The Stanley Brothers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

The Stanley Brothers
OriginDickenson County, Virginia, USA
GenresBluegrass, Gospel Music
Years active1946–1966
LabelsRich-R-Tone, Columbia, Mercury, King, Starday, Wango, Rimrock
Past membersCarter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Jump to: navigation, search
The Stanley Brothers
OriginDickenson County, Virginia, USA
GenresBluegrass, Gospel Music
Years active1946–1966
LabelsRich-R-Tone, Columbia, Mercury, King, Starday, Wango, Rimrock
Past membersCarter Stanley
Ralph Stanley

The Stanley Brothers were an American bluegrass duo made up of brothers Carter and Ralph Stanley.


Carter and Ralph Stanley were born in the Clinch Mountains of Dickenson County, Virginia. They were raised on a small farm near McClure, Virginia in that same county. Music was a part of their lives from early on, as they were able to listen to the likes of the Monroe Brothers, J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers and the Grand Ole Opry on local radio. The brothers soon formed a band, the Lazy Ramblers, and performed as a duo on WJHL radio in Johnson City, Tennessee.[1] World War II 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.

They formed their band, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys, in 1946 as the first band to copy the Monroe sound.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Up to now, Ralph had been playing the banjo with two fingers only on recordings and in concerts but switched in 1948 to the three-finger style popularised by Earl Scruggs.[6] In March 1949, the Stanley Brothers began recording for Columbia Records.[7]

During this time, Bill Monroe was not particularly fond of groups like the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs whom he believed "stole" his music by copying it and they were therefore seen as "economic threats."[8][9] Financially hard times in the early 1950s forced the brothers to take a short break in their musical career and 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.[10] Following his recovery, Carter & 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 to headline the weekly Suwannee River Jamboree radio show on WNER from 1958 to 1962. The three-hour show was also syndicated across the Southeast.[11] In 1966, the brothers toured Europe and upon returning home they continued to perform together until Carter's death in December 1966.[12]

The brothers 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. Ralph has often used the expression "...old-time, mountain style, what they call 'bluegrass' music", to differentiate the Stanleys' sound from mainstream bluegrass. They later added an innovative touch to their traditional sound with the guitar solos of George Shuffler, an early proponent of the crosspicking guitar style.

Later, Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and is still performing as of 2010. Among the musicians who have played in the revived Clinch Mountain Boys are 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 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. In 2005, The Barter State Theatre of Virginia premiered an original stage production entitled, "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.

Selected recordings[edit]

Among the Stanley Brothers' best known recordings are:

Clinch Mountain Boys Members[edit]

1946 to 1966:


