a family that included Southern, subsistence farmers, you may be surprised at the color of some of the language here, especially if you are familiar with the gospel part of the Louvin Brothers work.)

    Like many stories of talented musicians, it's filled with memorable anecdotes, and contains a life (Ira's) whose arc is predestined to end tragically. Whether you know a little or a lot about the Louvins, you'll appreciate this book.
  7. Geordie's Avatar
    I ordered this sucker on your recommendation, and now it is one of my favourite musician autobiographies (and I've read a lot of them). A fantastic read! I knew it was gonna be good when Charlie "beat the sh*t" out of Ira on their mom's front lawn on page two!
    Thanx for bringing this to our attention.
  8. JeffD's Avatar
    Just received mine this week. What a wonderful read. Even if you are not a Louvin Bros. fan or even a music fan, this book is a fun read.
  9. vegas's Avatar
    I read a glowing review of this book in either The New York Times or The New Yorker, two publications I don't normally associate with country music or that I would expect to show any sensitivity towards or understanding of "Southern culture." I thought that was odd. I thought it might be an "outsider's" discovery of something different which otherwise might never come to the attention of that demographic. It may be that, but it also appears to be a good read and nobody has panned it as a hack job written for sensationalistic book sales. Guess I'll be going to Amazon next. Thanks for a good review!

  10. Robert Billings's Avatar
    Got a copy from my library. A page turner! I keep telling friends what a good read it was. Thanks for the recommendation!
  11. ccravens's Avatar
    A better than average bio, and enjoyable read. Those who don't like a lot of F-bombs and cussing will need to be forewarned.

    But the book cover, of the album cover, is worth its weight in gold!

    As many have said, one of the best album covers of all time. Nice that the author went into the creation of the album cover in his narrative. Good stuff!
  12. Denny Gies's Avatar
    This is a very good book, highly enjoyed it; but the best?
  13. ccravens's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies
    This is a very good book, highly enjoyed it; but the best?
    Well, in fairness to Scott, it is a totally subjective thing.

    I've read lots of music bios, and I would say its a good one and interesting, in spite of the large amounts of cursing.

    "Best" is a matter of opinion, of course, but the world would be boring if we all had the same opinions.

  14. Jack Pearl's Avatar
    Great Book - best musical memoir I've read. Carries you right along to the last page.
  15. mandolinfox's Avatar
    Definitely one of my favorite musical autobiographies, along with "Miles: The Autobiography". I thought the rough language actually added to the charm - it made what he said more real, as opposed to so many autobiographies that just try to gloss up a performer's legacy. But what came through the strongest to me is Charlie's love and devotion to his brother. It was a complex relationship, and Charlie details it beautifully - even the f***ed up parts!