What a life! What a man!
He defined the term "living legend".
Ralph Edmund Stanley (February 25, 1927 – June 23, 2016)
Ralph Stanley, a 1st generation bluegrass pioneer has died at age 89 according to reports in the Tennessean newspaper.
Stanley died at his home in Sandy Ridge, Virginia, because of difficulties from skin cancer, publicist Kirt Webster said.
Stanley was given an honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1976, and he was often referred to as "Dr. Ralph Stanley."
Stanley began playing music in 1946, originally with his brother Carter as part of The Stanley Brothers, and most often as the leader of his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys.
He was part of the first generation of bluegrass musicians and was inducted into both the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Grand Ole Opry.
Ralph Edmond Stanley was born, grew up, and lived in rural Southwest Virginia—"in a little town called McClure at a place called Big Spraddle, just up the holler" from where he moved in 1936 and lived ever since in Dickenson County.
The son of Lee and Lucy Stanley, Ralph did not grow up around a lot of music in his home. As he says, his "daddy didn't play an instrument, but sometimes he would sing church music. And I'd hear him sing songs like 'Man of Constant Sorrow,' 'Pretty Polly' and 'Omie Wise.'"
"I got my first banjo when I was a teenager. I guess I was 15, 16 years old. My aunt had this old banjo, and Mother bought it for me ... paid $5 for it, which back then was probably like $5,000. [My parents] had a little store, and I remember my aunt took it out in groceries" Stanley reported in an interview.
He learned to play the clawhammer style banjo from his mother: