Ralph Stanley


Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley’s voice is not of this century.  Nor of the last one, for that matter. Its stark emotional urgency is rooted in a darker time, when pain was the common coin of life and the world offered sinful humanity no hope of refuge.  Preserved in the cultural amber of remote Appalachia, this terse, forlorn sound is the bedrock of Stanley’s inimitable style.  But don’t mistake an ancient voice for ancient ways.  Stanley tours and performs with the vigor and elan of a rock star.



Biography - Ralph Stanley

Born February 25, 1927 in Dickenson County, Virginia; lives in Coeburn, Virginia

Ralph StanleyRalph Stanley’s voice is not of this century.  Nor of the last one, for that matter. Its stark emotional urgency is rooted in a darker time, when pain was the common coin of life and the world offered sinful humanity no hope of refuge.  Preserved in the cultural amber of remote Appalachia, this terse, forlorn sound is the bedrock of Stanley’s inimitable style.  But don’t mistake an ancient voice for ancient ways.  Stanley tours and performs with the vigor and elan of a rock star.

Now 83 years old (as of  February 25, 2010), Stanley has been performing professionally since he and his older brother, Carter, formed a band in their native southwestern Virginia in 1946.  Between that date and 1966, when Carter died, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys became one of the most celebrated bluegrass groups in the world, rivaling in popularity such titans as Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs.

After Carter’s death, Stanley shifted the band’s musical emphasis from hard-driving bluegrass to an older, sadder, less adorned mountain style.  As a bandleader, he nourished such young and promising talents as Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks and Charlie Sizemore, all of whom eventually graduated to distinguished solo careers.

While he has long been revered by enthusiasts of folk, bluegrass and country music, Stanley has lately been commanding the kind of honors due a musical original.  In 2003, he shared with his friend Jim Lauderdale a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.  The year before that, he won Grammys for Best Country Male Vocalist Performance (beating out Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Lyle Lovett and Ryan Adams) and Album of the Year (for his part in the O Brother, Where Art Thou? collection).  In 2001, he was the subject of an admiring profile in the New Yorker, written by novelist David Gates, who traveled with Stanley for months gathering material.  He is the central figure in the D. A. Pennebaker/Chris Hegedus 2000 documentary, Down From The Mountain.

In January, 2000, Stanley became the first artist of the new millennium to be inducted into the historic Grand Ole Opry.  He holds the Living Legend award from the Library of Congress and was the first recipient of the Traditional American Music award from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  One of his proudest achievements is the honorary doctorate in music Lincoln Memorial University conferred on him in 1976.  In addition to all these honors, Stanley was chosen to be the closing act for the 2002 Down From The Mountain Tour, a sold-out series of concerts inspired by the success of the O Brother album.

The Virginia Press Association named Stanley “Virginian Of The Year” in March, 2004, an honor that placed him in the company of novelist William Styron, Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham and fellow musicians June Carter Cash and Bruce Hornsby.  And most recently, he was selected by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia as the 2008 Outstanding Virginian.

“Well, it’s true these awards have been coming pretty fast,” says the reticent, plainspoken Stanley, “but I enjoy every one of them.”  Of his Best Country Male Vocalist Grammy, he notes, “I was a little surprised, but that was the one I really hoped to win.  It just felt so good I can’t hardly tell you.”  He acknowledges that there are few major recognitions he still aspires to but adds, “Well, there is the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I’d like that to happen some day.”

So respected is Stanley as a musical stylist that dozens of other major artists have recorded duets with him, among them Bob Dylan, George Jones, Vince Gill, Randy Owen, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, Joan Baez, Pam Tillis and Porter Wagoner.  And requests to record keep coming in.

In working with Stanley on the soundtrack of O Brother, producer T Bone Burnett was so taken by his sound that he signed him as the flagship artist of his new label, DMZ/Columbia.  In 2002, Burnett produced the critically acclaimed album Ralph Stanley, a collection of ancient and old-time songs from England and Appalachia.  The album immediately leaped into Billboard’s bestseller list and stayed there for weeks.  And in 2006, Sony/Columbia released his album A Distant Land to Roam, a tribute to the Carter family.

In November, 2009, Gotham Books released his autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow: Life and Times of a Music Legend (written by Dr. Ralph Stanley with Eddie Dean),.

