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Ralph Stanley


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Ralph Stanley (born in 25 February 1927) is an American bluegrass musician.

Stanley was born in Big Spraddle Creek, Virginia, near Stratton, Dickenson County, Virginia, USA.

The son of Lucy and Lee Stanley, Ralph Edmond Stanley grew up in rural southwestern Virginia. Ralph learned to play the banjo claw-hammer style from his mother. It was her inspiration, coupled with Ralph’s natural ability, which led Ralph and his older guitar-playing brother Carter to form the Stanley Brothers Band in 1946 after his service abroad during World War 2. Drawing heavily on the musical traditions of the area - the holiness singing of the Primitive Baptist Church and the sweet downhome family harmonies of the Carter Family- the Stanleys began honing their own special style of music by singing at local events in the early 1940s.

He and his brother Carter performed as the Stanley Brothers with their band the Clinch Mountain Boys from 1946 to 1966. After Carter’s death in 1966, Ralph continued to perform, eventually reviving the Clinch Mountain Boys. Larry Sparks, Roy Lee Centers, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, and Charlie Sizemore were among those who played in the revived band. Stanley has maintained an extensive touring schedule into 2003. His work was featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which he sings the dirge “O Death.” Stanley was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992 and has come to be 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, 1976.


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