Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ralph Stanley (1927-2016)

Ralph Stanley, the Southwest Virginia singer and banjoist, one of the last surviving first-generation figures who transformed Appalachian balladry and string-band music into the bluegrass style, has died at 89.

The Stanley Brothers, Ralph and Carter, led one of the most successful bluegrass bands in the 1940s and ’50s. After Carter Stanley’s death in 1966, Ralph Stanley took over as a leader of the band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, in time becoming a mentor to a new generation of bluegrass and “neo-traditional” country musicians.

Late in life, Ralph Stanley achieved mass popularity through performances in the soundtrack of the film
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), and was recognized as an icon of American folk music.

Among the honors he received were a National Medal of Arts, a Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress, and the Traditional American Music Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

An obituary by Terence McArdle for The Washington Post: