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Members include Doyle Wilburn (born Virgil Doyle Wilburn on July 7, 1930, in Hardy, AK; died on October 16, 1982), vocals; Teddy Wilburn (born Thurman Theodore Wilburn on November 30, 1931, in Hardy, AK), vocals.
Originally appearing on the Grand Ole Opry as part of the Wilburn Family country music group in 1940, the Wilburn Brothers became permanent members of the Opry in 1953, after which they became consistent performers of hit records as well as pioneers of syndicated televised country music. It was on their television program that brothers Teddy and Doyle helped launch the careers of sisters Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle in the early 1960s. The brothers also recorded a consistent string of hits from 1953 until the early 1970s, including "I Wanna, Wanna, Wanna," "Trouble's Back in Town," "Roll Muddy River," "It's Another World," and "Someone Before Me," as well as making appearances in the country music travelogue Country Music U.S.A. The Wilburn Brothers' harmonies were modeled on the style revolutionized by the Delmore Brothers, though the Wilburns featured more secular and contemporary lyrics that are often classified as belonging to the honky-tonk genre of country music. The brothers also were songwriters of note, penning such country music chestnuts as "Knoxville Girl," "That's When I Miss You," "Need Someone," and "Much Too Often." In addition to their successes in recording and television, the brothers also formed one of Nashville's most successful music publishing companies, Sure-Fire Music, with brothers Lester and Leslie, as well as the talent/booking agency Wil-Helm Talent, with Smiley Wilson.
The Wilburns were born and raised in Hardy, Arkansas. The family patriarch, Benjamin Wilburn, a disabled World War I veteran, bought a mandolin, guitar, and fiddle for his five children from the Sears-Roebuck mail-order catalog. He rehearsed the fledgling group for nearly a year. Comprised of his progeny--brothers Lester (born on May 19, 1924), Leslie (born on October 13, 1925), Doyle (born on July 7, 1930), and Teddy (born on November 30, 1931), and sister (Vinita) Geraldine (born on June 5, 1927)--the Wilburn Children performed their first concert on a street corner in Thayer, Missouri. Because school years in the Ozark Mountain area during this time lasted only six months, Pop Wilburn was able to conduct tours with his children for the other six months. They played churches, local radio stations, movie houses, and schools throughout the area. Country music pioneer Roy Acuff heard the family group in Birmingham, Alabama, and coerced the Grand Ole Opry into arranging an audition. By the spring of 1940, the Wilburn Children were regular cast members of the Opry, and while their youth was their main draw for audiences, it also caused local labor officials to challenge the long and late hours worked by the group. Pressure from a child labor organization caused the Opry to drop the group from its performance roster after six months.
After they were dropped by the Grand Ole Opry, the Wilburn family soldiered on, returning to touring radio stations and county fairs until Geraldine left the group to get married. In 1948 the four brothers joined the Louisiana Hayride, the famous radio and live-performance venue that also helped launch the careers of Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. The act disbanded when both Doyle and Teddy were drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, during the Korean War.
After receiving honorable discharges from the army in 1953, Doyle and Teddy returned to the Grand Ole Opry as backup harmony singers for honky-tonk singer Webb Pierce. In that year, the brothers became regular members--becoming full cast members in 1956--of the Opry and secured a recording contract with Decca Records. As a duo, the Wilburn Brothers began to record prolifically. They also received national exposure through appearances on television programs hosted by such arbiters of musical taste as Arthur Godfrey--they won first place on Godfrey's Talent Scouts program--and Dick Clark. The Wilburn Brothers' first hit, "I Wanna, Wanna, Wanna," was released in 1953, and they hit their hit-making stride the following year with "I'm So in Love with You" and "Go Away with Me." In addition to performing with Pierce, the brothers also provided supporting vocals to live and recorded performances by country music legends Faron Young and Ernest Tubb. With Tubb, the brothers recognized two top-ten hits with the songs "Mister Love" and "Hey, Mr. Bluebird," and with Pierce, the duo scored a 1954 number-four hit, "Sparkling Brown Eyes." Other hits recorded by the Wilburns in the 1950s include "A Woman's Intuition."
In the 1960s, the Wilburns achieved increasing successes with their top-five hit singles, "Trouble's Back in Town," "Roll Muddy River," "It's Another World," "Hurt Her Once for Me," "Which One Is to Blame," "Goody, Goody Gumdrop," "Blues Plus Booze (Means I Lose)," and "Santa Fe Rolls Royce." The Wilburns stuck to a simple recording style that eschewed the lush "Nashville sound" common at the time. Instead, they relied on a musical lineup that included a steel guitar and piano supported occasionally by a background chorus.
The Wilburns debuted their weekly syndicated television series in the early 1960s, a venue that they used to promote their own recording successes as well as aiding the career of such future stars as Loretta Lynn, whom the brothers further helped by assisting her to secure a recording contract with Decca. Lynn was billed as a "permanent guest star" on the series, which also featured regulars such as banjoist Harold Morrison and steel-guitar player Don Helms. The show was sponsored by Garrett snuff and Bull-of-the-Woods tobacco and followed a rigid format that ensured weekly performances of a honky-tonk country song, a gospel song, a traditional song, and a popular contemporary song. In addition to their American television series, the brothers also hosted a weekly program that was broadcast on Australian television.
The Wilburn Brothers' last chart success occurred in 1972, with the single "Arkansas." They continued to appear on the Grand Ole Opry through the remainder of the 1970s. The brothers' professional and personal relationship with Lynn dissolved in acrimony in the 1970s. Doyle Wilburn died of cancer in 1982, bringing down the curtain on the duo act that had endured for 27 years. "It was like a 45 year marriage ended," Teddy was quoted as saying in the 1992 edition of the Grand Ole Opry Picture-History Book. "There was a lot of adjusting to do," he added. Teddy continued to perform at the Grand Ole Opry through the 1980s and 1990s as a solo act and as one-half of a duo with brother Lester.
by Bruce Walker
The Wilburn Brothers's Career
Began as part of Wilburn Family act, late 1930s; played the Grand Ole Opry at invitation of Roy Acuff, 1941; joined Webb Pierce's Southern Valley Boys, 1951; drafted into United States Army, 1951; joined Faron Young, 1953; began recording as duo and had first hit single, "Sparkling Brown Eyes," a collaboration with Webb Pierce, 1954; joined full members of Grand Ole Opry, and recorded hits, "Go Away with Me," "I Wanna Wanna Wanna," "I'm So in Love with You," and duet with Ernest Tubb, "Hey Mr. Bluebird," 1956; recorded hits, "Which One Is to Blame," "Somebody's Back in Town," and "A Woman's Intuition," 1959; released hit single "Trouble's Back in Town," 1962; began hosting syndicated variety program, 1963; released hit single, "Tell Her So," 1963; recorded hit single "It's Another World," 1965; recorded hit single "Someone Before Me" and "Hurt Her Once for Me," 1966; duo disbanded upon Doyle's death, 1982.
- Selected discography
- The Wilburn Brothers Decca, 1957.
- Living in God's Country Decca, 1959.
- Ernest Tubb and the Wilburn Brothers Decca, 1959.
- The Big Heartbreak Decca, 1960.
- City Limits Decca, 1961.
- The Wilburn Brothers Sing Decca, 1961.
- The Wonderful Wilburn Brothers Decca, 1961.
- Folk Songs Decca, 1962.
- Carefree Moments Vocalion, 1962.
- Trouble's Back in Town Decca, 1963.
- Take Up Thy Cross Decca, 1964.
- Never Alone Decca, 1974.
- I'm Gonna Tie One on Tonight Decca, 1965.
- Country Gold Decca, 1965; reissued, 1985.
- The Wilburn Brothers Show Decca, 1966.
- Let's Go Country Decca, 1966.
- Two for the Show Decca, 1967.
- Cool Country Decca, 1967.
- In Another World Decca, 1968.
- I Walk the Line Decca, 1968.
- The Wilburn Brothers' Greatest Hits Decca, 1968.
- We Need a Lot More Happiness Decca, 1969.
- It Looks Like the Sun's Gonna Shine Decca, 1969.
- Little Johnny from Down the Street Decca, 1970.
- Sing Your Heart Out Country Boy Decca, 1970.
- That Country Feeling Decca, 1970.
- That She's Leaving Feeling Decca, 1971.
- A Portrait Decca, 1973.
- Trouble's Back in Town: The Hits of the Wilburn Brothers Edsel, 1998.
- Carlin, Richard, editor, The Big Book of Country Music, Penguin, 1995.
- Dellar, Fred, Roy Thompson, and Douglas B. Green, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, Harmony, 1977.
- Kingsbury, Paul, editor, The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Macmillan, 1998.
- Shestack, Melvin, editor, The Country Music Encyclopedia, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974.
- Stambler, Irwin, and Grelun Landon, editors, Country Music: The Encyclopedia, St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.
- Strobel, Jerry, editor, Grand Ole Opry Picture-History Book, Opryland USA, 1992.
- Wolff, Kurt, Country Music: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, 2000.
- "The Wilburn Brothers," CMT.com, http://www.cmt.com (August 22, 2003).
- "Wilburn Brothers," MusicWeb Encyclopaedia of Popular Music, http://www.musicweb.uk.net/encyclopaedia/w/W72.HTM (August 22, 2003).
The Wilburn Brothers Lyrics
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