Ralph Stanley – The King of Bluegrass?

by | 3 Dec, 2008

ralphstanleyHere’s an interesting perspective from Brian Baker posted on Citybeat.com in Cincinnati.

Musical nicknames are an interesting way to rank contenders atop any hierarchy. King of Rock and Roll. King of Pop. Godfather of Soul.Bill Monroe is widely recognized as the Father of Bluegrass, and so, in that context, perhaps we can consider Ralph Stanley as the genre’s kindly Uncle the guy who teaches us about life and ourselves without inflicting the unflinching discipline and judgmental subjectivity of our old man.But there’s another line of logic to pursue. If Monroe was the King of Bluegrass, the fact remains that the king is dead and the throne can’t remain empty, the crown unworn.

Perhaps it’s time to coronate a new King of Bluegrass, and if so the only true heir is Dr. Ralph Stanley.There’s no question that Monroe altered the landscape of Bluegrass and that his influence will ripple through the genre for generations to come. When Stanley obtained his first banjo as a teenager – traded to him by an aunt in exchange for groceries from his parents’ store – and formed a band with brother Carter, the pair started out singing Bill Monroe songs.

But it’s equally true that Ralph Stanley, at age 81, has been the weathered face of Bluegrass in the new millennium. His contributions to the Coen Brothers’ triumphant O Brother, Where Art Thou? were essential to the soundtrack’s overwhelming success; its sales figures far outstripped the movie’s box office receipts. And Stanley’s rendition of O Death at 2002 Grammy Awards, where he ultimately won Best Male Country Vocal Performance was one of the most spine-tingling moments in the ceremony’s history.

Read the whole article by Brain Baker