STANLEY BROTHERS ENTER AMERICA’S OLD TIME COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME
LeMars, Iowa…..”To most folks, Big Spraddle Creek, Virginia, probably doesn’t mean much, however to those who have an enduring respect and admiration for bluegrass music today, or even an abiding admiration for those who made it possible for us to ‘remember’ what America’s musical culture was all about before it became the property of giant corporations and greed interests, it’s one of the most important geographical landmarks in the United States.”
Bob Everhart, the president of the National Traditional Country Music Association, is announcing to the world that the Stanley Brothers, who were born in Big Spraddle Creek, are entering America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, located in the Pioneer Music Museum, the largest upper Midwest institute dedicated to country and rural music of America’s past. “Carter and Ralph Stanley were, and still are, the very epitome of what America’s old-time music was all about.” Everhart said. “Preservationists of hand-me-down music, both of the Stanley’s can be considered two of our finest ‘savers’ of mountain music, old-time music, all of the musical influences that eventually became bluegrass music, and inevitably country music. Not that you can trace any connecting elements in today’s country music to the music that was so American and so truthful and heartfelt as the music the Stanley’s created and played. Carter was the older of the boys, playing guitar and singing lead. Ralph played banjo, in a style he learned from his mother oftentimes called ‘frailing.’ Ralph also sings in a high tenor voice that blended perfectly with Carter’s much admired lead voice. Carter was considered one of the greatest natural singers in the history of country music. What isn’t so extolled so much about Carter was his incredible ability to write great songs in the genre he played. He composed well over a hundred perfect early country songs, many of which are bluegrass standards today. Like Hank Williams, Sr., Carter Stanley had the ability to create songs of strong emotion but with deceptively simple lyrics. The very epitome of what country music has always been about, easy to listen to, easy to understand, easy to relate to. That was Carter’s enviable long lasting memory. He passed away in 1966 due to cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 41. His daughter Jeanie is still active, recording and performing her dad’s songs.”
“Ralph Stanley, about two years younger than Carter, experienced all the everyday influences of southwestern Virginia that Carter did. Ralph admits “There wasn’t a lot of music in the Stanley household, daddy didn’t play an instrument, but sometimes he would sing church music. And I’d hear him sing songs like ‘Man of Constant Sorrow,’ ‘Pretty Polly,’ and others. I got my first banjo when I was a teenager. I guess I was 15, 16 years old. My aunt had this old banjo, and Mother bought it for me…paid $5 for it, which back then was probably like $5,000. My parents had a little store, and I remember my aunt took it out in groceries. My Mother had 11 brothers and sisters, and all of them could play the five-string banjo. She played gatherings around the neighborhood, like bean stringin’s. She tuned it up for me and played this tune, ‘Shout Little Luly’ and I tried to lay it like she did. But I think I developed my own style of the banjo.”
Carter and Ralph formed the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946, drawing heavily from the musical traditions of the area. Like most aspiring artists of the time, they performed on ‘live’ radio, eventually landing a 12-year gig on WCYB in Bristol, Tennessee. They recorded for Columbia Records, and later for King Records. They performed as The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys from 1946-1966. After Carter died, Ralph was indecisive but finally decided to continue the music. Perhaps his most famous work was his appearance in the film “O Brother Where Art Thou?” performing ‘O Death’ for T-Bone Burnett. Perhaps his most imitated song is “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
Carter and Ralph Stanley join a stellar list of deserving individuals being inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame this year. Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, Jeannie Seely, Bonnie Guitar, Eddie Pennington, Little Roy Lewis, Michael Montana (grandson of Patsy Montana), and June Webb (performed with Roy Acuff and Hank Williams, Sr.), to name a few. There are over 650 performers at the festival where the Hall of Fame inductions will take place in LeMars, Iowa. Held at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds, there are ten stages running from 9am to midnight every day for seven days to accommodate the many performers of America’s old time bluegrass, country, mountain, hillbilly, cowboy & western, folk, even ragtime music.
Carter and Ralph Stanley will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday, August 29th, 7pm, the first day of the festival. The festival ends on September 4th, with final performances by winners of the various contests that take place through the week. According to Everhart, “We’re in our 36th year as a national event. Bill Monroe was inducted into the Hall of Fame several years ago, but it is an extremely interesting and important time for us this year, as the Stanley Brothers go into this very rural-oriented Hall of Fame, making bluegrass and mountain music even more important here in the great plains and prairie lands.”
The National Traditional Country Music Association has a website at http://www.ntcma.net