From Ricky Skaggs I've been a fan of the Stanley Brothers since I heard them the first
time, probably around 1958, I was four years old. I got to do some with
shows them in the early 60's and went on to join Ralph's band in 1970.
In all the time traveling and talking about the old days of the Stanley
Brothers, I never knew the struggles and hardships the brothers had.
David Johnson has written the BEST history book of this incredibly
important band that I've ever read. Great stories, tearful truths, and
many laughs from my favorite mountain Country group. It's a must read
not only for Stanley Brothers fans, but also for the history of
Bluegrass music in its infancy!! Thank you, Ricky! Welcome to the Web site for Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers -- the first full-length biography of Carter and Ralph Stanley, the most enduring duet in the history of old-time country music and bluegrass.
If you would like to contact the author, please e-mail folkguy at hotmail dot com. You can follow me for updates about the book on Twitter @DavidWJohnson7. If you would like to buy a copy of Lonesome Melodies (recommended . . . see the Reviews page), today is a good time to do that.
You can order both paperback and hardcover from your favorite bookstore. On line, Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell paperbacks for about $22. Our good friends at County Sales at www.countysales.com sell the hardcover for $39.00 -- a low price for the archival edition.
Now I would like to tell you how the book came to be.
Lonesome Melodies is the result of a musical journey that began in Nashville in May 2000 when I first heard Ralph Stanley at the Ryman Auditorium -- a former church that for many years housed the Grand Ole Opry.
Alone under a white spotlight, Ralph sang "O Death" at a concert that would become the documentary film Down from the Mountain. His solo version of this ancient ballad gave me a chill.
When I moved to Virginia in 2001 to teach at Emory and Henry College, I discovered that I was living about an hour away from Dr. Ralph, as he likes to be called. For the first time, I heard about his years touring with his older brother Carter.
Before leaving Virginia in 2003, I was able to interview Ralph twice for an article, "Lonesome Melodies: Conversations with Ralph Stanley," that appeared in a magazine. The title comes from something Ralph said about the kind of melody that he liked.
In 2004-2005, I returned to teach at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. The college is located on top of Wise Mountain, near Sandy Ridge outside Coeburn, where Ralph and his family live.
Each day that I drove to work on Route 58, I could tell when Ralph was on the road because his tour bus would be missing from a parking lot along the route. The comings and goings of the bus encouraged me to work on a book.
In 2007, my article on the Stanley Brothers' earliest recordings -- adapted from a draft chapter of the book -- was published in the Journal of Country Music. That was very encouraging.
In March 2012, I was invited to speak on "real country" sources of the Stanley Brothers' music at the Appalachian Studies Conference. The print version of my talk appears in the current issue of the International Country Music Journal, which can be found on Amazon -- another encouraging development.
Lonesome Melodies is the latest in the University Press of Mississippi's American Made Music Series. Check out the excellent music titles and other fine books at http://www.upress.state.ms.us/
Thank you for your interest in the Stanley Brothers and your support of my biography. Writing the book has been an exciting and satisfying journey. I look forward to hearing from you.