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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security

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Great Atomic Power: The Louvin Brothers [1952]

This beautifully harmonized, gospel inflected song likens the advent of atomic power to that of the second coming Christ.

In Charles K. Wolfe's 1996 biography of The Louvin Brothers, 'In Close Harmony,' Charlie Louvin is quoted recalling that co-writer Buddy Bain was responsible for the basic theme of the composition: "The song was his idea, something he came up with after they dropped the big one. Buddy was trying to write it and he wasn't too lucky in getting the song to say what he wanted it to say. Ira took his title and his notes he had and finished the song for him."

As a testament to its timeless songwriting (a rarity in a genre so closely linked to an era), Great Atomic Power has become something of a standard covered by a number of artists including Uncle Tupelo in 1992. The Louvin Brothers themselves re-recorded the song in 1961.

Ira Lonnie and Charlie Elzer Loudermilk were born in Section, Alabama in 1924 and 1927 respectively. The brothers, who were first cousins to singer-songwriter John D. Loudermilk, grew up poor, raised primarily in Henegar, Alabama. During their childhood each brother learned an instrument: Ira, the mandolin and Charlie, the guitar. The brothers first performed as a duo known as The Radio Twins in 1942 and then worked in Chattanooga, Tennessee with The Foggy Mountain Boys in 1943. In 1947, while working at radio station WROL in Knoxville, the brothers decided to change their last name to the more show business-friendly and memorable 'Louvin.' In 1947, The Louvin Brothers recorded for Apollo and for Decca in 1949 and then on MGM in 1951 and 1952 (Charlie also served in the Korean War during this period). It was in 1952 that the brothers began their long association with Capitol.

In 1955, after an extended period in Memphis, the brothers made their bow on The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. It was during the mid-'50s that the brothers experienced their greatest success recording such hits as When I Stop Dreaming, I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby and Hoping That You're Hoping. The brothers' signature, old fashioned sound, with its reliance on harmony and spare instrumentation, was counter to the prevailing trends in country music. They blended the forms of gospel and country seamlessly, but their hey day was beginning to wind down by 1959 when My Baby's Gone proved to be their last Top Ten hit. Ira's personal demons and erratic behavior eventually led to the act's breakup in 1963. At this point Charlie and Ira launched solo careers which resulted in Ira's 1964 LP 'The Unforgettable Ira Louvin' and for Charlie, several hits including I Don't Love You Anymore and See The Big Man Cry. On June 20, 1965 Ira died in a Missouri automobile accident. In the '70s and '80s Charlie was best known for his appearances on The Grand Ole Opry and he remains active in music to this day.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
Great Atomic Power: The Louvin Brothers [1952]

Refrain: Are you (are you) ready
For the great atomic power?
Will you rise and meet your Savior in the air?
Will you shout or will you cry
When the fire rains from on high?
Are you ready for the great atomic power?

Do you fear this man's invention
That they call atomic power
Are we all in great confusion
Do we know the time or hour
When a terrible explosion
May rain down upon our land
Meting horrible destruction
Blotting out the works of man

Refrain

There is one way to escape it
Be prepared to meet the lord
Give your heart and soul to Jesus
He will be your shielding sword
He will surely stay beside you
And you'll never taste of death
For your soul will fly to safety
And eternal peace and rest

Refrain

There's an army who can conquer
All the enemy's great band
It's the regiment of Christians
Guided by the Savior's hand
When the mushrooms of destruction
Fall in all it's fury great
God will surely save His children
From that awful awful fate

Refrain

The Louvin Brothers [1952]
Great Atomic Power
(Ira Louvin-Charles Louvin-Buddy Bain)
MGM 11 277

CATEGORY: SONGS: ATOMIC[ 1 | COMMENTS | May 10, 06 | 4:09 am ]

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