78 RPM[edit]

1947"Mother No Longer Awaits Me at Home" / "The Girl Behind the Bar"Rich-R-Tone420
1948"Little Maggie" / "The Little Glass of Wine"Rich-R-Tone423
1948"The Rambler's Blues" / "Molly and Tenbrooks"Rich-R-Tone418
1949"The Jealous Lover" / "Our Darling's Gone"Rich-R-Tone435
1949"The White Dove" / "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet"Columbia20577
1949"Little Glass of Wine" / "Let Me Be Your Friend"Columbia20590
1949"The Angels Are Singing (In Heaven Tonight)" / "It's Never Too Late"Columbia20617
1949"A Vision of Mother" / "Have You Someone (In Heaven Awaiting)"Columbia20647
1950"The Old Home" / "The Fields Have Turned Brown"Columbia20667
1950"Death is Only a Dream" / "I Can Tell You the Time"Rich-R-Tone466
1950"I Love No One But You" / "Too Late to Cry"Columbia20697
1950"We'll Be Sweethearts in Heaven" / "The Drunkard's Hell"Columbia20735
1950"Hey! Hey! Hey!" / "Pretty Polly"Columbia20770
1951"The Lonesome River" / "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow"Columbia20816
1952"Sweetest Love" / "The Wandering Boy"Columbia20953
1952"Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake" / "Are You Waiting Just for Me?"Rich-R-Tone1055
1952"Little Glass of Wine" / "Little Birdie"Rich-R-Tone1056
1953"This Weary Heart You Stole Away" / "I'm Lonesome Without You"Mercury70217
1953"Say Won't You Be Mine" / "Our Last Goodbye"Mercury70270
1954"I Long To See The Old Folks" / "A Voice From On High"Mercury70340
1954"Memories Of Mother" / "Could You Love Me One More Time"Mercury70400
1954"Poison Lies" / "Dickson County Breakdown"Mercury70437-X45
1954"Blue Moon of Kentucky" / "I Just Got Wise"Mercury70453-X45
1954"Calling From Heaven" / "Harbor Of Love"Mercury70483-X45
1955"Hard Times" / "I Worship You"Mercury70546-X45
1955"So Blue" / "You'd Better Get Right"Mercury70612-X45
1955"Lonesome And Blue" / "Orange Blossom Special"Mercury70663-X45
1955"I Hear My Savior Calling" / "Just A Little Talk With Jesus"Mercury70718-X45
1956"Nobody's Love Is Like Mine"/ "Big Tilda"Mercury70789-X45
1956"Baby Girl" / "Say You'll Take Me Back"Mercury70886-X45
1957"I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way" / "The Flood"Mercury71064-X45
1957"Fling Ding" / "Loving You Too Well"Mercury71207-X45
1958"She's More To Be Pitied" / "Train 45"King5155
1958"Midnight Ramble" / "Love Me Darling Just Tonight"King5165
1959"Keep a Memory" / "Mastertone March"King5180
1959"How Can We Thank Him" / "That Home Far Away"King5197
1959"The Memory of Your Smile" / "Suwanee River Hoedown"King5210
1959"The White Dove" / "Mother's Footsteps Guide Me On"King5233


Albums (US)[edit]

