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Ralph Stanley                                                                   25.02.1927 - 23.06.2016


Ralph Edmund Stanley (February 25, 1927 – June 23, 2016), also known as Dr. Ralph Stanley, was an American bluegrass artist, known for his distinctive singing and banjo playing. Stanley began playing music in 1946, originally with his brother Carter as part of The Stanley Brothers, and most often as the leader of his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys.


by Jim Casey | @TheJimCasey  |  June 20, 2018

Country Music Hall of Fame Reveals Details for Upcoming Exhibit That Honors Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley will be the subject of a new exhibit—Ralph Stanley: Voice From On High—at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The new exhibit will open on July 13 and run through Jan. 6, 2019.

 

Ralph, one of the stalwarts of bluegrass music and an important figure on the scene since starting the Clinch Mountain Boys band in 1946, died in June 2016 at the age of 89. Born in southwest Virginia in 1927, Ralph gained his earliest fame in the Stanley Brothers duo, which he formed with his brother Carter. The Stanley Brothers were one of the first bluegrass acts to earn national acclaim. Ralph forged his own popularity when he went solo in 1966, following Carter’s death from complications of cirrhosis. He reformed the Clinch Mountain Boys, which at one time included a pair of young prodigies, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, both of whom cite Ralph as their main influence.


A consistent figure on the bluegrass concert circuit, Ralph gained an entirely new audience with the release of the 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? He sang a chilling a cappella version of the Appalachian dirge “O Death” in the movie, easily one of the highlights of the award-winning musical soundtrack. Ralph later won a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance with that song. He often noted that the award “put me in a different category.” Ralph won a second Grammy in 2003 for Lost in the Lonesome Pines, a bluegrass album he recorded with Jim Lauderdale.

 

Highlights of the new exhibition include:

●Gibson RB-2 banjo with pearloid fretboard and headstock overlay purchased by Stanley from a Virginia coal miner. He used it extensively      early in the Stanley Brothers’ career.

●Modified 1957 Martin D-28 with custom pickguard and D-45 neck guitar used by Carter Stanley to write the bluegrass standard “The            White Dove.”

●Pagano West western-style suit and Daniali USA shirt with rounded collar and key-shaped rhinestone decorative applique worn by Stanley. ●Hand-tooled leather guitar strap used by Larry Sparks with the Clinch Mountain Boys. He was with the group from 1966 to 1969, when he    left to pursue a solo career.

●Microphones used on the Farm and Fun Time Hour, on Bristol, Virginia, radio station WCYB in the 1940s.

●Radio transmitter controls and reading monitor used in the mid-1950s to help WCYB broadcast its 10,000-watt signal throughout the          southern Appalachians. The signal reached five states, across valleys and mountains.

photo courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame


 by Jim Casey | @TheJimCasey | June 24, 2016

Dr. Ralph Stanley, Bluegrass Legend, Dead at 89

Ralph Stanley, one of the stalwarts of bluegrass music and an important figure on the scene since starting the Clinch Mountain Boys band in 1946, died Thursday night, June 23, from complications with skin cancer. He was 89. 

Born in southwest Virginia in 1927, Ralph gained his earliest fame in the Stanley Brothers duo, which he formed with his brother Carter. The Stanley Brothers were one of the first bluegrass acts to earn national acclaim.

 

Ralph forged his own popularity when he went solo in 1966, following Carter’s death from complications of cirrhosis. He reformed the Clinch Mountain Boys, which at one time included a pair of young prodigies, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, both of whom cite Ralph as their main influence. 

 

A consistent figure on the bluegrass concert circuit, Ralph gained an entirely new audience with the release of the 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? He sang a chilling a cappella version of the Appalachian dirge “O Death” in the movie, easily one of the highlights of the award-winning musical soundtrack. Ralph later won a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance with that song. He often noted that the award “put me in a different category.” Ralph won a second Grammy in 2003 for Lost in the Lonesome Pines, a bluegrass album he recorded with Jim Lauderdale. 

 

Dr. Ralph, who has received two honorary doctorates in music from Lincoln Memorial University and Yale, continued to perform with the Clinch Mountain Boys until his death. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has been inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. He was part of the first generation of bluegrass musicians and was inducted into both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry.


Background information From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Biography

Ralph Edmond Stanley was born, grew up, and lived in rural Southwest Virginia - in a little town called McClure at a place called Big Spraddle, just up the holler from where he moved in 1936 and lived ever since in Dickenson County. The son of Lee and Lucy Stanley, Ralph did not grow up around a lot of music in his home. As he says, his "daddy didn't play an instrument, but sometimes he would sing church music. And I'd hear him sing songs like 'Man of Constant Sorrow,' 'Pretty Polly' and 'Omie Wise'." 

 

"I got my first banjo when I was a teenager. I guess I was 15, 16 years old. My aunt had this old banjo, and Mother bought it for me ... paid $5 for it, which back then was probably like $5,000. [My parents] had a little store, and I remember my aunt took it out in groceries."

 

He learned to play the banjo, clawhammer style, from his mother: "She had 11 brothers and sisters, and all of them could play the five-string banjo. She played gatherings around the neighborhood, like bean stringin's. She tuned it up for me and played this tune, "Shout Little Luly," and I tried to play it like she did. But I think I developed my own style of the banjo." 

 

He graduated from high school on May 2, 1945 and was inducted into the Army on May 16, serving "little more than a year." He immediately began performing when he got home: ... my daddy and Carter picked me up from the (station), and Carter was playing with another group, Roy Sykes and the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, and they had a personal appearance that night. So I sung a song with Carter on the radio before I even got home. 

