When I’m Gone – musical play about Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, and Keith Whitley

The Jettie Baker Center in Clintwood, VA will host a three night run next month of When I’m Gone, a new musical play that centers around that fateful night in 1970 when Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley were discovered by Ralph Stanley, and quickly hired as members of the Clinch Mountain Boys.

When I’m Gone was written by Michael Ross Albert, with musical production assistance from Don Rigsby. Included are a number of classic Stanley numbers like Pray for our Boys, I Hear a Voice Calling, Lovin’ You Too Well, Shout Little Lulie, and Harbor of Love, performed live during the show.

The producers have taken a minor liberty with the story, moving it back to New Years Eve of 1969, but it otherwise remains true to the facts of the night when Stanley was running late for a show in Fort Gay, WV, and two 16 years old bluegrass musicians came to the stage to entertain the restless crowd until the Clinch Mountain Boys bus could make it to the venue.

Keith and Ricky, who had met a few months prior at a fiddlers convention in Kentucky, had made the trip to Fort Gay to see Ralph perform. When it was announced that he would be arriving late owing to a flat tire, they were urged to get up and sing, as the two had become known in the region for their eerily similar sound to the original Stanley Brothers.

When Ralph arrived, he is said to have thought that a Stanley Brothers record was playing on the jukebox, the two sounded so much like Carter and Ralph. He hired them to travel with his band, and helped them record a duet album with Rebel Records, 2nd Generation Bluegrass, a collection of Stanley songs with Dr. Ralph on banjo along with the Clinch Mountain Boys.

When I’m Gone will play in Clintwood April 14-16. It is set in the bar where these momentous events occurred, and features not only a band on stage as The Clinch Mountain Boys, but the stories and reactions of audience members who took it all in.

The $20 tickets can be purchased online.

Additional stagings are anticipated going forward.

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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.