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Saturday, January 23, 2010


the stanley brothers

Up this morning with a cup of Kenyan coffee from the percolator, a nice coffee. I think of Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, where she, a Danish woman, owned a coffee plantation. She was also a writer and wrote a beautiful account of her time there. TarBaby woke me up early and wouldn't let me get back to sleep, so I got up and read some more in the Ralph Stanley memoir. There's not a weak page in it, to my way of seeing.
Approaching the end and I don't like that. Thinking about starting over on first page again.

It is looking like Ralph talked into a recording device and this writer the publisher sent to him, Eddie Dean, put Ralph's words on paper. I came across some pages where Ralph is by himself on his bus at night unable to sleep, talking about the road, buying the big bus, having his own private quarters. He's sitting beside the window black with night telling stories from the past. It was during that part that I could see Ralph talking about his life to tell us, his fans about a life worth telling.

Ralph said of Carter that he talked about what he was going to do when he was well, up to the day before the day he died. He said Carter liked his life and thought it didn't get better than life on earth in his place and time. It brought Jr to mind; he was the same way. Up to the very end he would think about and talk about what he was going to do when he was better. Jr liked his life, didn't see anything to look forward to in the hereafter when it is fine here. It doesn't get better somewhere else. Both men loved to work. Jr loved sawmilling and tractor mechanicing. Carter loved performing and writing the songs, the band, riding the roads, like that's as good as it gets.

I wanted to play some more Stanley Brothers this morning. Last week I played early Stanley Brothers when they sang in a harmonizing way like the Blue Sky Boys. Later, the Primitive Baptist within came forward and they sounded more like the old way of singing. I wanted to continue that progression, play some more from the later years and then some from when Ralph went on his own. I wanted to span the period of time when Carter & Ralph transitioned to Ralph and see what he did with it. Ralph was apprehensive about taking on the up front singing role. He felt that was Carter's and his was tenor. On his own, Ralph brought singers in to sing lead and he sang tenor to them.

Larry Sparks was the first Carter replacement. Jimmy Martin was on that first album of Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. He sang half a dozen or so songs on it. Larry Sparks sang about that many and Ralph sang lead on several. What a band they had. Curly Ray Cline played fiddle and Melvin Goins rhythm guitar, both of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Goins from Surry County. Earl Taylor played mandolin with Jim McCall playing bass, both of them SW Virginia boys. McCall is one of the great guitar pickers of the time. He and Taylor were the foundation of their band the Stoney Mountain Boys. Art Wooten made music with them in and around 1953. They were a high-powered bluegrass band. This was 1967.

Played 11 songs by Stanley Brothers from the album, An Evening Long Ago, and from their later King recordings. Then 6 by Ralph Stanley in his first time out on his own. Ralph and Carter Stanley are the most beloved artists I play on the radio show. I believe I could play nothing but Stanley Brothers and Ralph Stanley and everyone would love it. Since I believe everyone listening is a Ralph Stanley fan, I wanted to get a feel for what he was doing musically in the time of Carter's passing when Ralph had to make perhaps the most difficult decision of his life.
I wanted to end the show today with a 5 minute singing of Amazing Grace by the Primitive Baptists at the Woodruff church house in Cherry Lane. Somebody recorded them and it's on a cd. I don't know how to tell you to get one. Maybe you can ask someone you know who is a Primitive Baptist. Well, it's beautiful. I took up the whole time of the show with the Stanley Brothers. But, Sue let me play it first song of the next hour, gospel hour. Oh, it was beautiful. They sang it so well.

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