I am very sorry to learn that Ralph Stanley passed away in his sleep last night. I offer a memorial recollection of this remarkable man.
Ralph Stanley is one of the most compelling musicians I have heard in a lifetime of listening to music. The sound of his voice singing “O Death” from the stage of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in June 2000 caused the hair to stand on the back of my neck. From that moment I began thinking about writing the book that became Lonesome Melodies.
During my interview with Ralph on the patio outside his house in 2003, I was very aware that I was talking to a legend. As we know, he is a man of few words, so I hung on every word he was willing to share with me. I saved one question for when the interview might be fading, which happened abruptly as I asked about Carter. I threw out a question about the importance of faith in his life.
He shed the measured words, and testified to his being born again after a dream about two ministers – one current, and the other the minister at Carter’s funeral. When Ralph woke from the dream, he called the current one and asked to be baptized in the Clinch River that very day in 1999. He firmly believed that blessings followed, such as being included in the sound track of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Looking into my eyes, he said I would know when Jesus was working on me. I would get down on my knees. I was ready to kneel right there. I felt the power of Ralph’s faith, just as I had felt the power of his unique voice at the Ryman in 2000. May he rest on a peaceful mountain. After seventy years of offering listeners the pleasure of his musical gifts, he deserves that. - David W. Johnson
Welcome to the Web site for Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers -- the first full-length biography of one of the most respected brother duets in the history of country music.
Our friend Ricky Skaggs posted this glowing review on Amazon: 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! Be sure and listen to Ricky and Sharon White's awesome CD Hearts Like Ours.
I would love to hear from you. You can e-mail me at davidwjohnson2 at gmail dot com. Or holler to me on Twitter @DavidWJohnson7. I tweet interesting articles, and musings on music and life. Thank you for your interest and support.