The Stanley Brothers
|The Stanley Brothers|
Label of the Stanley Brothers' single, "I Hear My Savior Calling"
|Origin||Dickenson County, Virginia, USA|
|Genres||Bluegrass, Appalachian folk, country, gospel|
|Labels||Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, Mercury, King, Starday, Wango, Rimrock, Old Homestead|
|Past members||Carter Stanley
The Stanley Brothers were an American bluegrass duo made up of brothers Carter Stanley (1925–1966) and Ralph Stanley (1927–2016). Ralph and Carter 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 after Carter's death, from 1967 until his own death in 2016.
Carter and Ralph Stanley were born on a small farm in Dickenson County, Virginia, near McClure. Music was a part of their lives even in their early years, and they listened to the likes of the Monroe Brothers, J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers and the Grand Ole Opry on local radio.
The brothers formed a band, the Lazy Ramblers, and performed as a duo on WJHL radio in Johnson City, Tennessee. World War II interrupted their musical career, but once both brothers returned from the United States 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. Additional members of this early band were Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert on mandolin and Bobby Sumner on fiddle. Sumner was soon to be replaced by Leslie Keith.
On December 26, 1946, the band began performing at radio station WCYB in Bristol, Tennessee as stalwarts of the famed Farm and Fun Time radio show. They made their recording debut in September 1947 for Rich-R-Tone Records which had been founded the year before. Their records sold well, "outselling even Eddy Arnold" regionally. Up to now, Ralph had been playing his banjo with two fingers on recordings and in concerts, but in 1948, he switched to the three-finger style (popularised by Earl Scruggs). In March 1949, the Stanley Brothers began recording for Columbia Records. During this time, Bill Monroe was not particularly fond of groups like the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs who he believed "stole" his music by copying it; they were seen as "economic threats."
Financially hard times in the early 1950s forced the brothers to take a short break in their musical career. They began 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, the Stanley Brothers moved to Live Oak, Florida, and headlined the weekly Suwannee River Jamboree radio show on WNER from 1958 to 1962. The three-hour show was also syndicated across the Southeast. In 1966, the brothers toured Europe, and upon returning home they continued to perform together until Carter's death in December 1966.
Many years later, Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys. He performed with them through 2013. He recorded one last album in 2014, Side By Side, with his son, Ralph II. Among the musicians who have played in the revived Clinch Mountain Boys were Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks, Curly Ray Cline, Jack Cooke, Roy Lee Centers, Charlie Sizemore, Ray Goins, and Ralph Stanley II. Ralph's career received a big boost with his prominent role on the very successful soundtrack recording of the 2000 feature film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which featured the song "Man of Constant Sorrow" among others.
Personal lives and deaths
Carter Stanley died in December 1966.
Ralph Stanley died on June 23, 2016.
The Stanley Brothers were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992. In 2005, The Barter State Theatre of Virginia premiered an original stage production, Man of Constant Sorrow: The Story of the Stanley Brothers, written by Dr. Douglas Pote.
The University Press of Mississippi published the first full-length biography of the Stanley Brothers, Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers by David W. Johnson, on February 1, 2013. The paperback edition was published March 1, 2014.
Among the Stanley Brothers' best known recordings are:
- I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow (Columbia 20816, Rec: Nov. 3, 1950, Released: May, 1951)
- Rank Stranger
- Angel Band (1955)
- 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 (lead vocalist, guitar)
- Ralph Stanley (banjo)
- George Shuffler (guitar, bass)
- Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert (mandolin)
- Jim Williams (mandolin)
- Curly Lambert (mandolin, guitar)
- James Price (fiddle)
- Robert "Bobby" Sumner (fiddle)
- Lester Woodie (fiddle)
- Ralph Mayo (fiddle, guitar)
- Chubby Anthony (fiddle)
- Art Stamper (fiddle)
- Joe Meadows (fiddle)
- Paul Moon Mullins (fiddle)
- Red Stanley (fiddle)
- Don Miller (fiddle)
- Vernon Derrick (fiddle, guitar)
- Curly Ray Cline (fiddle)
- James "Jay" Hughes (bass)
- Ernie Newton (bass)
- James "Chick" Stripling (bass)
- Mike Seeger (bass)
- Charlie Cline (guitar)
- Bill Napier (guitar, mandolin)
- Albert Elliott [ Mandolin, Upright Bass, and Baritone ]better known as [Touser Murphy] stage name.
