Help the Ralph Stanley Museum stay afloat

Ralph StanleyAs the bluegrass world has mourned the loss of a titan in the form of Ralph Stanley, a topic on many people’s minds has been the preservation of his music and the possible loss of his distinctive mountain sound against the backdrop of a modern popular culture.

Of course his many recordings are safely preserved for all time, as is his life story told in his own words in his autobiography, Man Of Constant Sorrow. Those feeling his loss can take refuge in these artifacts.

Ralph’s son, Ralph Stanley II will continue on as leader of The Clinch Mountain Boys, the band that Ralph and his brother, Carter, started in 1946. They had been strongly influenced by the music of Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, who had only recently added Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to his band. The young Stanleys had been impressed by a live show from Monroe near their home in western Virginia, and they formed a group in that same style but dependent on their plaintive singing in the Appalachian mountain style.

The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music CenterWith II at the helm of the Clinch Mountain Boys, Dr. Ralph’s grandson Nathan, also charged with carrying on the Stanley musical tradition, has accepted the challenge of maintaining The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music Center, located in Clintwood, VA just a few miles from the Stanley homeplace in McClure.

The Museum is situated in a stately old Victorian home on Main Street in Clintwood, and is an affiliated venue on Virginia’s Crooked Road. Stanley fans and lovers of traditional mountain music make the side trip to study more about the history of the style, and how the Appalachian way of life, now largely fading as technology and modern media connect all of us to an ever growing mainstream culture, influenced the folkways and music of the region.


The Ralph Stanley Museum is facing the same sort of financial challenges all non-profits must endure, with corporate and state funding drying up as rural regions suffer economic hardship. Nathan has launched a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise $30,000 this month to keep the museum in the Stanley family after Ralph’s passing. It has raised over $1000 in just a few days, and Nathan is counting on the people who loved his grandfather’s music to make additional donations, and to share the word of this fundraising effort among their friends and family.

Ralph and Nathan StanleyIf you feel drawn to do so, you can make tax-deductible contributions at Nathan’s GoFundMe page. Even a small, recurring donation can make a big difference if enough people join in.

Full details can be found online.

You might also consider a visit to the Museum yourself if you are traveling in southwestern Virginia, or east Tennessee, West Virginia or Kentucky. A short drive to Clintwood will reward any fan of traditional bluegrass or old time music with a visit to The Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Music Center. They are open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is only $5 to tour the exhibits on site.

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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.