Vern Gosdin Biography

5 August 1934, Woodland, Alabama, USA. Gosdin’s first steps in carrying out his wish to be a country singer-songwriter came in the early 50s, when as a result of singing with his two brothers in the local church, they became regulars as the Gosdin Family on WVOK Birmingham. In 1953, he moved to Atlanta where he sold ice cream and in 1956 to Chicago where he ran a country music nightclub. During this time he worked hard to develop his singing and writing, and also became a talented instrumentalist on guitar, banjo and mandolin. In 1960, he moved to California, where he joined his brother Rex (b. 1938, d. 23 May 1983), first in a bluegrass group called the Golden State Boys and then as members of Chris Hillman’s bluegrass band the Hillmen. When Hillman moved on to rock as a founder member of the Byrds, Gosdin also worked as a session musician while continuing to perform bluegrass with Rex. He recorded for several labels with no real success, and in 1966, recorded an album with Gene Clark (Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers) who had recently left the Byrds. In 1967, the brothers finally achieved a US country chart hit with ‘Hangin’ On’, but lacking any follow-up success, Gosdin soon returned to Atlanta and opened a glass and mirror shop, singing only in his spare time. His song, ‘Someone To Turn To’, was recorded by the Byrds at the instigation of guitarist Clarence White.

In 1976, Gosdin returned to recording, charting a version of ‘Hangin’ On’ and enjoying Top 10 hits with ‘Yesterday’s Gone (both of which featured backing vocals by Emmylou Harris) and ‘Till The End’. He left his sons to run the business and with Rex returned to touring and concerts. Between 1978 and 1988, he registered 27 more US country chart hits, including number 1s with ‘I Can Tell By The Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight)’ and ‘Set ’Em Up Joe’. In 1979 and 1980, his brother Rex had three minor chart entries, the biggest being a duet with Tommy Jennings on ‘Just Give Me What You Think Is Fair’. Rex died in May 1983 at the age of 45, some two weeks before his recording of ‘That Old Time Feelin’’ entered the charts.

Gosdin continues to record and perform although he was hospitalized in 1995 with a stroke, and was dropped by Columbia Records. He resurfaced on BTM Records with 1998’s The Voice. He is a rare performer in that his solid country voice and heartbreaking songs are somewhat alien to much of Nashville’s modern music scene. Like George Jones, he appears to improve with age. Even Tammy Wynette once said, ‘If anybody sounded like Jones other than Jones without really trying to, it is Vern Gosdin.’


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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