- Larry Sparks (guitar)
- Jack Cooke (bass)
- John Shuffler (bass)
- Melvin Goins (bass, guitar)
|1947||"Mother No Longer Awaits Me at Home" / "The Girl Behind the Bar"||Rich-R-Tone||420|
|1948||"Little Maggie" / "The Little Glass of Wine"||Rich-R-Tone||423|
|1948||"The Rambler's Blues" / "Molly and Tenbrooks"||Rich-R-Tone||418|
|1949||"The Jealous Lover" / "Our Darling's Gone"||Rich-R-Tone||435|
|1949||"The White Dove" / "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet"||Columbia||20577|
|1949||"Little Glass of Wine" / "Let Me Be Your Friend"||Columbia||20590|
|1949||"The Angels are Singing (in Heaven Tonight)" / "It's Never Too Late"||Columbia||20617|
|1949||"A Vision of Mother" / "Have You Someone (in Heaven Awaiting)"||Columbia||20647|
|1950||"The Old Home" / "The Fields Have Turned Brown"||Columbia||20667|
|1950||"Death is Only a Dream" / "I Can Tell You the Time"||Rich-R-Tone||466|
|1950||"I Love No One But You" / "Too Late to Cry"||Columbia||20697|
|1950||"We'll Be Sweethearts in Heaven" / "The Drunkard's Hell"||Columbia||20735|
|1950||"Hey! Hey! Hey!" / "Pretty Polly"||Columbia||20770|
|1951||"The Lonesome River" / "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow"||Columbia||20816|
|1952||"Sweetest Love" / "The Wandering Boy"||Columbia||20953|
|1952||"Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake" / "Are You Waiting Just for Me?"||Rich-R-Tone||1055|
|1952||"Little Glass of Wine" / "Little Birdie"||Rich-R-Tone||1056|
|1953||"This Weary Heart You Stole Away" / "I'm Lonesome Without You"||Mercury||70217|
|1953||"Say Won't You Be Mine" / "Our Last Goodbye"||Mercury||70270|
|1954||"I Long to See the Old Folks" / "A Voice from on High"||Mercury||70340|
|1954||"Memories of Mother" / "Could You Love Me One More Time"||Mercury||70400|
|1954||"Poison Lies" / "Dickson County Breakdown"||Mercury||70437-X45|
|1954||"Blue Moon of Kentucky" / "I Just Got Wise"||Mercury||70453-X45|
|1954||"Calling from Heaven" / "Harbor of Love"||Mercury||70483-X45|
|1955||"Hard Times" / "I Worship You"||Mercury||70546-X45|
|1955||"So Blue" / "You'd Better Get Right"||Mercury||70612-X45|
|1955||"Lonesome and Blue" / "Orange Blossom Special"||Mercury||70663-X45|
|1955||"I Hear My Savior Calling" / "Just a Little Talk with Jesus"||Mercury||70718-X45|
|1956||"Nobody's Love Is like Mine"/ "Big Tilda"||Mercury||70789-X45|
|1956||"Baby Girl" / "Say You'll Take Me Back"||Mercury||70886-X45|
|1957||"I'm Lost, I'll Never Find the Way" / "The Flood"||Mercury||71064-X45|
|1957||"Fling Ding" / "Loving You Too Well"||Mercury||71207-X45|
|1958||"She's More to Be Pitied" / "Train 45"||King||5155|
|1958||"Midnight Ramble" / "Love Me Darling Just Tonight"||King||5165|
|1959||"Keep a Memory" / "Mastertone March"||King||5180|
|1959||"How Can We Thank Him" / "That Home Far Away"||King||5197|
|1959||"The Memory of Your Smile" / "Suwanee River Hoedown"||King||5210|
|1959||"The White Dove" / "Mother's Footsteps Guide Me On"||King||5233|
|1958||Country Pickin' and Singin'||Mercury||MG-20349|
|1959||Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys||King||615|
|1959||Hymns and Sacred Songs||King||645|
|1959||Mountain Song Favorites Featuring 5 String Banjo||Starday||SLP 106||reissued 1964 as Nashville NLP-2014|
|1960||Sacred Songs from the Hills||Starday||SLP-122|
|1960||The Stanley Brothers Sing Everybody's Country Favorites||King||690|
|1960||For the Good People: Sacred Songs||King||698|
|1961||The Stanley's In Person||King||719||Stereo|
|1961||Stanley Brothers Live at Antioch College - 1960||Vintage||ZK 002||limited edition of 500|
|1961||Sing the Songs They Like Best||King||772|
|1961||The Stanley Brothers||Harmony||HL-7291||recorded in 1949|
|1961||Old Country Church||Gusto||0084|
|1962||Award Winners at the Folk Song Festival||King||791||live|
|1962||Good Old Camp Meeting Songs||King||805|
|1962||The Mountain Music Sound of the Stanley Brothers||Starday||SLP-201|
|1962||Old Time Camp Meeting||King||750|
|1963||Folk Concert from the Heart of America||King||834||reissued as Hollywood HT-248, Just Because|
|1963||The Country Folk Music Spotlight||King||864|
|1963||The World's Finest Five String Banjo||King||872||alternate title: Banjo in the Hills|
|1963||Hard Times||Mercury||MG 20884||SR 60884 stereo|
|1964||Hymns of the Cross||King||918||with George Shuffler|
|1965||The Remarkable Stanley Brothers Play and Sing Bluegrass Songs for You||King||924|
