Carter Stanley

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Carter Stanley
Birth name Carter Glen Stanley
Born (1925-08-27)August 27, 1925
Big Spraddle Creek, Virginia, U.S.A.
Died December 1, 1966(1966-12-01) (aged 41)
Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Genres Bluegrass, Old-time
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer, songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1946–1966
Labels Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, Mercury, Starday, King
Associated acts The Stanley Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe

Carter Glen Stanley (August 27, 1925 – December 1, 1966) was a bluegrass music lead singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitar player. He formed "The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys" band together with his brother Ralph. The Stanley Brothers are generally acknowledged as the first band after Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys to play in the bluegrass genre. According to some historians, their recording of "Molly and Tenbrooks" (aka "The Racehorse Song") marked the beginning of bluegrass as a genre.


Stanley was born in Big Spraddle Creek in Dickenson County, Virginia. The son of Lucy and Lee Stanley, Carter grew up in rural southwestern Virginia. In 1946 he and his brother Ralph formed the Stanley Brothers, one of the most respected and influential bands in the new genre of bluegrass music. 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 natural singers in the history of country music. Carter also composed more than a hundred songs, and many of them remain standards in the bluegrass genre. He had a particular knack for deceptively simple lyrics that portrayed strong emotion. His most famous compositions include "White Dove" and "The Fields Have Turned Brown." His arrangement of "Man of Constant Sorrow" was popularized in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The brothers broke up in 1951 and Carter Stanley briefly played guitar with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. In 1953, he and Ralph reunited. After that time, the Stanley Brothers stayed together as a brother act until October 21, 1966, when Carter began hemorrhaging during a performance at a school auditorium in Hazel Green, Kentucky and had to leave the stage. He died six weeks later on December 1, 1966. A heavy drinker, Carter was dead from cirrhosis of the liver at age 41. He was buried in accordance with his request on Smith Ridge, near Coeburn, Virginia.[1]

In 1992 Carter Stanley was posthumously inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

For an account of Carter's life, see the 2013 biography Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers by David W. Johnson.


  1. ^ Wright, John (1995). Traveling the High Way Home. University of Illinois Press. p. 5. 

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