Singer-songwriter Vern Gosdin, who achieved mainstream country success in the ’80s with hits such as “Set ‘Em Up Joe” and “Chiseled in Stone,” died late Tuesday (April 28) at a Nashville hospital at age 74. Gosdin, who was often referred to as “the Voice,” reportedly suffered a stroke several weeks ago.
Born in Woodland, Ala., he had already achieved success with his brother, Rex, as the Gosdin Brothers before launching his solo career. As a teenager, his family hosted The Gosdin Family Gospel Show on a radio station in Birmingham, Ala. Vern and Rex Gosdin moved to the Los Angeles area in 1961 and began performing in a bluegrass group, the Golden State Boys. The band evolved into another bluegrass group, the Hillmen, featuring Chris Hillman, who later became a founding member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Desert Rose Band. With the demise of the Hillmen, the Gosdin Brothers scored one country hit, “Hangin’ On,” which peaked at No. 37 on the Billboard chart in 1967. Rex Gosdin died in 1983.
In the early ’70s, Vern Gosdin moved to Atlanta, where he ran a retail store, but he continued to perform in area clubs. Emmylou Harris, who knew him from their days in California, teamed with Gosdin to record a demo single featuring two songs — a remake of “Hangin’ On” and a new one, “Yesterday’s Gone.” The demo resulted in Gosdin’s contract with Elektra Records. “Yesterday’s Gone” became his first single for the label and reached No. 9 on the country chart in 1977.
During the late ’70s and early ’80s, Gosdin charted other Top 10 singles for the Elektra, Ovation and AMI labels before scoring his first No. 1 hit in 1984 with “I Can Tell by the Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight),” written by Sandy Pinkard and Rob Strandlund. After moving to Columbia Records in the late ’80s, he quickly scored a series of Top 10 singles with songs he co-wrote, including “Do You Believe Me Now,” “Chiseled in Stone,” “Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time” and “That Just About Does It.” His recordings of two other original songs from that era — “Set’ Em Up Joe” and “I’m Still Crazy” reached No. 1. Gosdin’s last Top 10 singles were released in 1990 — “Right in the Wrong Direction” and “Is It Raining at Your House.”
In 1989, Gosdin and one of his longtime songwriting collaborators, Max D. Barnes, shared a CMA Award for song of the year for “Chiseled in Stone.” George Strait enjoyed a Top 10 hit in 1997 with “Today My World Slipped Away,” a song Gosdin co-wrote with Mark Wright. It had been a Top 10 single for Gosdin in 1982.