- Ralph Stanley
Ralph Stanley The Granada Theater Dallas, Texas Background information Birth name Ralph Edmund Stanley Also known as "Dr. Ralph Stanley" Born February 25, 1927 Origin Big Spraddle Creek, Virginia, USA Genres Bluegrass, old-time music Occupations Bluegrass musician Instruments Banjo Years active 1946–present Labels Columbia, Rebel Associated acts Clinch Mountain Boys, Stanley Brothers
Ralph Stanley (born February 25, 1927), also known as Dr. Ralph Stanley, is an American bluegrass artist, known for his distinctive singing and banjo playing.
Ralph Edmond Stanley was born, grew up, and lives today in rural southwestern Virginia—"in a little town called McClure at a place called Big Spraddle, just up the holler" from where he moved in 1936 and has 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.""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 initially considering a course in "veterinary," he decided to throw in with his older guitar-playing brother, Carter, and 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 Stanleys began playing on local radio stations. They first performed at Norton, Virginia's WNVA, but didn't 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."
Initially covering "a lot of Bill Monroe music", 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 the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe left in protest and joined Decca. Later, the Stanleys split up and Carter went to sing for the "Father of Bluegrass." Asked how Monroe could be mad at the Stanley Brothers at one point and then hire Carter for his band, Ralph explained: "He 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 it included James Brown at the time. In fact he and his band were in the studio when the brothers recorded "Finger Poppin' Time." "James and his band were poppin' their fingers on that" according to Ralph. It was at King Records that they "went to a more 'Stanley style,' the sound that people most know today."
After Carter died of complications of cirrhosis in 1966, after failing 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", even 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.
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 (music). 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 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.'"
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 (TV Series) 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 for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.
He is 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 prior to 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—but after Edwards fell by the wayside, Stanley endorsed Barack Obama on September 9, 2008. In October 2008, the Obama campaign aired a radio ad in Virginia featuring Stanley.
Stanley maintains an extensive touring schedule.
Ralph created a unique style of banjo playing, sometimes called "Stanley Style". It evolved from Scruggs style, which is a three finger technique. "Stanley style" is distinguished by incredibly fast "forward rolls," led by the index finger, sometimes in the higher registers utilizing a capo. In "Stanley Style", the rolls of the banjo are continuous, while being picked fairly close 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.
Title Details Peak chart positions US Grass US Country US US Heat Clinch Mountain Gospel
- Release date: May 15, 2001
- Label: Rebel Records
— — — — Ralph Stanley
- Release date: June 11, 2002
- Label: Columbia Records/DMZ
3 22 163 5 Poor Rambler
- Release date: June 17, 2003
- Label: King Records
— — — — Shine On
- Release date: June 7, 2005
- Label: Rebel Records
6 — — — A Distant Land to Roam
- Release date: May 30, 2006
- Label: Columbia Records/DMZ
4 — — — Mountain Preacher's Child
- Release date: April 3, 2007
- Label: Rebel Records
9 — — — A Mother's Prayer
- Release date: April 19, 2011
- Label: Rebel Records
6 — — —
Honors, awards, distinctions
- He's 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.
- He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992 and in 2000.
- He became the first person to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in the third millennium.
- His work was featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which he sings the Appalachian dirge "O Death."
- That song won him a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
- The Virginia Press Association made him their Distinguished Virginian of the Year in 2004.
- The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center opened in Clintwood, Virginia in 2004.
- He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2006, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence.
- The Virginia legislature designated him the Outstanding Virginian of 2008.
- He was awarded the Key to the City of Garner, North Carolina on November 15, 2008
- He was named a Library of Congress Living Legend in April 2000
- The Stanley Brothers
- George Shuffler
- Dickenson County, Virginia
- Bluegrass music
- Old-time music
- International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor
- Grand Ole Opry
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- Grammy Awards
- National Medal of Arts
- "Old-Time Man" interview June 2008 Virginia Living pp 55–57.
- Stanley, Ralph (2009). Man of Constant Sorrow. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-592-40425-4. http://www.amazon.com/Man-Constant-Sorrow-Life-Times/dp/1592404251/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qisbn=1224098250&sr=1-2.
- ^ a b c d "Old-Time Man" interview by Don Harrison June 2008 Virginia Living, p. 55.
- ^ a b c d e f g h "Old-Time Man" interview by Don Harrison June 2008 Virginia Living, p. 56.
- ^ "Old-Time Man" interview by Don Harrison June 2008 Virginia Living, p. 56-7.
- ^ a b c d "Old-Time Man" interview by Don Harrison June 2008 Virginia Living, p. 57.
- ^ http://www.ralphstanleyii.com/history.html
- ^ Washington Post, September 9, 2008
- ^ Bluegrass Legend Cuts Radio Ad for Obama in Va. Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2008. Retrieved on October 4, 2008.
- ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RKrdSfelCs&feature=related
- ^ 
- ^ "Ralph Stanley". Praguefrank's Country Music Discographies. http://countrydiscography.blogspot.com/2009/06/ralph-stanley.html. Retrieved January 19, 2010.
- ^ "Ralph Stanley". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. http://www.ibiblio.org/hillwilliam/BGdiscography/. Retrieved January 19, 2010.
- ^ http://www.loc.gov/about/awardshonors/livinglegends/bio/stanleyr.html
- American legends: Ralph Stanley - The Guardian
- Ralph Stanley Museum & Traditional Mountain Music Center
- Ralph Stanley Interview
- Allmusic with audio
- A capella performance of 'Me and God'
- Ralph Stanley plays the Tiny Desk for NPR Music
- The Ralph Stanley "Twine"
Grammy Award for Album of the Year (2000s) Supernatural performed by Santana (Rodney Holmes, Tony Lindsay, Karl Perazzo, Raul Rekow, Benny Rietveld, Carlos Santana, Chester Thompson); engineered/mixed by Alvaro Villagra, Andy Grassi, Anton Pukshansky, Benny Faccone, Chris Theis, Commissioner Gordon, David Frazer, David Thoener, Glenn Kolotkin, Jeff Poe, Jim Gaines, Jim Scott, John Gamble, John Karpowich, John Seymour, Matty Spindel, Mike Couzzi, Steve Farrone, Steve Fontano, T-Ray, Tom Lord-Alge, Tony Prendatt & Warren Riker; produced by Alex Gonzales, Art Hodge, Charles Goodan, Clive Davis, Dante Ross, Dust Brothers, Fher Olvera, Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis, K. C. Porter, Lauryn Hill, Matt Serletic, Stephen M. Harris & Wyclef Jean (2000) Two Against Nature performed by Steely Dan (Walter Becker, Donald Fagen); engineered/mixed by Dave Russell, Elliot Scheiner, Phil Burnett & Roger Nichols; produced by Donald Fagen & Walter Becker (2001) O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack performed by Alison Krauss & Union Station (Barry Bales, Ron Block, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski), Chris Sharp, Chris Thomas King, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Harley Allen, John Hartford, Mike Compton, Norman Blake, Pat Enright, Peasall Sisters (Hannah Peasall, Leah Peasall, Sarah Peasall), Ralph Stanley, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, The Cox Family (Evelyn Cox, Sidney Cox, Suzanne Cox, Willard Cox), The Fairfield Four (Nathan Best, Isaac Freeman, Robert Hamlett, James Hill, Joseph Rice, Wilson Waters, Jr.), The Whites (Buck White, Cheryl White, Sharon White) & Tim Blake Nelson; engineered/mixed by Mike Piersante & Peter Kurland; master engineered by Gavin Lurssen; produced by T-Bone Burnett (2002) Come Away with Me performed by Norah Jones; engineered/mixed by Jay Newland & S. Husky Höskulds; master engineered by Ted Jensen; produced by Arif Mardin, Craig Street, Jay Newland & Norah Jones (2003) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below performed by OutKast (André 3000, Big Boi); engineered/mixed by Brian Paturalski, Chris Carmouche, Darrell Thorp, Dexter Simmons, John Frye, Kevin Davis, Matt Still, Moka Nagatani, Neal H. Pogue, Padraic Kernin, Pete Novak, Reggie Dozier, Robert Hannon, Terrence Cash & Vincent Alexander; master engineered by Bernie Grundman & Brian Gardner; produced by André 3000, Big Boi & Carl Mo (2004) Genius Loves Company performed by Ray Charles and Various Artists; engineered/mixed by Al Schmitt, Ed Thacker, Joel W. Moss, John Harris, Mark Fleming, Pete Karam, Robert Fernandez, Seth Presant & Terry Howard; master engineered by Doug Sax & Robert Hadley; produced by Don Mizell, Herbert Waltl, John R. Burk, Phil Ramone & Terry Howard (2005) How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb performed by U2 (Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr.); engineered/mixed by Carl Glanville, Flood, Greg Collins, Jacknife Lee, Nellee Hooper, Simon Gogerly & Steve Lillywhite; master engineered by Arnie Acosta; produced by Brian Eno, Chris Thomas, Daniel Lanois, Flood, Jacknife Lee & Steve Lillywhite (2006) Taking the Long Way performed by Dixie Chicks (Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison); engineered/mixed by Chris Testa, Jim Scott & Richard Dodd; master engineered by Richard Dodd; produced by Rick Rubin (2007) River: The Joni Letters performed by Herbie Hancock; featuring Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Corinne Bailey Rae , Tina Turner ; produced by Herbie Hancock & Larry Klein; engineered/mixed by Helik Hadar; master engeineered by Bernie Grundman (2008) Raising Sand performed by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss; produced by T-Bone Burnett; engineered/mixed by Mike Piersante; master engeineered by Gavin Lurssen (2009) Complete list · (1960s) · (1970s) · (1980s) · (1990s) · (2000s) · (2010s)
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