Harold Reid was the bass singer of the Statler Brothers, a quartet that was voted into the Country Music and Gospel Music Halls of Fame and was one of the most successful vocal harmony groups in the history of country music. They moved gospel harmonies into popular country music. The Statler Brothers had 58 of the Top 40 hits from 1965 to 1989, with four number one hits, “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine,” “Elizabeth”, “My Only Love” and “Too Much on My Heart”. They wrote and sang “Flowers on the Wall,” which was in the top ten in both the country and pop singles charts. The song won a Grammy Award in 1965, and a generation later was used as the sound track for the movie, Pulp Fiction.
On April 24, 2020, Reid died at age 80 after many years of chronic kidney failure. I never examined him nor have I seen his medical reports, and all I could find from a search of the web was that he had suffered from an unknown cancer and had abdominal obesity that put him at high risk for type II diabetes, the most common cause of kidney failure.
Becoming the Best
Harold Wilson Reid was born in 1939, in Staunton, Virginia, as one of four children of Sidney and Mary Reid who were aides at a psychiatric hospital. Reid started his musical performing career at age 16 in 1955, in a mostly-gospel church trio of himself as bass, Phil Balsley as the baritone and Lew DeWitt as the tenor and guitarist. In 1960, his younger brother, Don, joined them as the lead singer to form the quartet called the Kingsmen. They decided to change the name of their group to Statler, inspired by a facial tissue brand in their hotel room, and Reid often said that they could just as well have called themselves “the Kleenex Brothers.” Of the four, only Harold and Don were actually brothers. In 1964, when Harold was 25, they started an eight-year agreement to open and back vocalists for Johnny Cash and his television show. They wrote a song that became a best seller called “We Got Paid by Cash.” My all-time favorite song by any singing group is their 1970 hit “Bed of Roses,” a story that describes the kindness of a prostitute to a teen-age boy.
In the mid-1970s, they were popular enough to be featured on their own. In 1983, Lew DeWitt, the tenor, was debilitated by Crohn’s disease and was replaced by Jimmy Fortune. DeWitt eventually died of heart and kidney disease in 1990. As the years passed, Harold Reid had cancer, his brother, Don, had heart surgery, and Phil Balsley suffered from diabetes. In 2002, The Statler Brothers stopped the grueling life of touring on the road and played their last concert at the 10,000-seat Salem, Virginia Civic Center. However, they did continue to produce new albums for several years.
Chronic Kidney Failure
I don’t have any written evidence that Harold Reid had diabetes, but when you take a look at the many close-up pictures in his later life, you will see his pronouced abdominal obesity. Most adults with a large belly and small buttocks are already diabetic, even if their fasting blood sugar is normal at less than 100. When your blood sugar rises after you eat a meal, your pancreas releases insulin which lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream primarily into the liver. However, if your liver is full of fat, it refuses to accept the sugar and even releases more sugar from its cells to drive blood sugar levels even higher. Most cases of type II diabetes are caused by insulin resistance, which means that your liver is full of fat so it cannot respond to insulin to help lower blood sugar. This insulin resistance can often be cured by getting the fat out of your liver, so insulin can lower blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver.
High blood sugar causes sugar to stick to the outer membranes of just about every cell in your body. Once stuck on a cell membrane, sugar can never get off the cell and it eventually is converted to sorbitol and other chemicals that destroy that cell. If sugar sticks to blood vessels, it can damage arteries so they cannot widen when needed, which increases risk for high blood pressure; and when sugar sticks to kidney cells, it can cause kidney failure. Diabetes is by far the most common cause of kidney failure in North America today.
Type II Diabetes Cannot be Cured with Drugs
A very significant percentage of chronic diabetic patients suffer from obesity, high blood pressure and chronic progressive kidney disease, none of which can be cured by any drugs available today (Lancet, 2010;375(9731):2073-2081). The drugs used to control type II diabetes only function to:
• give you additional insulin,
• lower high blood sugar, and
• help your body to respond better to insulin.
Fat in your body, particularly in your liver, is a dominant and independent risk factor for kidney failure (Ann Intern Med, 2006;144(1):21-28). Many cases of insulin resistant diabetes can be cured with exercise and diet to promote loss of fat in liver, muscles and fat cells, and enlarge the skeletal muscles.
Lessons from Reid’s Battle with Kidney Failure
Uncontrolled type II diabetes is the major cause of death from kidney failure in North America today. Kidney failure in diabetics can be controlled and ultimately cured with a daily exercise program and a strict diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds, and seafood. Avoid:
• all sugar added foods and drinks, including fruit juices
• all refined carbohydrates (foods made from flour such as bread, spaghetti, macaroni, bagels, crackers, cookies), most dry breakfast cereals and most other processed foods
• mammal meat and processed meats
• fried foods
These lifestyle changes, and perhaps surgery, can help you get the fat out of your liver so that your own body can respond to better to insulin. Since bypass surgery helps people to get fat out of their livers, it can reverse kidney damage caused by diabetes (JAMA Surg, June 3, 2020) If you continue to have high blood sugar levels, you are at significant risk for high blood pressure and kidney failure.
Harold Wilson Reid
August 21, 1939- April 24, 2020