When I Stop Dreaming

Today’s post was written by Paul.

Man singing at mic

Ira Louvin

Where to begin with Ira Louvin? Put simply, he was one of the most gifted and talented human beings to ever walk on planet Earth (in my opinion).

I can think of no writer other than Albert E Brumley who was possibly more prolific and effective as a writer of gospel songs; Ira is perhaps the most under-rated writer of country music, composing songs as far apart stylistically as “Get Acquainted Waltz” and “Scared of the Blues;” he was probably as good of a mandolin player as existed in the 50’s (judging not only from polished recordings but from things like “Listen to the Mockingbird” in live recordings); he was a tremendous arranger of music; he mastered the tenor guitar; he was an a brilliant comedic writer, artist, cartoonist, luthier, etc.; and after hearing the discovered demo of “Red Hen Boogie” on the album Love and Wealth (give it a listen here:… and be sure to go to 1:55 for the full intensity!), I’ve come to the conclusion that he had inhuman control over his voice (either that or he could train chickens to cluck intensely in time to the music 🙂 He had all of these talents, not to mention that he could sing high harmony like no one before or since (though Pap was right there with him in that department).

This guy could do/did everything! I’ve read at least three books about the Louvins, beginning with one that I found at Appalachian University in the early 90’s and right up to Charlie’s more recent account in “Satan is Real.” All of these books devote a lot of text to describing Ira’s temper and his alcoholism.

There’s even a wild German musical play that seemingly paints the good brother/bad brother theme quite literally. If you’re willing to scroll through hundreds of Louvin-related videos, you can find some scenes from it on YouTube.

When I read the first book, I was downright angry at Ira, but over time, my views have changed a lot. Not only do I see him much more as a tortured genius than as a jerk, but I also realize that all the books (accurate though they may be) tell only one side of the story, and there’s always another side to any conflicts.

Killed tragically in ‘65 in a car accident, Ira hasn’t been here to tell his side. I definitely don’t mean to say that Charlie or anyone has tried to misrepresent Ira. I have great love and respect for Charlie, not only as a singer and musician but as a person too, as I was lucky enough to speak with him on several occasions and spend an entire day with him in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I am only saying that I think Ira should be remembered in a positive light for the countless good things and powerful impact he had on music and on people. Wouldn’t we all want to be remembered for the good things about us? We all have our faults, especially in moments of frustration and especially if combined with and magnified by addiction.

Ira may have been a difficult person, but there’s no way a man could write the words that he wrote nor sing with such beautiful and haunting sincerity unless he was deeply a good soul. Lord willing, I hope to upload one of his masterpiece songs each year on his birthday to honor the musical gifts that he gave to the world. If I could live another 100 years, I wouldn’t even be halfway through his catalog for gospel songs alone! 

I hope you enjoyed Paul’s post and his singing. He uploaded the video to our Youtube channel on Ira’s birthday.


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  • Reply
    May 18, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Good job on the song and enjoyed the read also. Lord knows I have my demons I wrestle with each day, and I think other do also, some are subtle, others not so, some are in private others out in the open, but we all have them, if we’re honest, just sinners saved by grace that’s all I am and all I’ll ever be in this life.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 17, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Before we judge a fellow human being we should live inside him if only for a few moments. Matthew 7:1-5 says: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

  • Reply
    May 17, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    Oh, wow! I am so thankful Paul wrote this post! We absolutely LOVE the Louvin Brothers, and to be honest, Paul and Pap’s music always reminds us of the Louvin Brothers. Paul is right – Pap’s tenor was right up there with Ira’s. I think it is so neat that Paul got to visit with Charlie. We have one book about them, I can’t remember the exact title, but we agree – even with all of Ira’s issues, he HAD to be a good person at his core to write such deeply spiritual songs. He had to have a knowledge and understanding of Scripture and the truth of God’s Word in order to be such a prolific Gospel songwriter. Those words seemed heart wrenched and anguished, at times, and so often through life, words written from such places turn out to be the best and most profound of all. Ira seemed to be able to so deeply relate to the human condition and sadness, and his music will forever resonate with our hearts. Paul, you did an amazing job of giving much-deserved tribute to a man who, as you said, is “perhaps the most under-rated writer of country music.” Thank you for doing this post and for keeping his music alive for all of us! GREAT job!

