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Bluegrass Music Patriarch Ralph Stanley Dies At 89

Posted at 10:27 PM, Jun 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 20:02:54-04

Appalachian music patriarch Ralph Stanley, who helped expand and popularize the bluegrass sound, has died. He was 89.

His publicist, Kirt Webster, says Stanley died Thursday.

Stanley was born and raised in southwest Virginia. He and brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and their Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. The brothers fused Grand Ole Opry star Bill Monroe's rapid rhythms with the mountain folk of groups such as the Carter Family, and added a distinctive three-part harmony. Carter Stanley died of liver disease in 1966.

Ralph Stanley's a cappella dirge "O Death" from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" movie soundtrack introduced him to a new generation of fans in 2000.

He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2000 and won a Grammy for best male country vocal performance in 2002.

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, released the following statement regarding Stanley’s passing:

“Ralph Stanley was elemental. His voice was freshwater, wind, sky, and stone. He brought mountain music into the twenty-first century. Buddy Miller, who produced Dr. Ralph’s last album, said that Dr. Ralph was ‘a lightning rod of soul: One syllable held more meaning than most of us achieve in a lifetime.’ Dr. Ralph is revered by Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Ricky Skaggs, and most anyone else equipped to handle the unfiltered truth.”

Friday, musician Ricky Skaggs spoke out saying:

"The end of an era, the passing of a King, a kind and humble King from the mountains.  He carried the ancient sounds from God knows where.  Ralph found it in the music of the mountains, in the hollows, in the people and in the churches.  He was my hero and I was blessed to know him, love him and make music with him as a young teenager.  The Scriptures tell us 'God uses the simple things to confound the wise.'  He certainly used Ralph Stanley to bring the music of the mountains to the masses."