1958Country Pickin' and Singin'MercuryMG-20349
1959Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain BoysKing615
1959Hymns and Sacred SongsKing645
1959Mountain Song Favorites Featuring 5 String BanjoStardaySLP 106reissued 1964 as Nashville NLP-2014
1960Sacred Songs From the HillsStardaySLP-122
1960The Stanley Brothers Sing Everybody's Country FavoritesKing690
1960For the Good People - Sacred SongsKing698
1961The Stanley's In PersonKing719Stereo
1961Stanley Brothers Live At Antioch College - 1960VintageZK 002limited edition of 500
1961Sing The Songs They Like BestKing772
1961The Stanley BrothersHarmonyHL-7291recorded in 1949
1961Old Country ChurchGusto0084
1962Award Winners at the Folk Song FestivalKing791live
1962Good Old Camp Meeting SongsKing805
1962The Mountain Music Sound of the Stanley BrothersStardaySLP-201
1962Old Time Camp MeetingKing750
1963Folk Concert from the Heart of AmericaKing834reissued as Hollywood HT-248, Just Because
1963The Country Folk Music SpotlightKing864
1963The World's Finest Five String BanjoKing872alternate title: Banjo in the Hills
1963Hard TimesMercuryMG 20884SR 60884 stereo
1964Hymns of the CrossKing918with George Shuffler
1965The Remarkable Stanley Brothers Play and Sing Bluegrass Songs for YouKing924
1965Songs of Mother and HomeWangoLP 106reissued 1973 as County 738
1966The Stanley Brothers: Their Original RecordingsMelodeonMLP 73221947 Rich-R-Tone sessions, recorded in Bristol, Tennessee
1966A Collection of Original Gospel & Sacred SongsKing963original title: The Greatest Country and Western Show On Earth
1966Jacob's VisionStardaySLP-384
1966The Stanley Brothers Goes to EuropeRimrockRLP 200
1966The Angels Are SingingHarmonyHL 7377HS 11177 stereo
1966Carter & RalphNashvilleNLP-2037
1966John's Gospel QuartetWangoLP 103reissued 1977 as County 753
1966John's Country QuartetWangoLP 104reissued 1973 as County 739
1966John's Gospel QuartetWangoLP 105reissued 1976 as County 754
1966Bluegrass Gospel FavoritesCabin Creek203
1967Stanley Brothers Sing the Best-Loved Sacred Songs of Carter StanleyKing1013
1967An Empty Mansion: In Memory of Carter StanleyRimrockRLP 153reissued 1978 as Old Homestead 118
1967A Beautiful LifeRimrockRLP 200reissued 1978 as Old Homestead 119
1967Gospel Singing As Pure As the Mountain StreamRimrockRLP 200
1969How Far To Little RockKingKLP-1046
1970Sweeter Than the FlowersNashvilleNLP-2078also NA7-2046-2
1970The Legendary Stanley Brothers, Recorded LiveRebelSLP 1487
1970The Legendary Stanley Brothers, Recorded Live, Vol 2RebelSLP 1495
1971Together For the Last TimeLisa Joy10329recorded live in 1956 and 1966, reissued 1972 as Rebel SLP 1512
1972On Radio - Great 1960 Radio ShowsRebel1115recorded in Live Oak, Florida
1976Stanley Brothers on the AirWango115
1980Columbia Sessions Vol 1RounderSS-09
1980Columbia Sessions Vol 2RounderSS-10
1984On Radio Vol 1County780
1984On Radio Vol 2County781
1984Starday SessionsCounty106/107
1988The Stanley Brothers on WCYB Bristol Farm & Fun TimeRebel855recorded 1947
1994Clinch Mountain BluegrassVanguard77018-2live, Newport Folk Festival, 1959 and 1964
1997Earliest RecordingsRich-R-Tone6004recorded 1947-1952
2004An Evening Long AgoColumbia LegacyCK-86747recorded in Bristol, VA, March 1956
2004The Last Show of the Stanley Brothers - Brown County JamboreeStanleytonerecorded in Bean Blossom, IN, October 16, 1966



2005Rainbow Quest: The Stanley Brothers and Doc WatsonShanachie605DVD, season 1, episode 18, 1965

Charted singles[edit]

YearSingleUS Country
1960"How Far to Little Rock"17


  1. ^ a b Stambler, Irwin; Grelun Landon (2000). Country Music: The Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 457–8. ISBN 0-312-26487-9. Retrieved February 6, 2010. 
  2. ^ Malone, McCulloh 1975, p. 426.
  3. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 80.
  4. ^ Wright 1995, p. 3.
  5. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 82.
  6. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 84.
  7. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 87.
  8. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 88.
  9. ^ Rosenberg 2005, p. 85.
  10. ^ Wright 1995, p. 4.
  11. ^ "Folklife Database: Recording of the Suwannee River Jamboree radio program". State Library and Archives of Florida. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  12. ^ Wright 1995, p. 5.
  13. ^ Pennell, Charley (November 10, 2009). "Blue Grass Singles by Artist". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  14. ^ Abrams, Steven (September 2, 2009). "COLUMBIA (Microphone label, USA) 20500 - 21000 Numerical Listing". The Online Discographical Project. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  15. ^ Abrams, Steven (October 28, 2009). "Mercury Numerical Listing - 70000 Series". The Online Discographical Project. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  16. ^ Edwards, David; Callahan, Mike (January 10, 1998). "King/Federal/DeLuxe Story". Album Discographies. Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  17. ^ Pennell, Charley (January 10, 1998). "Blue Grass LPs by Artist". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. Retrieved January 28, 2010. 
  18. ^ Praguefrank (March 15, 2009). "Stanley Brothers". Praguefrank's Country Music Discographies. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  19. ^ Lambert, Gerard "Rocky" (April 5, 2007). "Stanley Brothers". Discographie Rock 'N' Country (in French). Retrieved December 28, 2009. 


External links[edit]