Dr. Ralph Stanley

Dr. Ralph Stanley

When legends come to mind there is one star that shines above them all that is none other than the legendary icon Dr. Ralph Stanley.

For over 6 decades he has become one of the most influential artists of all time. Born in 1927 in Big Spraddle VA, Ralph Stanley was the second child of Lucy Jane and Lee Stanley. In 1946 along with his older brother Carter Stanley they formed the legendary Stanley Brothers duo. The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys became one of the most popular brother acts in Country Music history. The Stanley Brothers traveled together for 20 years recording some of the most mournful mountain songs to date.

Their catalog of songs includes “Angel Band”, "Rank Strangers”, “Little Maggie” and the famed “Man of Constant Sorrow”. Tragedy struck the Stanley Brothers on December 1st 1966 with the untimely passing of 41 year old Carter Stanley. Ralph was disheartened and discouraged with his brother's death but by faith in God and support of his family, friends and fans Ralph Stanley pressed on.

Some of Country and Bluegrass music’s biggest stars came from Ralph Stanley’s band, including Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks and the late Keith Whitley. In 1976 Ralph received an honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. In 1984 Dr. Ralph Stanley was the Recipient of the “National Heritage Award” given by President Ronald Reagan. In 1992 Ralph was inducted into the” International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor”. In 2000 he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

In 2002 Ralph Stanley received his first ever Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance of the haunting rendition of “Oh Death” that was featured in the movie and soundtrack of “O Brother Where Art Thou”. In 2006 He received the Living Legend award from the Library of Congress and National medal of arts given by President George W. Bush.

Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys are still touring a 100 plus dates per year, and enjoying his time at home with his lovely wife “Jimmi” of nearly 50 years. Dr. Ralph Stanley is not only an American treasure but and international Icon.


Born February 25, 1927 in Dickenson County, Virginia; lives in Coeburn, Virginia


2009 - Autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow: The Life and Times of a Music Legend went on sale October, 2009. Written by Dr. Ralph Stanley with Eddie Dean.

2008 - Chosen by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia as the 2008 Outstanding Virginian in honor of his distinctive contributions, outstanding achievements, inspiring leadership and civic service.

2006 - National Medal of Arts presented by National Endowment for the Arts and President George W. Bush.

2005 - Proclamation from Virginia Governor Mark Warner presented to Dr. Ralph Stanley, a native Virginian, in honor of his life and work as a pioneering traditional country music artist.

2004 - Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music Center opened in Clintwood, VA

2004 - Designated as Virginian of the Year (2004) by Virginia Press Association

2003 - Lifetime Achievement Award, North American Folk Alliance

2002 - Grammy - 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards: Best Bluegrass Album, Lost In The Lonesome Pines (Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys)

2002 - IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Assoc.) Recorded Event of the Year – Clinch Mountain Sweethearts

2001 - Grammys (2) - 44th Annual GRAMMY Awards: Best Male Country Vocal Performance – “Oh Death”, Album of the Year – for his contributions to the album O Brother, Where Art Thou? Received his first Grammy at age 75; numerous nominations through the years

2001 - CMA Award, Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001 - ACM Award, Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001 - Ralph J. Gleason Award from the Rex Foundation – “outstanding contributions to culture” 2001 - Multi-Platinum Album – Mercury Records O Brother, Where Art Thou?. He is featured in two performances on the soundtrack album for the Coen Brothers’ film – “Oh, Death” (Stanley’s classic a cappella solo) and “Angel Band” (The Stanley Brothers).

2001 - Ralph Stanley Day in San Francisco – February 6, 2001, declared by Mayor Willie Brown

2001 - IBMA Album of the Year – for his contributions to O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2000 - Library of Congress – “Living Legend” Medal

2000 - Grand Ole Opry Induction – first of the new century

1999 - IBMA Album of the Year – Clinch Mountain Country, Ralph Stanley & Friends

1999 - IBMA Recorded Event of the Year – Clinch Mountain Country, Ralph Stanley &. Friends

1993 - IBMA Recorded Event of the Year – Saturday Night/Sunday Morning

1992- IBMA Hall of Honor Induction - Stanley Brothers, 1992

1984 - National Endowment for the Arts “National Heritage Fellowship” – presented by President Ronald Reagan

1976 - Honorary Doctorate of Music – Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN

1960 - Billboard Charts Top 20 Single – “How Far to Little Rock” Stanley Brothers


