“Dr.” Ralph Stanley, the legendary banjo player who helped establish the bluegrass music genre died Thursday at the age of 89. He passed away in the same mountains of southwestern Virginia where he was born in February of 1927.
Stanley began playing music with his late brother Carter in 1946 as leaders of the Clinch Mountain Boys. The Stanley Brothers, along with Bill Monroe are credited with developing bluegrass music in the 1940s and 50s. He embarked on a solo career and revived the Clinch Mountain Boys in the 1960s after his brother died. After Carter’s death, Ralph drew even deeper from his Appalachian roots, adopting the a cappella singing style of the Primitive Baptist church where he was raised. More recently, Stanley helped lead a revival of roots music through the soundtrack of the 2000 film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” He was given an honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1976, and he was often introduced as “Dr. Ralph Stanley.”
He was the last surviving original pioneers of bluegrass music since the death of Earl Scruggs in the spring of 2012. Stanley was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992 and became the first person to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2000.