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    May 17, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    Great job, Paul. You deserve extra credit for playing it solo so beautifully with just the mandolin! Its one of my two favorite Louvin Brothers’ songs – the other is My Baby’s Gone.

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 17, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Never heard popscull, never. Pounding, yes! Our church pounded a parson and his family one time. Great fun. I believe Daddy had a recording on old 78 rpm of Listen to the Mockingbird. I recall hearing the song.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

    Thank you, Paul, for the kind remembrance of Ira Louvin. Far too often we are either attracted or repulsed by the outer layer of folks and never look deeper.

    Your rendition of “When I Stop Dreaming” was – like everything I’ve ever heard you do – really wonderfully done.


  • Reply
    May 17, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Thanks you so very much Paul. I will admit to having paid little attention to the lives of the artists through the years. I am so bad at this that I actually had the Louvin brothers and Everly brothers mixed up. Yeah, I know that is bad! Perhaps this happened due to the switch of my taste in music in the sixties to whoever was at the top of the charts. I appreciate so much your depth by looking deeper into who this man, Ira Louvin, really is. You may be the only one who ever takes the time to give Ira the honor he deserves for his music. For whatever reason we have seen many of our famous ones die young before they ever have an opportunity to redeem themselves. Hank Williams and my own hometown hero, Mel Street, comes to mind. A historical figure, Mary Todd Lincoln, was given a very bad rap because the person writing the history did not like her.I have wondered often if sometimes the erratic behavior was caused more by untreated mental illness more than anything else.

    My Appalachian raising has left me with the deep seated notion that somehow it is the good people who go first, and I cannot count the times this was reinforced through the years. What was it also that I heard the oft repeated notion that the Good Lord supposedly looked after children and drunks? I certainly believe some greater power saw me through all those “close calls” as a child. You peeked my interest , and I jumped over to hear more of the Louvin Brother’s music.

    ” From Mother’s Arms to Korea” is one I heard sung many times on the front porch at my grandparents, and my aunts an uncles did a great job of harmonizing. They had two brothers serving in Korea, and to this day it is difficult for me to hear that song. Anytime I see anything now about the lives and music of the Louvins I will surely stop to read further. Thanks.

  • Reply
    May 17, 2020 at 9:10 am

    That is definitely my favorite Louvin Brothers song. It would have been the perfect song for Pap and Paul to do together. In my opinion, this is Paul’s very best solo performance ever posted here on The Blind Pig. Ira would be proud!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 17, 2020 at 8:28 am

    I recognize that changing in the way one thinks over time. It comes with experience, maturity and sober judgment. I used to think ‘growing up’ meant getting to one ‘adult’ place and just staying there. What a joke. Now I have decided we never do, and never should, get past changing. Changes in thinking come fewer now but they keep coming. One thing I have come to is letting myself be who I am. But part of that is about facing and owning my flaws, as best I can, knowing I have blinders about that subject. The other thing that goes with that is not fixing everybody else, even in thought, to be what I think they ought to be. I can still disagree with them but I can be wiser about when and how to have anything to say about it. Most times, the answer is ‘never’. We can wish those we look up to were more admirable and be disappointed when they are not. But we can take the lesson that quite possibly others see the same in us.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    May 17, 2020 at 8:01 am

    I really enjoyed Paul’s version of the song. To write a song like that, Ira, the man had to have experienced a relationship that was not meant to be and he never got over it. ‘‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” is what I’ve heard, but the heart doesn’t believe it. Have a good day and thanks for the memories you share for I am grateful to have a listen! Always good and always stirring.

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