Monday, March 11, 2019
The Stanley Brothers
The Stanley Brothers were a bluegrass duo of singer-songwriters and musicians made up of brothers Carter Stanley (1925–1966) and Ralph Stanley (1927–2016). They 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 artist after Carter's death, from 1967 until his own death in 2016.
They were born on a small farm in Dickenson County, Virginia and listened to the likes of the Monroe Brothers, J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers and the Grand Ole Opry on the radio.
They formed a band, the Lazy Ramblers, and performed on radio in Johnson City, Tennessee. World War II interrupted their musical career, but once both returned from the Army, they resumed their musical pursuits.
They formed their band, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys, in 1946 as the first band to copy the Monroe sound. Carter played guitar and sang lead, while Ralph played banjo and sang with a strong, high tenor voice. Financially hard times in the early 1950s forced them to begin working for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit.
Eventually, Monroe and the Stanley Brothers became friends, and Carter performed for several months with Bill Monroe in the summer of 1951. In August 1951, Ralph was involved in a serious automobile accident that almost ended his career. Following his recovery, Carter and Ralph reunited to front their Clinch Mountain Boys.
As bluegrass music grew less popular in the late 1950s, they moved to Live Oak, Florida, and headlined the weekly Suwannee River Jamboree on radio from 1958 to 1962. In 1966, the brothers toured Europe, and upon returning home they continued to perform until Carter's death of cirrhosis of the liver in December 1966.
Around 1970, Ralph ran for Clerk of Court and Commissioner of Revenue in Dickenson County, Virginia 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
Ralph was popularly known as Dr. Ralph Stanley having been awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Lincoln Memorial University of Harrogate, Tennessee in 1976.
Many years later, Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and performed with them through 2013. He recorded one last album in 2015 with his son, Ralph II. He died of skin cancer.