Ralph Stanley still lives near the spot where he was born in a mountainous area, tucked-away in a  corner near the rugged Virginia-Tennessee border.  It remains his cherished retreat from the rigors of the road and the 150 plus shows he continues to do each year.


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Press Releases - Ralph Stanley

March 25, 2013 - Ralph Stanley - Don Rigsby Salutes His Chief Inspiration In New Album

February 13, 2013 - Ralph Stanley Signs with Moonstruck Management

August 14, 2012 - Ralph Stanley Moves to Paradigm Agency

February 17, 2012 - Ralph Stanley, LeAnn Rimes Carry Country Music’s Banner In Multi-Genre Documentary from Five High-Profile DJs

December 1, 2011 - Dr. Ralph Stanley Nominated for Fourth Grammy

February 9, 2011 - Ralph Stanley’s New Album of Sacred Music, A Mother’s Prayer Will Be Released by Rebel Records April 19

November 22, 2010 - Inimitable Ralph Stanley Wraps Up Eventful Year And Turns to New Album of Appalachian Spirituals

August 10, 2010 - Dr. Ralph Stanley Sings “Jacob’s Vision”On Cellist Dave Eggar’s New CD, Kingston Morning

April 16, 2010 - Ralph Stanley’s “Hemlock and Primroses” Inspires Ballet

December 2, 2009 - Clinch Mountain Boy Jack Cooke Dies at age 72

October 15, 2009 - Ralph Stanley’sIntimate Memoir, Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life & Times, Arrives in Bookstores Today

September 28, 2009 - Ralph Stanley’sLife Story, Man of Constant Sorrow, Will Be Released Oct. 15 by Gotham Books

February 24, 2009 - Ralph StanleyMuseum Will Celebrate Namesake’s 82nd Birthday With Fundraising Dinner & Show, March 28, in Kingsport, TN

August 6, 2008 - Ralph Stanley - To Receive Governor’s Award for the Arts

May 3 - Ralph Stanley - To Sing For Queen of England

April 4, 2007 - Ralph Stanley - Museum To Host Dr. Ralph Stanley’s 80th Birthday Dinner & Fundraiser

December 7 - Ralph Stanley’s - Carter Family Homage Nominated for Folk Grammy

November 9, 2006 - President Bush Honors Ralph Stanley With National Medal of Arts

October 17, 2006 - Ralph Stanley - Among Top Country StarsIn Vanity Fair’s November Photo Spread

August 7, 2006 - Ralph Stanley's - Songs In Modern Dance Production

May 19, 2006 - Ralph Stanley - Catching up with Ralph Stanley

March 29, 2006 - Ralph Stanley - An Appalachian Summit: Ralph Stanley Sings The Carter Family

June 9, 2005 - Ralph Stanley - Ralph Stanley Revisits the Old Sounds with Shine On

October 19, 2004 - Ralph Stanley - Museum Opened October 16

September 7, 2004 - Ralph Stanley - Museum Honoring Music Legend Ralph Stanley Set to Open October 16

May 14, 2004 - Ralph Stanley - Bluegrass Festival Set for May 27-29 in Virginia

March 18, 2004 - Ralph Stanley - Virginia Press Assn. Names Ralph Stanley Virginian of Year in March 19 Ceremonies

January 16, 2004 - Ralph Stanley - Full House Greets Ralph Stanley at Fundraiser for His Museum

October 10, 2003 - Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys Bring It All Back Home With British Tour

May 19, 2003 - Ralph Stanley - Bluegrass Festival Set for May 22-24 in Virginia

January 7, 2003 - Ralph Stanley - Battle of the Ralphs

October 18, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - Clinch Mountain Sweethearts - BMA’s Recorded Event Of Year Award

October 16, 2002 - Ralph Stanley- Lincoln Memoral Univ. Establishes Dr. Ralph Stanley Music Scholarhip

October 14, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - CMT Releases Ralph Stanley Music Video

June 7, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - Ralph Stanley on Nationwide Blitz to Herald New Album

April 16, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - Annie Leibovitz and Ralph Stanley Work Together

February 28, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - Ralph Stanley Honored With Three Grammys

January 4, 2002 - Ralph Stanley - Ralph Stanley Wins Grammy Nod For Best Country Vocal Performance

