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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
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The King Years 1961-1965

Disc 1

1. Little Bessie

2. Mother's Only Sleeping

3. Old Country Church

4. Campin' In Canaan Land

5. Mother Call My Name In Prayer

6. Working On A Building

7. Somebody Touched Me

8. Dying A Sinner's Death

9. Village Church Yard

10. A Few More Years

11. Kneel At The Cross

12. My Sinful Past

13. How Mountain Girls Can Love

14. There Is A Trap

15. I See Through You

16. Thy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine

17. Fast Express

18. I'm Only Human

19. String, Eraser And Blotter

21. Still Trying To Get To Little Rock

22. Where We'll Never Grow Old

23. When He Reached Down His Hand For Me

24. Paul And Silas

25. Who Will Sing For Me

26. I'll Fly Away

27. Drinking From The Fountain

28. Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

29. Memories Of Mother

Disc 2

1. Heaven's Light Is Shining On Me

2. Let Me Walk, Lord, By Your Side

3. Harbor Of Love

4. We Shall Rise

5. (Dear Girl) Can You Forgive

8. I Just Came From Your Wedding

9. Mama Don't Allow

10. Chickie's Old Gray Mule

11. If We Never Meet Again

12. Hand In Hand With Jesus

13. My Deceitful Heart

14. Christmas Is Near

15. I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters

16. Just Because

17. No Letter Today

18. He Went To Sleep - The Hogs Ate Him

19. My Brother's Bride

20. Six Months Ain't Long

21. Old And In The Way

22. Hills Of Roan County

23. Little Birdie

24. Pig In A Pen

25. Whiskey And Jail

26. Lips That Lie

28. Little Darling, Pal Of Mine

29. Darling Nellie Gray

Disc 3

1. Train 45

2. Lonesome Traveler

3. Shout Little Lulie

4. Shamrock

5. Stoney Creek

6. Stone Walls And Steel Bars

7. Standing Room Only (Outside Your Heart)

8. Lonesome Night

9. Pretty Little Miss In The Garden

11. When You And I Were Young, Maggie / Red Wing

12. Big Booger

13. Sourwood Mountain

14. Red River Valley & Ground Hog

15. Rang Tang

16. Snow Deer

17. Five String Drag

18. Never Again

19. Don't Cheat In Our Home Town

20. Don't Step Over An Old Love

21. I Just Stood There

22. Will The Circle Be Unbroken

23. Jesus Savior Pilot Me

24. I Just Dropped By

25. Oh Death

26. Shoutin' On The Hills Of Glory

27. Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem

Disc 4

1. John 3:16

2. A Crown He Wore

3. How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

4. He's Passing This Way

5. No Burdens Pass Through

6. Building On That Rock

7. Bully Of The Town

8. Back Up And Push

9. Careless Love

11. Rollin' On Rubber Wheels

12. Our Darlin's Gone

13. How You've Tortured My Mind

14. I'm Bound To Ride

15. God's Highway

16. The End Of The Road

17. Seek Jesus (He Still May Be Found)

18. He'll Save Your Soul Yet

19. I Feel Like Going Home

20. Take Me Home

21. Are You Ready

22. Prayer Of A Truck Driver's Son

23. What A Price

24. Vision Of The Promised Land

25. Pray For The Boys

26. Soldier's Grave

x

Track List: Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s

1. Little Maggie

2. The Jealous Lover

3. The Little Glass Of Wine

4. Our Darling's Gone

5. Molly And Tenbrook

6. The Little Girl And The Dreadful Snake

7. Are You Waiting Just For Me?

8. Death Is Only A Dream

9. Little Birdie

10. I Can Tell You The Time

11. The Little Glass Of Wine (Alternate Version)

12. Mother No Longer Awaits Me At Home

13. The Rambler's Blues

14. The Girl Behind The Bar

x

Track List: 16 Greatest Hits

1. How Moutain Girls Can Love

2. I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters

3. Train 45

4. There Is A Trap

5. Mountain Dew

6. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

7. How Far To Little Rock

8. Love Me Darling Just Tonight

9. Sunny Side Of The Mountain

10. Stone Walls And Steel Bars

11. Little Maggie

12. Old Love Letters

13. Little Birdie

14. Shout Little Lulie

15. Next Sunday Darling Is My Birthday

16. Hills Of Roan County

x

Track List: The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers

1. A Vision Of Mother

2. The White Dove

3. Gathering Flowers For The Master's Bouquet

4. Angels Are Singing (In Heaven Tonight)

5. It's Never Too Late To Start Over

6. Have You Someone (In Heaven Waiting)

7. Little Glass Of Wine

8. Let Me Be Your Friend

9. We'll Be Sweethearts In Heaven

10. I Love No One But You

11. Too Late To Cry

12. The Old Home

13. The Drunkard's Hell

14. The Fields Have Turned Brown

15. Hey! Hey! Hey!

16. The Lonesome River

17. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

18. Pretty Polly

19. A Life Of Sorrow

20. Sweetest Love

21. The Wandering Boy

22. Let's Part The Best Of Friends

x

Track List: The Early Starday-King Years 1958-1961

Disc 1

1. Holiday Pickin'

2. Gonna Paint The Town

3. That Happy Night

4. Christmas Is Near

5. Love Me, Darling, Just Tonight

6. She's More To Be Pitied

8. Your Selfish Heart

9. How Mountain Girls Can Love

10. The Memory Of Your Smile

11. Mastertone March

12. Clinch Mountain Backstep

13. Midnight Ramble

14. Train 45

15. Think Of What You've Done

16. Keep A Memory

17. Old Daniel Prayed

18. He Said If I Be Lifted Up

19. This Wicked Path Of Sin

20. I'll Meet You In Church Sunday Morning

21. Are You Afraid To Die

22. The White Dove

23. How Can We Thank Him For What He Has Done

24. Mother's Footsteps Guide Me On

25. That Home Far Away

26. My Lord's Gonna Set Me Free

27. The Angel Of Death

28. Wings Of Angels

29. Suwannee River Hoedown

Disc 2

1. Choo Choo Comin'

2. Carolina Mountain Home

3. Trust Each Other

4. Beneath The Maple

5. Highway Of Regret

6. A Little At A Time

7. Another Night

8. Ridin' That Midnight Train

9. Mountain Dew

10. Sunny Side Of The Mountain

11. Tragic Romance

12. Shenandoah Waltz

13. Next Sunday, Darling, Is My Birthday

