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Statler Bros. begin fifth year on TNN

Published Sep. 15, 2005

Don Reid won't even try to analyze the popularity of The Statler Bros. Show, The Nashville Network's highest-rated series since it premiered in 1991.

"We don't like to look at it too closely," he says. "When you start putting something under a microscope, you can ruin it. Whatever touch we have, that's what we bring to a show that, as far as the format's concerned, hasn't changed much from the old variety shows.

"We have great guests, and we just let them do their thing."

It's a tribute to Reid, brother Harold, Phil Balsley and Jimmy Fortune that the network has such confidence in their ability to entertain.

"They just said they'd give us an hour on Saturday nights, and they did," Reid says, sounding still slightly amazed, even on the virtual eve of the launch of the Statlers fifth season (at 9 p.m. and midnight Saturday) on TNN.

To help them get year No. 5 off to a rip-snorting start, they have invited Mr. Country Music, George Jones, to join them and regulars Crystal Gayle, Ronna Reeves and comedian Fran Capo for what ought to be a memorable hour. Jones will do his Top 40 hit, I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair, but the real treat should be the whole bunch doing a medley of Jones' hits, old and new.

The Statlers' unmistakable four-part vocal harmony has paid dividends for TNN, but the "brothers" earn their keep.

"We sit down with a blank page for every show," Reid says, "and we write and produce the whole thing. It's a lot of work, sure, but it has been so much fun for us."

And it's taken a whole lot of another kind of pressure off.

"Yeah, we realized we couldn't do the endless touring and the show, too," he says, "so we've cut back on the touring and just do theaters in the round, maybe a weekend of them, and other special events."

But their weekly hour on TNN is the focus of their attention these days, and Reid says they feel they have an obligation not only to the network but to the people who tune in every Saturday.

"When you just do records," he says, "the people know you, but it's kind of stand-offish and in awe. With TV, you become part of the family, and we hear from people who make those great personal attachments. It really does make you feel great to mean something to all those folks."