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The Stanley Brothers

If you even think you know bluegrass, you have to know Ralph (born 1927) and Carter Stanley (born 1925), the Stanley Brothers. Parallel to Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, though not with their renown, were Virginians Ralph and Carter, mountain boys who took those mountains and their traditions and their songs and wove them into a traditional bluegrass sound of utter purity, simplicity, and astonishing beauty. Their first band, formed around 1947, played more of a mountain/folk music reminiscent of the old string bands, changing to their style of ultra-traditional bluegrass when Monroe's band became popular. Even on their recordings in the early '50s, the Stanleys' unmistakable sound is there, with guitarist Carter singing lead and banjo player Ralph singing tenor harmony. In the opinion of many, Carter possessed the best lead voice in bluegrass history -- rich, emotional, and (in the best sense of the word) lonely. He took a happy song and sang it sad; he took a sad song and sang it sadder. And Ralph's unworldly mountain tenor matched his brother's voice perfectly, soaring above and often lightening the emotional load of the lyrics, creating a duet unsurpassed in country history.

Ralph and Carter were born into a musical family -- their father sang and their mother played banjo. As teenagers, the brothers began performing around their hometown. After graduating from high school, the siblings both served in the Army during World War II. Carter was discharged before Ralph. When he returned to the States he got a job singing in Roy Sykes' Blue Ridge Mountain Boys. He quit the group as soon as Ralph returned from the Army in October of 1946, and the brothers formed a band, the Clinch Mountain Boys.

The Stanley Brothers had a regular gig at WNVA Norton for a few months. Then they moved to the Bristol, TN-based WCYB, where they appeared regularly on the Farm and Fun Time program. While they appeared on the show, they gained quite a following and soon signed a contract with the Rich-R-Tone label. The Stanleys made their first records early in 1947, the same year they began playing various radio stations in the South, including ones in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky. The Brothers and their five-piece Clinch Mountain Boys were developing their style, moving from traditional string band sounds to a Monroe-inspired bluegrass style. During the late '40s and early '50s, several well-respected musicians passed through the band, including Curly Lambert, Pee Wee Lambert, Chubby Anthony, and Bill Napier.

After recording ten songs for Rich-R-Tone, the Stanley Brothers were signed to Columbia in 1948. For the next three years, they stayed with Columbia, producing 22 songs during their stint at the label -- these songs would become bluegrass classics. For a brief time in 1951, the Stanley Brothers broke up. Carter sang with Monroe and made a handful of records with the father of bluegrass. Ralph was sidelined for several months following a car crash. The break was brief and the band was back together before the end of the year.

In the summer of 1953, they left Columbia for Mercury Records. During the mid-'50s, they made a series of recordings that expanded their boundaries, as they played gospel, honky tonk, instrumentals, and a number of original songs.

At the end of the decade, the Brothers left Mercury and signed to both Starday and King, moved to Live Oak, FL, and began playing the Swannee River Jamboree. In the early '60s, they played a number of television shows and concerts throughout the South and recorded numerous records. However, the duo began to suffer financial problems beginning in 1961, which meant they couldn't afford to retain a whole band. Nevertheless, the Stanley Brothers continued to tour, playing clubs and various bluegrass festivals. However, they rarely left the South and their career suffered because of this. They recorded for a number of smaller labels after leaving King, though none of the records sold much. In 1966, Carter became seriously ill. On December 1 of that year, he passed away. He was only 41 years old.

Ralph continued performing with a new lineup of the Clinch Mountain Boys. For the next three decades, he performed with various new lineups of the band, playing festivals and clubs and recording numerous records. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & David Vinopal, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The King Years 1961-1965

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
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Track List: The Early Starday-King Years 1958-1961

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4

Comments

And Stanley brothers
Love this actual country music, I'm eleven years old and I'm in love with this man ole Merle haggard he can pick like no other he's an amazing singer and he isREAL country music this new crap like Florida Georgia line Jason Aldean and cole swindle and chase rice . C'mon country music needs to get back tithe roots and Merle haggard and Waylon Jennings, hank Williams jr. Dwight yokam are the perfect examples. Don't hate if you disagree I have the right to put my thoughts on here thanks bye
Great Pickin, yes the Banjo Pickin.
darrell79
This is genuine mountain music from the heart of Appalachia. It just doesn't get any better than this when it comes to Bluegrass. Dr Ralph just lives a half and hour from me and he is the real thing. If you run into him at the hardware store or even at McDonald's, he will be happy to sign an autograph for you and take a few minutes to hear your story of how his music connects to your life. He is getting old and frail now so if you get a chance to attend one of his shows you shouldn't miss it!
thAT PICKIN MAKES ME GRINNIN!!!
littlerfiddl e r 1 9 9 8
Got to meet Ralph a few years ago. He's very nice and puts on a great show still.
rch2815
I don't think ralph Stanley died
Man of Constant Sorrow. OOO THIS IS THE ORIGINAL SONG. MY GRANDMA USED TO LISTEN TO THESE GUYS AND KITTY WELLS AND HANK WILLIAMS SR. AND THE CARTER GIRLS ALL THE TIME AND SOME OTHERS I CAN'T THINK OF RIGHT NOW. WOW. That was pretty awesome. Cool.
dicehouse72
I love blue grass , god bless .
this is is the great's music, wish i could take ralph fishing.
I LOVE THE CHUCKWAGON GANE

YOUR FRIEND
WALTER L. McKinnerney
GOD BLESS YOU PANDORA
AND GOD BLESS THE GOOD
HO MAKE THIS HAPPEN

YOUR FRIEND
WALTER L. McKINNERNEY
viggiano0
Music
kayla.shelto n 9 9
I love ralph stanly I got to meet him I was so happy that day
Dick and I net Ralph and Jimmie( his great wife) at his museum in VA..He gave us a great tour and we bought them lunch at the Huddle House in town. Super people!
YEEEEEfriggi n H A A A A W W W ! ! ! Loves it!...And I'm a city boy.
very good
putz4par
Ralph is my former girlfriends uncle. we often got to hang out with him and the clinch mtn boys. Quite a treat
avoid pause's
This is the best musick to my ears
If this ain't bluegrass I'll Kiss your country...We l l you know
cannot beat them
he is thebest
Ralph Stanley's voice is unmatched in bluegrass..T h e Stanley Boys will live forever. R.I.P. Carter Stanley
Saw Ralph in Newport News, VA. Voice a little worn fingers a lot worn but still had spark that made a great concert. I think his teenage grandson will keep the grass growing..Blu e grass that is.
Find tradional bluegrass,gr e a t mountain music. jSilvers
dmwinterton
MY 6 MONTH OLD SON LOVES TO LISTEN TO THE STANLEY BROTHERS AT NIGHT WHEN WE GET HIM READY FOR BED
another all time Great,...
alsites2001
This is one of the great ones .First met him at Jonneys used cars in Baltimore. In 1971 at Berryville fest.He is the one that got me hooked on grass.At Berryville early 70 s Thay allowed us to record on reel to reel players.Stil l have them old tapes live on stage..Also Ralphs 14 yearold grand son sounds great too...Jr. good to.. Thank you PANDORA.. Al Petersburg WV..

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