Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley Dead at 89
Bluegrass music icon Ralph Stanley has died. The singer and banjo player passed away on Thursday (June 23), at the age of 89, due to difficulties from skin cancer, a press release reports.
Born on Feb. 25, 1927, and raised in a small town called McClure, in southwest Virginia, Stanley formed a group, the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys, in 1946 with his brother Carter. The two found success on local radio stations, with both brothers writing their own music. After Carter Stanley passed away in 1966, Ralph Stanley considered giving up music but ultimately continued on as a solo artist, releasing more than a dozen albums.
Stanley quickly earned notice for his unique style of banjo playing: He relied on his index finger to lead instead of his thumb, now known as the "Stanley Style." His skills on the instrument, combined with his distinct voice and introduction of old mountain hymns, ushered in a new era of bluegrass music, inspiring artists for decades.
In 1976, Stanley was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University, earning him the moniker "Dr. Ralph Stanley," and in 1992, he was inducted into the International Music Bluegrass Hall of Honor. In 2000, Stanley's music appeared in the blockbuster film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and he subsequently earned a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, for his Appalachian dirge "O Death." Also in 2000, Stanley became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and in 2006, he was named a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.
Stanley's last album, Ralph Stanley & Friends: Man of Constant Sorrow, was released in 2015 through Cracker Barrel. The project became his final No. 1 record.
Stanley is survived by his wife Jimmie, with whom he would have celebrated his 48th wedding anniversary on July 2, as well as children Lisa Stanley Marshall, Tonya Armes Stanley and Ralph Stanley II; grandchildren Nathan Stanley, Amber Meade Stanley, Evan Stout, Ashley Marshall, Alexis Marshall, Taylor Stanley and Ralph Stanley III; and a great-grandchild, Mckenzie Stanley.
Memorial service details for Stanley pending and will be announced in the coming days.
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