This week, the world lost a “Living Legend.” Commonly referred to as a “patriarch of Appalachian music”, Ralph Stanley spent his 68 year music career developing the sound of traditional bluegrass music. It was his hand that helped bluegrass emerge from previously defined “hillbilly” or “country” genres.
Born in Virginia in 1927, Stanley formed his band The Stanley Brothers with his brother Carter Stanley just twenty years later. The band was part of the first generation of bluegrass bands, garnering most of their popularity from the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s. After his brother’s passing, Stanley began experimenting with a capella sounds within his music. Stanley went on to work on a remake of a previous album with Bob Dylan. His career also earned him a ticket into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and three Grammys.
His fame continued into the 21st century with the feature film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” where he was featured on a soundtrack which made the Billboard Top 200. Stanley continued to tour up until last year with his grandson Nathan Stanley. Ralph Stanley left us on June 23rd, 2016 after a long battle with Skin Cancer.
Longevity of his career aside, Stanley did much to change the American music industry and will remain an inspiration to many.