  • CBS Grammy Awards Show performance
  • CBS “Late Night w/David Letterman”
  • CBS “The Early Show”
  • ABC “Good Morning America”
  • NBC “The Tonight Show”
  • CMT “The Life and Times of Ralph Stanley”
  • Performed at Library of Congress Bicentennial Celebration in April 2000.
  • Stanley is the centrally featured artist in D. A. Pennebaker’s Down From the Mountain, (2000) a documentary on the making the O Brother soundtrack--shown in art theaters around the country and available on video.
  • The Ralph Stanley Story, a documentary directed by Herb E. Smith for Appalshop Film and Video is available on video (2000).
  • “Salute to Ralph Stanley,” a live five-hour music and interview show, was broadcast March 21, 2001, on WSM-AM, the Grand Ole Opry station. Involving Stanley’s musical recollections of the past 55 years, it was designed and hosted by DJ, musician and music scholar Eddie Stubbs. The entire show can be heard at www.wsmonline.com.
  • Featured in the bluegrass segment of “A Century of Country,” 13-show series aired on CMT.
  • Performed for Presidents Carter and Clinton’s Inaugurations (1977 & 1993).
  • Performed for the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London; two extensive tours of Europe; three tours of Japan and the Far East.
  • Numerous appearances at the Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, PBS’s “Austin City Limits,” Hollywood Palace, Greek Theatre, Tramps (NY), among many others.


  • Has performed continually since 1946. The patriarch of traditional and bluegrass music still does over 150 dates a year.
  • Has recorded over 170 albums, more than 30 albums in over 30 years with Rebel Records.
  • Has written and recorded many songs that have become bluegrass standards.
  • He is one of the last living founders of a distinctly American art form, which blends rural-based lyrics with fluid, jazz-like instrumental improvisations.
  • Stanley’s music--particularly his high, mournful vocals--is so raw, powerful and authentic that it has moved and inspired performers from all musical genres. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dwight Yoakum, Vince Gill, Jerry Garcia, Hal Ketchum, Patty Loveless, John Anderson credit Stanley as a major inspiration.
  • Stanley’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, has been the incubator for two generations of country and bluegrass superstars, including Ricky Skaggs and the late Keith Whitley.
  • Ralph Stanley continues to live in and draw strength from the country, in his case the remote mountainous region of southwestern Virginia.


Vanity Fair
“A bluegrass deity. . . . Stanley has one of the most expressive voices in the history of American song, a craggy tenor equally adept at praising the Lord and expressing heartbreak.”

Garrison Keillor
“Ralph Stanley is like an uncle to us and now that all my uncles are gone, Ralph's singing is even more precious. This album [A Distant Land to Roam] of classic folk songs is one of his best.”

Rolling Stone
“A master performer without an expiration date. . . .”

David Gates, senior editor, Newsweek
“A Distant Land to Roam is indispensable: [Here is] the foremost interpreter of traditional country music singing some of the great canonical songs. . . . [This is] one of his most moving recordings."

Rolling Stone
“The most dangerous seventy-eight-year-old in the biz . . . Ralph Stanley continues to rule American mountain music, playing the bluest grass with the baddest ass.”

NPR’s “Fresh Air”
“. . . easily the most eminent bluegrass singer in the world.”

Los Angeles Times
“. . . a cultural treasure. . . .”

Jon Weisberger, contributing editor, No Depression"
With Distant Land to Roam, Ralph Stanley returns to the Clinch Mountains--his home, and that of the Carter Family--and to the signature sound that has served him so well for almost 60 years. Ralph's stirring, mournful voice is a perfect match for the Carter Family's songs, Mike Seeger's autoharp and James Alan Shelton's "Carter lick" guitar act as wonderful bridges between the past and present, and it is great to hear The Clinch Mountain Boys behind the master once again.

Denver Post
“Then there was Stanley, today’s Elvis of traditional music. With his hands casually clasped at his waist, he filled the theater with his plaintive plea against dying, ‘O Death,’ whose solemn lyrics he magically makes uplifting.”

Chicago Tribune
“The timeless air has always been present in the voice of Ralph Stanley. . . . There was nothing high, lonesome or mournful about his tone. Instead, he embodied the protagonist in an ancient murder ballad. His voice was sharp, scolding, vengeful, and it’s why this music cuts so deep. . . ”

Chicago Sun Times
“. . . Ralph Stanley is undeniably the most important figure in bluegrass music today.”

Philadelphia Inquirer
“And then there was Stanley, who began his set singing ‘O Death’ solo and ended it by leading the entire cast – and the enthralled crowd – in a goose bumps-raising ‘Amazing Grace.’ In a voice raspy but firm, the 74-year old pioneer did nothing fancy with ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ or the rousing ‘Angel Band.’ He just gave his plainspoken all, moving the air in the room like a man who can’t shake sorrow but still yearns for the light.”

Bio source “Dr. Ralph Stanley - Biography.” wdrralphstanleymusic.com/drralphbio.htm. Accessed June 03, 2015.

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 February 25, 1927 - June 23, 2016 • rollingstone.com