 

Clinch Mountain Boys

After considering a course in "veterinary", he decided instead to throw in with his older guitar-playing brother Carter Stanley (1925– 1966) to form the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. Drawing heavily on the musical traditions of the area, which included the unique minor-key singing style of the Primitive Baptist Universalist church and the sweet down-home family harmonies of the Carter Family, the two Stanley brothers began playing on local radio stations. They first performed at Norton, Virginia's WNVA, but did not stay long there, moving on instead to Bristol, Virginia, and WCYB to start the show Farm and Fun Time, where they stayed "off and on for 12 years".

 

At first they covered "a lot of Bill Monroe music" (one of the first groups to pick up the new "bluegrass" format). They soon "found out that didn't pay off—we needed something of our own. So we started writing songs in 1947, 1948. I guess I wrote 20 or so banjo tunes, but Carter was a better writer than me." When Columbia Records signed them as The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe left in protest and joined Decca. Later, Carter went back to sing for the "Father of Bluegrass", Bill Monroe. Ralph Stanley gave his opinion on Bill Monroe's apparent change of heart: "He [Bill Monroe] knew Carter would make him a good singer. . . Bill Monroe loved our music and loved our singing.

 

The Stanley Brothers joined King Records in the late '50s, a record company so eclectic that it included James Brown at the time. In fact, James Brown and his band were in the studio when the Stanley Brothers recorded "Finger Poppin' Time". "James and his band were poppin' their fingers on that" according to Ralph. At King Records, they "went to a more 'Stanley style', the sound that people most know today."

 

Ralph and Carter performed as The Stanley Brothers with their band, The Clinch Mountain Boys, from 1946 to 1966. Ralph kept the band name when he continued as a solo after Carter's death, from 1967 to the present.

 

Solo

After Carter died of complications of cirrhosis in 1966, after ailing for "a year or so", Ralph faced a hard decision on whether to continue performing on his own. "I was worried, I didn't know if I could do it by myself. But boy, I got letters, 3,000 of 'em, and phone calls . . . I went to Syd Nathan at King and asked him if he wanted me to go on, and he said, 'Hell yes! You might be better than both of them.'" He decided to go it alone, eventually reviving The Clinch Mountain Boys. Larry Sparks, Roy Lee Centers, and Charlie Sizemore were among those with whom he played in the revived band. He encountered Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley arriving late to his own show: "They were about 16 or 17, and they were holding the crowd 


'til we got there. . . They sounded just exactly like (the Stanley Brothers)." Seeing their potential, he hired them "to give 'em a chance", though that meant a seven-member band. Eventually, his son, Ralph Stanley II, took over as lead singer and rhythm guitarist for The Clinch Mountain Boys. 

 

Political career

Around 1970, he ran for Clerk of Court and Commissioner of Revenue in Dickenson County only to state this:

"What happened is, somebody traded me off—they used my popularity and money to elect somebody else. I was done dirty. And I'm so proud that I was done dirty, because if I had been elected ... I woulda had a job to do ... maybe woulda finally quit. So that's one time I was done dirty and I want to thank them for it now."

 

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Stanley's work was featured in the very popular 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which he sings the Appalachian dirge "O Death." The soundtrack's producer was T-Bone Burnett. Stanley said the following about working with Burnett:

 

T-Bone Burnett had several auditions for that song. He wanted it in the Dock Boggs style. So I got my banjo and learned it the way he did it. You see, I had recorded "O Death" three times, done it with Carter. So I went down with my banjo to Nashville and I said, "T-Bone, let me sing it the way I want to sing it," and I laid my banjo down and sung it a cappella. After two or three verses, he stopped 


me and said, "That's it." With that song, Stanley won a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Country Vocal Performance. "That put the icing on the cake for me," he said. "It put me in a different category."

 

Later life and death

Known in the world of bluegrass music by the popular title, "Dr. Ralph Stanley" (after being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 1976), Stanley was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992 and in 2000, and became the first person to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in the third millennium.

 

He joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast CD Christmas Time's A Comin’, performing "Christmas Time's A Comin'" with the cast on the CD released on Sonlite and MGM/UA; it was one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers. He was featured in the Josh Turner hit song "Me and God" released in 2006.

In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

On November 10, 2007, Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys performed at a rally for presidential candidate John Edwards in Des Moines, Iowa, just before the Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Between renditions of "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Orange Blossom Special", Stanley told the crowd that he had cast his first vote for Harry S. Truman in 1948 and would cast his next for John Edwards in 2008. 

Country singer Dwight Yoakam has stated that Ralph Stanley is one of his "musical heroes." 

Stanley's autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow, coauthored with the music journalist Eddie Dean, was released by Gotham Books on October 15, 2009. In 2012, Stanley was featured on several tracks of the soundtrack for Nick Cave's film Lawless, with music by Cave and Warren Ellis. 

Stanley maintained an active touring schedule; appearances in recent years have included the 2012 Muddy Roots Music Festival in Cookeville, TN, and the 2013 FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, MA. In June 2013, he announced a farewell tour, scheduled to begin in Rocky Mount, NC, on October 18 and extending to December 2014. However, upon notification of being elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (awarded October 11, 2014) a statement on his own website appeared, saying that he would not be retiring.

 

On June 23, 2016, Stanley died as a result of skin cancer.

 

Musical style

Stanley created a unique style of banjo playing, sometimes called "Stanley style". It evolved from Wade Mainer style two- finger technique, later influenced by Scruggs style, which is a three-finger technique. "Stanley style" is distinguished by incredibly fast "forward rolls", led by the index finger (instead of the thumb, as in Scruggs style), sometimes in the higher registers using a capo. In "Stanley style", the rolls of the banjo are continuous, while being picked fairly close to the bridge on the banjo, giving the tone of the instrument a very crisp, articulate snap to the strings as the player would strike them.


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*Immanuel Kant