Listen to The Bill Monroe Show's Tribute to the Late Ralph Stanley
You can listen to the entire episode here.
Our Saturday morning show Bill Monroe for Breakfast recently played a two-hour-long tribute to Ralph Stanley, who died on June 23, 2016 at the age of 89. The singer, banjoist, and songwriter, who preferred the term "old-time mountain music" over "bluegrass" when describing his work, was nevertheless one of the most important figures in bluegrass music.
As a boy in rural Virginia, Stanley learned to play the banjo from his mother. He and his older brother Carter Stanley (they were known collectively as the Stanley Brothers) began making music together in the 1940s, and formed a band known as the "Clinch Mountain Boys."
Many people have been introduced to his distinctive music through the 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou. The soundtrack is largely distinguished by Appalachian-style music, including an old recording of "Angel Band" by the the Clinch Mountain Boys and the Stanley Brothers (Ralph Stanley included), as well as a gripping a cappella performance of "O Death," which Stanley recorded for the film. "Man of Constant Sorrow," while not performed by Stanley in the film, was also a signature piece of the Stanley Brothers' repertoire, and it's absolutely worth checking out their version.
But the legacy of Ralph Stanley goes much, much deeper than a few memorable songs and a period film. Here's what Tex has to say about his show on June 25:
"I was struck by how almost two hours of his music really barely scratched the surface. His musical memory reaches back into some of the deeper corners of history. I was planning to play one of the recordings on which he "lined out" a hymn, but I didn't get to it. I'm not aware of any other bluegrass musician (or any other musician in any commercial genre) who has done this."
If you'd like to listen to that, it's a chillingly beautiful a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace," and it's on Youtube.
Bill Monroe for Breakfast airs evey Saturday morning at 10 AM on 88.3 FM Ann Arbor.