The Stanley Brothers 1957 vintage at Valley View Park

Until now, there has never been an album of Stanley Brothers live recordings specifically devoted to material from their 1957 shows when the Stanley Brothers were in their prime and making some great music.

Whereas collections have focused on performances that were made in 1955 and 1956 and later in 1958, the release of Stanley Brothers Valley View Park 1957 (SFR-002) on the recently-launched Stanley Family Records rectifies that.

This CD consists of 22 selections, 15 of which were recorded at Valley View Park in Hellam, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 1957, with the Carter Stanley (guitar), Ralph Stanley (banjo) Curley Lambert (mandolin), Chubby Anthony (fiddle) and Lindy Clear (bass).

This is how Gary B Reid describes this set in his authoritative liner notes …….

There’s some mighty fine duets by Carter and Ralph on You’d Better Get Right, Feast Here Tonight – a la their idols the Monroe Brothers – and Thinking of the Old Days, a song that Carter wrote but which the Brothers never recorded. There’s sprightly banjo picking by Ralph on a truncated version of his classic Hard Times as well as the old-timer Cumberland Gap. Carter solos with some rare (for him) guitar picking on Wildwood Flower while Ralph steps front and center with his perennial favorite Little Birdie.  

The boys are joined by Curley Lambert for a nice trio arrangement of a then recent country hit by The Browns called Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. The Clinch Mountain Boys get to shine as well. Chubby Anthony offers some blistering work on a trio of fiddle tunes: Carroll County Blues, Katy Hill, and Back Up and Push. Curley Lambert renders some fine solos on several country music evergreens; I Know What it Means to Be Lonesome has associations with the Carter Family and later with Clyde Moody while I’ll Be True While You’re Gone is best known as a Gene Autry favorite.

Later that summer – on July 6 – probably by arrangement of Baltimore radio personality Ray Davis, the brothers appeared at Unity Hall in Dundalk, a district south-east of Baltimore city center, Maryland.

Reid’s notes describe the five offerings from the Stanley Brothers and two songs sung by special guest Bill Clifton ……

Leading off is a peppy rendering of Carter and Ralph’s theme song, Dickenson County Breakdown. After a brief introduction by Carter, Bill Napier sings lead on a song made popular by country crooner Webb Pierce called Drink Up and Go Home; Jack Cooke supplies some tenor harmonies. Napier and Ralph then tear through a charged version of Bill Monroe’s Rawhide. Making a special guest appearance on two songs is Bill Clifton. He was living in the Baltimore area at the time and was friends with the Stanleys. The group provides musical backing as Bill sings two of his favorites: Flower Blooming in the Wildwood and Gathering Flowers From the Hillside. Two more songs complete the set. One is a duet by Carter and Ralph on a recent Monroe release called I Hope You Have Learned. Featured last is an instrumental called Wild Horse. Carter indicated that it was a relatively recent composition and that they were previewing it for the (evidently more than one) persons who were set up with their tape recorders. The Stanleys later recorded the song as Holiday Pickin’.

The personnel playing during this limited selection from that date are Carter Stanley (guitar), Ralph Stanley (banjo), Bill Napier (mandolin), and Jack Cooke (bass); with Bill Clifton (guitar and lead vocals on tracks 19 and 20); and Jimmy Grier, a Baltimore fiddler, who sometimes filled in with the Stoney Mountain Boys (track 21).

The CD is made up of recordings by the late Mike Seeger and were stored in the Southern Folklife Collection at the Louis Rounds Wilson Special Collections Library.

The full track listing is as follows ….

  • I Know What It Means to Be Lonesome
  • You’d Better Get Right
  • Carroll County Blues
  • Little Birdie
  • Wildwood Flower
  • Feast Here Tonight
  • Katy Hill
  • Back Up and Push
  • Cumberland Gap
  • A Beautiful Life
  • Hard Times
  • Here Today and Gone Tomorrow
  • Comments by Carter Stanley
  • I’ll Be True While You’re Gone
  • Thinking of the Old Days
  • Dickenson County Breakdown
  • Drink Up and Go Home
  • Rawhide
  • Flower Blooming in the Wildwood
  • Gathering Flowers from the Hillside
  • I Hope You Have Learned
  • Wild Horse

This CD was apparently first made available at the recent Hills of Home festival (McClure, Virginia) during this past Memorial Weekend.  

It seems to have limited circulation at present with it being available only from Ralph II at his personal appearances, although it seems likely that it will become available through his web site in due course. Track his show dates and monitor his website for wider availability. 

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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.