25 February 2015

A gift from the birthday boy

Thanks to Bluegrass Today for a reminder that today is the 88th birthday of Dr Ralph Stanley. A good occasion, perhaps, to order a copy of Dr Ralph's own story Man of constant sorrow: my life and times, and/or Gary B. Reid's The music of the Stanley Brothers.

In the immediate aftermath of the death of his brother Carter in 1966, Ralph was initially at a loss to know how to go on. One of the rocks on which he founded his own career was a cappella harmony singing - now a staple part of bluegrass bands' repertoire, and Dr Ralph was the first to introduce it. Here's an early example: 'Bright morning stars' - still, for your editor's money, the best recording of it available (on Rebel CD REB-1499). And yes - in the picture, those are Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, still teenagers, on either end of the band.

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