Tsutomu Otsuka’s photos of Ralph Stanley in Japan, 1971

Ralph Stanley, Jack Cooke, and Roy Lee Centers in Japan (1971) – photo © Tsutomu Otsuka

Fred Robbins has added another valuable collection of historic photographs to his online archive.

This latest is a series of images from the 1971 visit to Japan from Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys. This was an iconic edition of the group, featuring Roy Lee Centers on guitar, Jack Cooke on bass, and Curly Ray Cline on fiddle. Dick Freeland of Rebel Records accompanied them on the tour. It was made a short time before the group was expanded to include a pair of Kentucky teenagers, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, in Ralph’s lineup.

This selection of photos is especially important as it captures the band on stage, but also in more candid moments. Included are shots of them meeting Japanese dignitaries, interacting with fans, seeing the sights, and jamming with the Japanese grassers they met along the way. Banjophiles will notice that Ralph was playing the American Eagle banjo built by Johnnie Whisnant, much discussed in banjo lore. Several show posters are also displayed.

More than 70 photos from Stanley in 1971 are available on the vast Robbins photo archive site. Not to be missed by anyone with a passion for bluegrass history.

See a few low resolution images below. Many thanks to Akira for making these available.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.