CMHoF & Museum exhibit for Ralph Stanley

Starting on July 13, 2018, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville will honor Appalachian mountain musician Ralph Stanley with an exhibit titled Ralph Stanley: Voice from on High.

Ralph Stanley first found fame with older brother Carter in the bluegrass duo The Stanley Brothers. After the passing of Carter Stanley in December 1966 terminated a twenty-year career together, Ralph began a solo career in which he developed a unique style and his distinctive tenor broke new ground in bluegrass. 

In 1984 Ralph Stanley was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts while in 1992 the Stanley Brothers were inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Ralph Stanley’s recording of O Death, included in the Coen brothers’ 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, helped to inspire renewed interest in traditional folk music and boosted his career beyond all previous measure. 

This version of O Death is that included in the film soundtrack …. 

Stanley’s autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times (Gotham Books), written with the assistance of Eddie Dean, was published in October 2009. 

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement…..

“Stanley’s unique style and distinctive tenor broke new ground in bluegrass, and he became a standard-bearer for country music’s Appalachian folk roots. He has influenced iconic musicians including Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris and Class of 2018 member-elect Ricky Skaggs. His powerful music remains a touchstone for musicians and fans worldwide, and we are honored to examine the indelible impact he had on American music.”

The exhibition will include the following items …

  • Gibson RB-2 banjo with pearloid fretboard and headstock overlay purchased by Stanley from a Virginia coal miner. He used it extensively early in the Stanley Brothers’ career.
  • Modified 1957 Martin D-28 with custom pickguard and D-45 neck guitar used by Carter Stanley to write the bluegrass standard The White Dove.
  • Pagano West western-style suit and Daniali USA shirt with rounded collar and key-shaped rhinestone decorative applique worn by Ralph Stanley.
  • Hand-tooled leather guitar strap used by Larry Sparks with the Clinch Mountain Boys. He was with the group from 1966 to 1969, when he left to pursue a solo career.
  • Microphones used on the Farm and Fun Time Hour, on Bristol, Virginia, radio station WCYB in the 1940s.
  • Radio transmitter controls and reading monitor used in the mid-1950s to help WCYB broadcast its 10,000-watt signal throughout the southern Appalachians. The signal reached five states, across valleys and mountains.

Speaking to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum website Ralph Stanley II said … 

“This is a special moment for me personally and the entire family. Dad has been such an influence on me as an artist, but also on countless other country music stars today. Growing up by his side and getting to witness the impact he has had is something that I cherish more than words. It really comes to life now that he is going to be highlighted in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which he highly respected. I am beyond grateful to see this exhibit coming to life in 2018.” 

Ralph Stanley passed away a little over two years ago on June 23, 2016, aged 89. 

This exhibition, which will continue until January 6, 2019, is made possible, in part, by presenting sponsor Cook Out, the privately owned fast food restaurant chain, and supporting sponsor Carter Vintage Guitars, on Nashville’s 8th Avenue South.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.