The Stanley Brothers

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Stanley_Brothers.jpg
Carter and Ralph Stanley

The Stanley Brothers (Carter Stanley, 1925-1966, and Ralph Stanley, born 1927) were American bluegrass musicians.

They formed their first band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, in 1946. They were perhaps the first band to adopt the new music style created by Bill Monroe in the mid-1940s that later became known as "bluegrass." Carter played guitar and sang lead while Ralph played banjo and sang with a strong, nasal tenor voice. Their harmonies are much admired, and many consider Carter Stanley to be one of the best singers in the history of country music. The brothers also wrote many of their own songs and Carter had a particular knack for writing deceptively simple lyrics that portrayed strong emotion. The Stanley's style can best be described as a traditional "mountain" sound that remained close to the vocal stylings they learned from their parents and others near their southwestern Virginia home.

The early Stanley Brothers recordings included PeeWee Lambert on mandolin. They later added an innovative touch to their traditional sound with the guitar solos of George Shuffler who often used a cross-picking style.

Carter performed briefly with Bill Monroe while Ralph was recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident in 1951. Otherwise the brothers performed together until 1966 (from 1961 on as a duo). After Carter's death Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and is still performing in 2005. Among the musicians who have played in the revived Clinch Mountain Boys are Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks, Curly Ray Cline, Jack Cooke, and Ralph Stanley II. Ralph's career received a big boost with his prominent role on the phenomenally successful soundtrack recording of the 2000 film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

Among the Stanley Brothers' best known recordings are "I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow," "Rank Stranger," "Angel Band," and a novelty number, "How Far to Little Rock?"

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