The Stanley Brothers (Carter Stanley, 1925-1966, and Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016) were an American bluegrass duo originally hailing from Dickenson County, Virginia. The family soon moved to McClure, Virginia, where their parents worked a small farm in the Clinch Mountains. Music was a part of their lives from the word go, as they were able to listen to the likes of The Monroe Brothers, Mainer's Mountaineers, and other artists featured on the Grand Ole Opry radio program.
The War interrupted any thoughts of a musical career, and it was not until both brothers returned from the service that they were able to make their own mark in music – ultimately ending up on WCYB Bristol, Tennessee, where they would remain for over ten years as stalwarts of the famed "Farm and Fun Time" radio show. Their music initially followed a more old time style favored by Mainer's Mountaineers, with Ralph playing the banjo in the old two-finger style, interspersed with old time clawhammer playing, before taking a stab at the new three-finger style popularised by Earl Scruggs.
They formed The Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. They were perhaps the first band to adopt the new music style created by Bill Monroe in the mid-1940s that later became known as bluegrass. Carter played guitar and sang lead while Ralph played banjo and sang with a strong, high tenor voice. Their harmonies are much admired, and many consider Carter Stanley to be one of the greatest singers in the history of country music. The brothers also wrote many of their own songs and Carter had a particular knack for writing deceptively simple lyrics that portrayed strong emotion. The Stanley's style can best be described as a traditional "mountain soul" sound that remained close to the Primitive Baptist vocal stylings they learned from their parents and others near their southwestern Virginia home.
The early Stanley Brothers recordings on Rich-R-Tone (of Johnson City, Tennessee) included Pee Wee Lambert on mandolin. They later added an innovative touch to their traditional sound with the guitar solos of George Shuffler who often used a crosspicking style.
Carter performed briefly with Bill Monroe while Ralph was recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident in 1951. As bluegrass music grew less popular in the late 1950s, the Stanley Brothers moved to Live Oak, Florida to headline the weekly Suwannee River Jamboree radio show on WNER. The three-hour show was also syndicated across the Southeast. Otherwise the brothers performed together until 1966 (from 1961 on as a duo). After Carter's death Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and is still performing in 2006. Among the musicians who have played in the revived Clinch Mountain Boys are Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks, Curly Ray Cline, Jack Cooke, and Ralph Stanley II. Ralph's career received a big boost with his prominent role on the phenomenally successful soundtrack recording of the 2000 film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?." The Stanley Brothers were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992.
Among the Stanley Brothers' best known recordings are:
* I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow (1950, Columbia)
* Rank Stranger
* Angel Band
* How Mountain Girls Can Love
* How Far to Little Rock? (novelty)
* Still trying to get to Little Rock (novelty)
* Ridin' That Midnite Train
* Clinch Mountain Backstep
* She's More To Be Pitied
* The Memory of Your Smile
* Love Me Darlin' Just Tonight
Clinch Mountain Boys Members
* Carter Stanley (guitar)
* Ralph Stanley (banjo)
* Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert (mandolin)
* Jim Williams (mandolin)
* Curly Lambert (mandolin)
* Leslie Keith (fiddle)
* Robert "Bobby" Sumner (fiddle)
* Les Woodie (fiddle)
* Ralph Mayo (fiddle, guitar)
* Chubby Anthony (fiddle)
* Art Stamper (fiddle)
* Joe Meadows (fiddle)
* Red Stanley (fiddle)
* Don Miller (fiddle)
* Vernon Derrick (fiddle)
* James "Jay" Hughes (bass)
* Ernie Newton (bass)
* Chick Stripling (bass)
* Mike Seeger (bass)
* Bill Napier (guitar, mandolin)
* George Shuffler (guitar, bass)
* Larry Sparks (guitar)
* Ralph Stanley Discography
* Recording of "We Are Going to Paint the Town" from a 1958 Florida radio show (made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida)
* Podcast (mp3) of one of the Stanley Brothers' Suwannee River Jamboree raido show from 1958 (made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida)
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