September 18, 2001 - Ralph Stanley Has Sept. 25 Date With Clinch Mountain Sweethearts

March 11, 2001 - Ralph Stanley - Earns Ralph J. Gleason Award Outstanding Contributions To Culture

February 9, 2001 - Ralph Stanley - It Was "Ralph Stanley Day" In The City By The Bay

April 19, 2000 - Ralph Stanley - Wins Library of Congress Living Legend Award

March 14, 2000 - Ralph Stanley - It's Two For Two" As Rebel Records Rolls Out Ralph Stanley II's Pretty Girls, City Lights, April 18

January 16, 2000 - Ralph Stanley - Is The Grand Ole Opry's First New Member Of The Millennium

January 5, 2000 - Ralph Stanley - Earns Grammy Nomination For The Album I Feel Like Singing Today

Images - Ralph Stanley

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Ralph Stanley     Ralph Stanley     Ralph Stanley


                                               Dr. Ralph Stanley     Ralph Stanley


More Information - Ralph Stanley

Career Highlights

Born February 25, 1927 in Dickenson County, Virginia; lives in Coeburn, Virginia

Honors and Acknowledgements

2009 - Autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow:  The Life and Times of a Music Legend went
on sale October, 2009.  Written by Dr. Ralph Stanley with Eddie Dean.
2008 - Chosen by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia as the 2008 Outstanding Virginian in honor of his distinctive contributions, outstanding achievements, inspiring leadership and civic service.
2006 - National Medal of Arts presented by National Endowment for the Arts and President George W. Bush.
2005 - Proclamation from Virginia Governor Mark Warner presented to Dr. Ralph Stanley, a native Virginian, in honor of his life and work as a pioneering traditional country music artist.
2004 - Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music Center opened in Clintwood, VA
2004 - Designated as Virginian of the Year (2004) by Virginia Press Association
2003 - Lifetime Achievement Award, North American Folk Alliance
2002 - Grammy - 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards: Best Bluegrass Album, Lost In The Lonesome Pines (Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys)
2002 - IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Assoc.) Recorded Event of the Year – Clinch Mountain Sweethearts
2001 - Grammys (2) - 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards:
Best Male Country Vocal Performance – “Oh Death”
Album of the Year – for his contributions to the album O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Received his first Grammy at age 75; numerous nominations through the years
2001 - CMA Award, Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2001 - ACM Award, Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2001 - Ralph J. Gleason Award from the Rex Foundation – “outstanding contributions to culture”
2001 - Multi-Platinum Album – Mercury Records O Brother, Where Art Thou?. He is featured in two performances on the soundtrack album for the Coen Brothers’ film – “Oh, Death” (Stanley’s classic a cappella solo) and “Angel Band” (The Stanley Brothers).
2001 - Ralph Stanley Day in San Francisco – February 6, 2001, declared by Mayor Willie Brown
2001 - IBMA Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2000 - Library of Congress – “Living Legend” Medal
2000 - Grand Ole Opry Induction – first of the new century
1999 - IBMA Album of the Year – Clinch Mountain Country, Ralph Stanley & Friends
1999 - IBMA Recorded Event of the Year – Clinch Mountain Country, Ralph Stanley &. Friends
1993 - IBMA Recorded Event of the Year – Saturday Night/Sunday Morning
1992 - IBMA Hall of Honor Induction - Stanley Brothers, 1992
1984 - National Endowment for the Arts “National Heritage Fellowship” – presented by President Ronald Reagan
1976 - Honorary Doctorate of Music – Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN
1960 - Billboard Charts Top 20 Single – “How Far to Little Rock” Stanley Brothers

Noteworthy Appearances

~CBS Grammy Awards Show performance
~CBS “Late Night w/David Letterman”
~CBS “The Early Show”
~ABC “Good Morning America”
~NBC “The Tonight Show”
~CMT “The Life and Times of Ralph Stanley”
~Performed at Library of Congress Bicentennial Celebration in April 2000.
~Stanley is the centrally featured artist in D. A. Pennebaker’s Down From The Mountain, (2000) a documentary on the making the O Brother soundtrack--shown in art theaters around the country and available on video.
~The Ralph Stanley Story, a documentary directed by Herb E. Smith for Appalshop Film and Video is available on video (2000).
~“Salute To Ralph Stanley,” a live five-hour music and interview show, was broadcast March 21, 2001, on WSM-AM, the Grand Ole Opry station. Involving Stanley’s musical recollections of the past 55 years, it was designed and hosted by DJ, musician and music scholar Eddie Stubbs. The entire show can be heard at www.wsmonline.com.
~Featured in the bluegrass segment of “A Century of Country,” 13-show series aired on CMT.
~Performed for Presidents Carter and Clinton’s Inaugurations (1977 & 1993).
~Performed The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London; two extensive tours of Europe; three tours of Japan and the Far East.
~Numerous appearances at the Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, PBS’s “Austin City Limits,” Hollywood Palace, Greek Theatre, Tramps (NY), among many others.