14. Sweet Thing

15. Sweeter Than The Flowers

16. It's Raining Here This Morning

17. Shackles And Chains

18. Weeping Willow

19. Old Rattler

20. I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

21. My Main Trial Is Yet To Come

22. Mother Left Me Her Bible

23. Jacob's Vision

24. I'll Not Be A Stranger

25. From The Manger To The Cross

26. Four Books In The Bible

Disc 3

1. Purple Robe

2. When Jesus Beckons Me Home

3. Jordan

4. Pass Me Not

5. Lonely Tombs

6. Over In The Glory Land

7. How Far To Little Rock

8. A Few More Seasons

9. Where We'll Never Die

10. In Heaven We'll Never Grow Old

11. Mother No Longer Awaits Me At Home

12. If I Lose

13. Little Maggie

14. God Gave You To Me

15. Don't Go Out Tonight

16. The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn

17. Rank Stranger

18. Let The Church Roll On

19. Rock Of Ages

20. I Saw The Light

21. What A Friend

22. Gathering Flowers For The Master's Bouquet

23. I'm Ready To Go

Disc 4

1. Let Me Love You One More Time

2. Little Bennie

3. Old Love Letters

6. Wildwood Flower

7. Let Me Rest

8. Are You Tired Of Me, Darling

12. Come All Ye Tenderhearted

14. Lover's Quarrel

15. The Story Of The Lawson Family

16. Hey Hey Hey

19. What About You

20. Little Willie

21. Big Tilda

28. Just Dreamin'

29. The Drunken Driver

30. Little Joe

31. Handsome Molly

Comments

Report as inappropriate
hicks1118
The Stanley Brother were one of the beat
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I bet they are picking and singing in Heaven now.
Dad would be so happy.
Report as inappropriate
dmullins1954
Not many of the old ones left , thank goodness for their recordings.
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Rest In Peace Ralph and Carter.
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It's a joy to be able to listen to this music. May it always be with us.
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awesome Bluegrass at its FINEST!!!!!
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the best bluegrass ever
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Facinated... f u l l tank..of the spirit of the..Lord... G o d Bless You guys...thank s . . . .
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Is that Carter Stanley or George Shuffler singing lead on this? Doesn't sound like Carter. Definitely George playing lead guitar. Definitely not Ralph singing lead on this one.
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Flat out love this music...just the way it should be played and sung.
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The cooks send your best angle
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I love blue grass,countr y music and hill billy music.
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V
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They are the epitome of fine Virginia music. The sounds of good bluegrass vary throughout the Southern states but the sound is always good!
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I pray that music like this will never be lost to future generations. Take time & listen!
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Whew!
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mokm has the come album from bluegrass
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And Stanley brothers
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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
Report as inappropriate
Great Pickin, yes the Banjo Pickin.
Report as inappropriate
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!
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thAT PICKIN MAKES ME GRINNIN!!!
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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.
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rch2815
I don't think ralph Stanley died
Report as inappropriate
dicehouse72
I love blue grass , god bless .
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this is is the great's music, wish i could take ralph fishing.
Report as inappropriate
I LOVE THE CHUCKWAGON GANE

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

YOUR FRIEND
WALTER L. McKINNERNEY
Report as inappropriate
viggiano0
Music
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kayla.shelto n 9 9
I love ralph stanly I got to meet him I was so happy that day
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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!
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YEEEEEfriggi n H A A A A W W W ! ! ! Loves it!...And I'm a city boy.
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very good
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putz4par
Ralph is my former girlfriends uncle. we often got to hang out with him and the clinch mtn boys. Quite a treat
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avoid pause's
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This is the best musick to my ears
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If this ain't bluegrass I'll Kiss your country...We l l you know
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cannot beat them
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he is thebest
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Ralph Stanley's voice is unmatched in bluegrass..T h e Stanley Boys will live forever. R.I.P. Carter Stanley
Report as inappropriate
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.
Report as inappropriate
Find tradional bluegrass,gr e a t mountain music. jSilvers
Report as inappropriate
dmwinterton
MY 6 MONTH OLD SON LOVES TO LISTEN TO THE STANLEY BROTHERS AT NIGHT WHEN WE GET HIM READY FOR BED
Report as inappropriate
another all time Great,...
Report as inappropriate
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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