Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 5 August 1934, Woodland AL; d 28 April 2009, Nashville TN) Country singer, known as The Voice: played bluegrass, West Coast country-rock, gospel and rock'n'roll, but is regarded as one of the finest honky-tonk singers of all time, finally gaining recognition as a 50-year-old 'New Traditional' country star of the late 1980s.
He sang in the Gosdin Family Gospel Show as a teenager on radio KVOX, Birmingham AL, and moved to Atlanta '53, working by day, singing in evening, then to Chicago where he managed a club, and to California '60 with brother Rex. He worked as a welder and formed bluegrass group the Golden State Boys; Chris Hillman joined the lineup and it became the Hillmen. Vern had been asked to join the Byrds just before they signed with Columbia but didn't; Hillman left to join the Byrds, and Vern and Rex formed the Gosdin Brothers, opening shows for the Byrds '64-6. They made the country charts with 'Hanging On' '67 on the Bakersfield International label; signed to Capitol '68 but split up '69; Vern moved to Atlanta and opened a glass and mirror business, playing small clubs locally.
Vern went to Nashville '76 for recordings, guests including Emmylou Harris, etc and leased them to Elektra: he had hits with 'Yesterday's Gone', 'Till The End', 'Never My Love' '77-8, but Elektra closed its country division '80. He signed to Ovation '81, AMI '82 with further hits. Then to short-lived Compleat Records and a breakthrough, having his first no. 1 with 'I Can Tell By The Way You Dance (You're Gonna Love Me Tonight)' '84, but distribution problems meant that after six top tens the hits petered out. Signed by Columbia '87 to spearhead their move into 'New Traditional Country', he was back in the top ten and had further chart-toppers with 'Set 'Em Up Joe' '88, 'I'm Still Crazy' '89; the album title song Chiseled In Stone (co-written with Max D. Barnes) was named CMA Song of the Year '88. The album Alone was mainly co-written, and focused on divorce from second wife. The hits continued including 'Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time' and 'Is It Raining At Your House?' '89-90.
He opened his own showplace, the Country Music Amphitheatre, in Ardmore AL '92. After heart surgery '90 and a heart attack '94 he cut back on road work. Albums included Sounds Of Goodbye (the Gosdin Brothers) '68 on Capitol; 'Til The End '77, Never My Love '78, You've Got Somebody '79 all on Elektra; Today My World Slipped Away '83, Dream Lady '84 both on AMI; If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong '83, There Is A Season '84, If Jesus Comes Tomorrow '84, Time Stood Still '85 all on Compleat; Out Of My Heart '91 and Nickels And Dimes '93 on Columbia.