Musical Accomplishments

~ Has performed continually since 1946. The patriarch of traditional and bluegrass music still does over 150 dates a year.
~Has recorded over 170 albums, more than 30 albums in over 30 years with Rebel Records.
~ Has written and recorded many songs that have become bluegrass standards.
~He is one of the last living founders of a distinctly American art form, which blends rural-based lyrics with fluid, jazz-like instrumental improvisations.
~Stanley’s music--particularly his high, mournful vocals--is so raw, powerful and authentic that it has moved and inspired performers from all musical genres. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill, Jerry Garcia, Hal Ketchum, Patty Loveless, John Anderson credit Stanley as a major inspiration.
~Stanley’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, has been the incubator for two generations of country and bluegrass superstars, including Ricky Skaggs and the late Keith Whitley.
~Ralph Stanley continues to live in and draw strength from the country, in his case the remote mountainous region of southwestern Virginia.

What They Are Saying About Ralph Stanley

Vanity Fair
“A bluegrass diety. . . . Stanley has one of the most expressive voices in the history of American song, a craggy tenor equally adept at praising the Lord and expressing heartbreak.”

Garrison Keillor
“Ralph Stanley is like an uncle to us and now that all my uncles are gone, Ralph's singing is even more precious. This album [A Distant Land To Roam] of classic folk songs is one of his best.”

Rolling Stone
“A master performer without an expiration date. . . .”

David Gates, senior editor, Newsweek
A Distant Land to Roam is indispensable: [Here is] the foremost interpreter of traditional country music singing some of the great canonical songs. . . . [This is] one of his most moving recordings."

Rolling Stone
“The most dangerous seventy-eight-year-old in the biz . . . Ralph Stanley continues to rule American mountain music, playing the bluest grass with the baddest ass.”

NPR’s “Fresh Air”
“. . . easily the most eminent bluegrass singer in the world.”

Los Angeles Times
“. . . a cultural treasure. . . .”

Jon Weisberger, contributing editor, No Depression" 
With Distant Land To Roam, Ralph Stanley returns to the Clinch Mountains--his home, and that of the Carter Family--and to the signature sound that has served him so well for almost 60 years.  Ralph's stirring, mournful voice is a perfect match for the Carter Family's songs, Mike Seeger's autoharp and James Alan Shelton's "Carter lick" guitar act as wonderful bridges between the past and present, and it is great to hear The Clinch Mountain Boys behind the master once again.

Denver Post
“Then there was Stanley, today’s Elvis of traditional music.  With his hands casually clasped at his waist, he filled the theater with his plaintive plea against dying, ‘O Death,’ whose solemn lyrics he magically makes uplifting.”

Chicago Tribune
“The timeless air has always been present in the voice of Ralph Stanley. . . . There was nothing high, lonesome or mournful about his tone.  Instead, he embodied the protagonist in an ancient murder ballad.  His voice was sharp, scolding, vengeful, and it’s why this music cuts so deep. . . ”

Chicago Sun Times
“. . . Ralph Stanley is undeniably the most important figure in bluegrass music today.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
“And then there was Stanley, who began his set singing ‘O Death’ solo and ended it by leading the entire cast – and the enthralled crowd – in a goosebumps-raising ‘Amazing Grace.’  In a voice raspy but firm, the 74-year old pioneer did nothing fancy with ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ or the rousing ‘Angel Band.’   He just gave his plainspoken all, moving the air in the room like a man who can’t shake sorrow but still yearns for the light.”

Tour Schedule - Ralph Stanley

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Management and Booking Information - Ralph Stanley

Moonstruck Management
Josh Trivett
(626) 893-5216