Stanley Brothers

The Stanley Brothers, Carter and Ralph, probably made more appearances around the Dayton area than any of the other first-generation bluegrass bands. They appeared at Chautauqua Park, at Antioch College, at American Legion Halls, VFWs, Maple Gardens on West Third Street, and other small clubs. Sometimes they would appear with only lead guitar and bass player George Shuffler, and other times they would enlist local record producer and musician Jack Lynch to play bass. Arguably, the Stanley Brothers had more of an influence on the style and repertoire of local Dayton bands than the other first-generation bands. Natives of Virginia, their sound was more like the old mountain sound, modernized by Ralph’s driving five-string banjo and Carter’s songwriting ability and easy, laid-back vocal style. They recorded for Columbia, Mercury, Rimrock, Cabin Creek, Blue Ridge, Rich-R-Tone, Starday, and Wango, but the bulk of their later recordings were for King Records in Cincinnati where, in 1960, their recording of “How Far To Little Rock” – a reworking of the old “Arkansas Traveler” routine – reached Number 17 on the Billboard national country chart. Their career together was cut short when Carter passed away in 1966. They were inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall Of Fame in 1992. A play was written about their life and performed by Abingdon, Virginia’s Barter Theater in 2005 and 2006. In 2013 they were the subject of a full length biography entitled Lonesome Melodies by David W. Johnson and published by the University Press of Mississippi. The University of Illinois Press published The Music of the Stanley Brothers in 2015, a book-length discography and analysis of their recordings written by Gary B. Reid.

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