Gary Reid and The Stanley Brothers

I had a chance yesterday to catch up with Gary Reid, known to bluegrass lovers as an award-winning writer and owner/operator of Copper Creek Records. With the marked decrease in sales of recorded music this past few years, Gary tells us that most of his time has been taken up with writing, and that he has three projects in various stages of completion that will be of great interest to the bluegrass community.

Reid has long been a chronicler of The Stanley Brothers, their lives, their music and their professional careers. His liner notes for The Stanley Brothers: The Definitive Collection (1947-1966) on Time/Life Records earned him an IBMA award in 2008, and he is the go-to guy for arcane Stanley data among bluegrass historians and researchers.

The first of his three projects is nearly completed – a definitive Stanley Brothers discography.

The Stanley Brothers during their King Records days“It’s similar in scope to the book that Neil Rosenberg and Charles Wolfe did on Monroe (The Music of Bill Monroe). It covers all of the nearly 500 studio recordings that the duo made, as well as a multitude of live recordings that have been released over the last 45 years. The material is arranged in chronological order, session by session, and contains points of interest about each one… how certain songs came to be written or how they came to the attention of the band, observations about points of interest in particular songs, commentary from Carter, Ralph, various band members, and producers, etc.”

Gary has spoken to at least one publisher who is considering his book, but there are no firm commitments at this point.

Another project Gary has in the “almost finished” stage is a one-man play about Carter Stanley. It features a single actor portraying Carter, set on the night before he died, on the front porch of he and Ralph’s mother’s home on the mountain. Both full songs and parts of his many compositions will be included as well.

“It’s a collection of things that Carter Stanley might say about his life and career, were he here to tell it. There are eight separate segments, including childhood days, early professional days, Bill Monroe, old-timers who influenced him, traveling and road stories, Flatt & Scruggs, and insights into his songwriting and where the sad songs came from.

The play is tentatively titled Clinch Mountain Odyssey, and I recently submitted the most recent version of the script to the Barter Theatre in Abingdon for consideration in their upcoming Appalachian Playwrights Festival.

I’ve shown the script to Ralph, and he has given his blessing.”

Barter has previously produced shows on the life of The Stanley Brothers and The Carter Family, so we hope they tackle this one as well.

Lastly, Gary has begun the research for a career retrospective for the Stanley’s, in the form of a day-to-day history.

“To date, I have about 2,500 separate entries that includes dates of radio and television show broadcasts, concert and festival appearances, recording sessions, and even dates of trips to visit their mother at the family homestead.”

Worthy projects all. Let’s hope we see them soon.

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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.