Just about the time I am writing and posting this, family and friends are gathering graveside in Staunton, Virginia, to say goodbye to Harold Reid, the much-loved bass singer, and comedian of the Statler Brothers.
In normal times I would be there with them, sharing their grief at Harold’s passing, and fondly remembering all the times he made us laugh and sing along.
I probably knew Harold and the Statlers longer than anyone in the Nashville music community. I was there in Canton, Ohio, on New Year’s Day 1964 when Johnny Cash heard them sing and saw them perform for the first time. Harold’s brother, Don, songwriter and lead vocalist of the group told me on Saturday that the Statlers, known then as the Kingsmen Quartet, actually met me that day before they met Johnny. He even referred to me as “the 5th Statler Brother.” I’ve never been paid a nicer compliment.
I remember standing in the wings alongside Johnny as the Statlers tore the crowd apart with their harmonies and Harold’s goofball antics. Johnny had a mile-wide grin on his face the entire time, and something told me I was witnessing history in the making. He hired them that night.
I rode a lot of rivers alongside the Statlers. They invited me to their hometown for one of their famous 4th of July celebrations in the mid-seventies. Me and my Po’ Boys played a softball game against the Statler’s team in the morning (we got our tails whipped!), and then we did a concert for something like 50,000 fans that night. In return, the Statlers came to Provo, Utah, when I owned a radio station there, and starred in the biggest outdoor concert that town had ever seen. I didn’t have the nerve to suggest another softball game!
I guested on the Statler’s top-rated television show on The Nashville Network. They recorded, “City Lights,” for one of their albums. And in his role as Lester “Roadhog” Moran of the fictional Cadillac Cowboys, Harold dubbed me, “Bill Andrews…The Pore Ol’ Boy Hisself.” I’m still trying to live that one down.
The last time I saw Harold I knew his health was beginning to fail him. It was following Jimmy Dean’s funeral service in Richmond back in June 2010. I sat outside Jimmy’s pool house on Chaffin’s Bluff overlooking the James River with Harold and his wife, telling old war stories and laughing like a bunch of school kids.
It was a hot day, and I remember Harold perspiring through his royal blue dress shirt and telling me that he had been having some health issues. That trademark twinkle was still in his eyes, though, and I knew that whatever his issues were, he wouldn’t be going down without a fight.
And he didn’t. Don told me that when Harold refused kidney dialysis, the doctors gave him six months to live. That was a little over three years ago. Harold passed away Friday night at the age of 80.
I love ya’, “Road Hog,” and I’ll miss you. I’m so thankful for the time we got to spend together. Rest in peace, my friend….and save me a place.
Whistlin’ Bill Andrews
The Pore Ol’ Boy Hisself