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Ralph Stanley

Born in Stratton, Virginia in 1927, Ralph Stanley and his older brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys. In 1946 Ralph and Carter were being broadcast from radio station WCYB in Bristol, Virginia. The music, which was inspired by their Virginia mountain home, was encouraged by their mother, who taught Ralph the claw-hammer style of banjo picking that he and Carter became famous for. They recorded for such companies as the small Rich-R-Tone label and later Columbia, a relationship that lasted from 1949 until 1952. These classic sessions defined the Stanleys' own approach to bluegrass and made them as important as Bill Monroe. After leaving Columbia, the Stanleys were with Mercury, Starday and King. Leaning towards more gospel at times, Carter and Ralph made a place for themselves in the music industry. In December of 1966, Carter Stanley died in a Virginia hospital after a steady decline in health. He was just 41 years old. After much consideration and grief, Ralph carried on without Carter. Already their haunting mountain melodies made them stand apart from other bluegrass bands, but Ralph expanded upon this foundation and took his own "high lonesome" vocals to a new plane. Popular at bluegrass festivals, Ralph and each edition of the Clinch Mountain Boys grew to be one of the most respected outfits in bluegrass. As far as west as California and even up in the hollars of Kentucky, people were drawn to the poignant, mournful sound of Ralph Stanley's style. Different from all the rest, Ralph's ability to hit the right notes and chords made him a singer of trailblazing proportions. Ralph continued to record for a wide variety of labels, including Jalyn, Rebel, King Bluegrass, Blue Jay, Jessup, Stanleytone, his own label, and Freeland. A devoted family man, his constant touring took its toll on his first marriage, a union that produced daughters Lisa Joy and Tonya and oldest son Timothy. His second wife Jimmie, also a singer, gave him another son late in life; Ralph II followed in both his father's and uncle's footsteps and played in the Clinch Mountain Boys with his dad. A Bluegrass Hall of Fame member along with Carter, Ralph Stanley was an inspiration to Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, the late Keith Whitley and even Monroe acolyte Ricky Skaggs. With his raw emotions and Mother Stanley's three-fingered banjo technique, he helped bring the mountain style of bluegrass music to mainstream audiences. Jana Pendragon

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