Saturday, June 25, 2016

Retro Y'all (Ralph Stanley Edition)

We lost one of the of the powerhouses a few days ago.  Dr. Ralph Stanley was one of the few remaining ties to the early days of Bluegrass music.  When you remember that those early pioneers were the bridges to an even earlier era of traditional music (and even early country music), then you realize how incalculable this loss is. 

I'm talking roots here--history and culture--the stuff that matters.  The generation that was influenced by these folks has also started passing on.  None of them are getting any younger.  Even my beloved Emmylou Harris will turn seventy next year.

Thankfully, there's a generation after them still coming on strong.  And one coming up after that.  And so on.

And somewhere in one of those small rural Kentucky (and Virginia, and Tennessee, and etc.) towns, like the one I came from, there are boys and girls just starting to sit down with their instruments and learn to play the old songs.  The connections are being made and the thread will continue. 

Over a decade ago, one particular movie brought renewed attention and interest to this music and the musicians who perform it, including Dr Ralph.  That kind of interest often fades when the next fad comes down the line, but there's always more than a few new enthusiasts that hop on board for the ride. 

The next time that happens, we'll be short one amazing voice.  Rest in peace, Dr. Ralph Stanley.  You're going to be missed.

There's no way to pick just one for this post, so here's some prime Ralph Stanley.

First, with his brother Carter as the Stanley Brothers.  (In case you don't know, that's Dr. Ralph with the banjo.)

As the banjo virtuoso that he was.  (He's the one with the hat.)

With the Clinch Mountain Boys:

On a more personal note, I can't find out what kind, but several news sources are listing the cause of his death as "skin cancer."  Of all the things to have in common with one of the greatest musicians in Bluegrass history!


We are: Clamco said...

Thank you for sharing this! I don't know anything about Bluegrass music, but I find that I really like it when I hear it. That last song I especially enjoyed. Reminded me of the Soggy Bottom Boys from Brother Where Art Thou? Love that movie!

Nogrinnin said...

As a longtime casual fan of bluegrass music, it always irked me no end when mainstream media seemed to think that anything with a banjo in it was immediately cause for giggles. O Brother Where Art Thou changed all that. All of a sudden, it seemed like everybody suddenly started treating that high lonesome sound with the respect it had always deserved. Dr Ralph's hair-raising rendition of Oh Death was a huge part of that. A song, and a performance, at which no sane person would be inclined to giggle!