|1965||Songs of Mother and Home||Wango||LP 106||reissued 1973 as County 738|
|1966||The Stanley Brothers: Their Original Recordings||Melodeon||MLP 7322||1947 Rich-R-Tone sessions, recorded in Bristol, Tennessee|
|1966||A Collection of Original Gospel & Sacred Songs||King||963||original title: The Greatest Country and Western Show On Earth|
|1966||The Stanley Brothers Goes to Europe||Rimrock||RLP 200|
|1966||The Angels are Singing||Harmony||HL 7377||HS 11177 stereo|
|1966||Carter & Ralph||Starday||NLP-2037|
|1966||John's Gospel Quartet||Wango||LP 103||reissued 1977 as County 753|
|1966||John's Country Quartet||Wango||LP 104||reissued 1973 as County 739|
|1966||John's Gospel Quartet||Wango||LP 105||reissued 1976 as County 754|
|1966||Bluegrass Gospel Favorites||Cabin Creek||203|
|1967||Stanley Brothers Sing the Best-Loved Sacred Songs of Carter Stanley||King||1013|
|1967||An Empty Mansion: In Memory of Carter Stanley||Rimrock||RLP 153||reissued 1978 as Old Homestead 118|
|1967||A Beautiful Life||Rimrock||RLP 200||reissued 1978 as Old Homestead 119|
|1967||Gospel Singing as Pure as the Mountain Stream||Rimrock||RLP 200|
|1969||How Far to Little Rock||King||KLP-1046|
|1970||Sweeter Than the Flowers||Nashville||NLP-2078||also NA7-2046-2|
|1970||The Legendary Stanley Brothers, Recorded Live||Rebel||SLP 1487|
|1970||The Legendary Stanley Brothers, Recorded Live, Vol 2||Rebel||SLP 1495|
|1971||Together for the Last Time||Lisa Joy||10329||recorded live in 1956 and 1966, reissued 1972 as Rebel SLP 1512|
|1972||On Radio: Great 1960 Radio Shows||Rebel||1115||recorded in Live Oak, Florida|
|1972||Stanley Brothers - Together for the Last Time||Rebel||SLP-1512|
|1973||Stanley Brothers of Virginia||County||739|
|1976||Stanley Brothers on the Air||Wango||115|
|1980||Columbia Sessions Vol. 1||Rounder||SS-09|
|1980||Columbia Sessions Vol. 2||Rounder||SS-10|
|1984||On Radio Vol. 1||County||780|
|1984||On Radio Vol. 2||County||781|
|1988||The Stanley Brothers on WCYB Bristol Farm & Fun Time||Rebel||855||recorded 1947|
|1994||Clinch Mountain Bluegrass||Vanguard||77018-2||live, Newport Folk Festival, 1959 and 1964|
|1997||Earliest Recordings||Rich-R-Tone||6004||recorded 1947-1952|
|2004||An Evening Long Ago||Columbia Legacy||CK-86747||recorded in Bristol, VA, March 1956|
|2004||The Last Show of the Stanley Brothers: Brown County Jamboree||Stanleytone||recorded in Bean Blossom, IN, October 16, 1966|
|2005||Rainbow Quest: The Stanley Brothers and Doc Watson||Shanachie||605||DVD, season 1, episode 18, 1965|
|1960||"How Far to Little Rock"||17|
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- Malone, McCulloh 1975, p. 426.
- Rosenberg 2005, p. 80.
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- Rosenberg 2005, p. 82.
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- Rosenberg 2005, p. 87.
- Rosenberg 2005, p. 88.
- Rosenberg 2005, p. 85.
- Wright 1995, p. 4.
- "Folklife Database: Recording of the Suwannee River Jamboree radio program". floridamemory.com. State Library and Archives of Florida. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
- Wright 1995, p. 5.
- Pennell, Charley (November 10, 2009). "Blue Grass Singles by Artist". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
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- Abrams, Steven (October 28, 2009). "Mercury Numerical Listing - 70000 Series". The Online Discographical Project. Retrieved January 28, 2010.
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- Johnson, David W. (2013) Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers, University Press of Mississippi
- Malone, Bill C. (1975) Judith McCulloh, Stars of Country Music, University of Illinois Press
- Rosenberg, Neil V. (2005) Bluegrass: A History, University of Illinois Press
- Wright, John (1995) Traveling the High Way Home, University of Illinois Press
- Reid, Gary B. (2015) "The Music of the Stanley Brothers, University of Illinois Press
- Stanley Brothers' biography
- 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 radio show from 1958 (made available for public use by the State Archives of Florida)
- Ralph Stanley Museum & Traditional Mountain Music Center, official website of the Ralph Stanley Museum
- Man of Constant Sorrow at Barter Theatre
- Production photos from Man of Constant Sorrow at buddywoodward.net
- The Stanley Brothers - a listing of all their songs at hankwilliamslistings.com
- Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers (2013)