Cousins Langdon and Wil Reid have been around each other since as long as they can remember. As the sons of Statler Brothers members Don and Harold Reid, respectively, their personal and musical lives have been intertwined since childhood. As Wilson Fairchild, they pay tribute to that Reid family legacy with their new CD Songs Our Dads Wrote. The two have been playing music together for years, dating back to their previous name of Grandstaff. Of that time Langdon Reid recalled:
“When we first started playing music together, we went by the name of Grandstaff – which was a family name. There were some family relatives from way back who had that name. We thought it was a cool name and had a musical ring to it, and played a lot of music under that banner for a while. But, when we would try to get bookings, or do interviews, so many people would get that name confused, and they would call us ‘Flagstaff,’ ‘Grandstand,’ or whatever. So, we made a turn with some of our music a few years ago, and decided that it might be time to get refreshed, and we renamed ourselves Wilson Fairchild, which reflects our middle names – Wil’s actual name is Harold Wilson Reid II, and mine is Fairchild. So, I guess we’re first cousins on a second-name basis.”
Just as their dads before them, Wilson Fairchild is proud to call Staunton, VA as home. Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Langdon Reid stressed that staying true to their roots was always important to the Statlers, and they are proud to carry on that family tradition.
“They hung their hat on the nostalgia and Americana theme in their music, found it very much relatable to write and sing about, and their fans definitely appreciated it. They had plenty of offers to move to Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles, and guarantee a life of success. They were practically given those contracts, but said ‘I appreciate it, but we’re small-town guys, and appreciate where we came from. We don’t mind leaving Virginia to work, but we want to call it home. We have too. We go as many places as we need to, but it’s nice to be able to go home to the place we grew up.’”
Life growing up in Virginia was exactly how one might have pictured it, given the subject matter of many of the Statlers’ songs, but Langdon Reid wisely stated that he and his cousins have nothing to compare it to.
“It’s not a very exciting answer, but we didn’t know any better. I will say that the fine folks of our hometown have always been so kind and understood what a big deal our dads were. They would go sell out concerts after concerts, but still come home out to the park, and coach our little league teams, go to the hardware store, eat in restaurants, and not be bothered. Our town always respected our dads, and they appreciated them never wanting to leave. It couldn’t have worked out any better, and we’re thankful for it.”
Again, just as their fathers before them, Wilson Fairchild gives back to the area – performing at “America’s Birthday Celebration” in their hometown on July 4 – as the Statlers did before them.
Musically, it was another legend who gave the duo their biggest break in the business so far – George Jones. The duo opened shows for “The Possum” during the last three years of his touring career. How they earned that distinction was pure salesmanship said Langdon Reid.
“He was playing a show in Charlottesville, and Wil called me and said ‘Did you see where George Jones is coming? We need to get on the front of that show.’ I said ‘Buddy, it’s a great idea. How are we going to do that?’ He picks up the phone and calls the promoter of the show, and says we’ve got a duo, and we would love to open up the show for George Jones. The guy said ‘You’re welcome to come and do it, but I’m not going to pay you.’ Wil said ‘That’s perfect. I’ll see you over there,’ So, we took the band and went over and did about 40 minutes, and got to meet him. Of course, our dads were there, and they all got caught up for a while. It was a great night.”
That was just one show. Langdon Reid explained Wilson Fairchild had bigger plans.
“The next weekend, George (Jones) is going to be in Pennsylvania. Wil calls up the promoter of that show, and says ‘We’re Wilson Fairchild and we’re on tour with George Jones. What time do we need to be there?’ The promoter says ‘Well, I don’t know who you are, and I don’t care if you’re opening or not, I’m not paying you.’ So, we went to Pennsylvania and opened up that show for George for the exposure. That night, we talked to him and Nancy, and that led us to opening up for George all the way to his last show in Knoxville. It was a wonderful experience, and some of the best years of our musical career, so far.”
Listeners who pick up Songs Our Dads Wrote will find many of their favorites, such as “Guilty” and “I’ll Even Love You Better (Than I Did Then),” as well as some of the Statlers’ more obscure works, such as the gripping “A Letter From Shirley Miller” or “She’s Too Good,” which stand in contrast with the wholesomeness that many think of when they think of the Statlers (i.e. – If you think you know Harold, Phil, Don, and Lew’s work from the early 70s, check out “New York City” or “The Junkie’s Prayer.” You might be surprised!)
Langdon Reid said that he feels the Statlers were looking for their sound and style – especially during their 1965-70 years on Columbia, but still came up with some gems during that era.
“I think with that early music, they were still – for a lack of a better word – finding themselves. They were still experimenting. They were doing things like ‘Jump For Joy’ and ‘Take A Bow, Rufus Humfry.’ They hit with ‘Flowers On The Wall,’ but I don’t think they really found their niche until ‘Bed of Roses.’ When you hear songs like ‘Shirley Miller’ or ‘She’s Too Good,’ it’s a little more unpolished or rough around the edges than you might expect. Its real songs about real people – real situations. We wanted to show the scope of that with our CD.”
The album closes with a song that (obviously) their fathers didn’t write – “The Statler Brothers Song.” Langdon stated that writing the tribute song posed a challenge, but was worth it.
“That was one of the most fun and most challenging songs we’ve ever been a part of. Back in 2007 we were asked – when the Statlers were being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame – to be a part of the medallion ceremony, then the next year, they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. We were asked to sing a song, but how do you choose? We thought it would be the perfect time for Wil and I to write our own Statler Brothers song. We sat down and literally talked about it for eight hours – the amount of time it takes to get from Staunton to Nashville. It is a tribute song that tries to cram in 40 years of everything those guys have given to us through their music, concerts, comedy, TV shows, into four minutes. I think we included about 14 song titles. When we sang it for them at the Hall of Fame, we were lucky to make it through. Our tears were melting into our smiles.”