Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys (#108)

Ralph Stanley, the reigning grand old man of bluegrass, delivers a unique blend of ballads and instrumentals that stays true to tradition.


Immensely proud of his traditional “old-time mountain-style” bluegrass music, Grammy winner Ralph Stanley declares, “I play it the way I feel it.... I’m plain and I’m down to earth and I’m proud of it.”

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys bring their legendary bluegrass sound to the small screen on this episode of Jubilee, recorded at the 1997 Red Mule Bluegrass Festival in Berea, KY.

Stanley, whose mother gave him his first banjo and taught him to play his first tune when he was 11 years old, has been performing bluegrass music for more than half a century. While he’s lately become more of a household name following the critical and commercial success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Stanley’s work in bluegrass music has not gone unnoticed through the years. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor in 1992. A member of both the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, he was the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Traditional American Music Award in 1985. And he is the holder of an honorary doctorate in music from Lincoln Memorial University.

The Clinch Mountain Boys band was formed in 1946 with Ralph Stanley’s brother, Carter. The lineup for this performance includes lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Ralph Stanley II, mandolin player John Rigsby, lead guitarist James Shelton, banjo player Steve Sparkman, fiddler James Price, and bass player Jack Cooke.

This hour-long Jubilee episode includes a rich mix of old ballads, rousing instrumentals, and gospel tunes and introduces Ralph Stanley’s young grandson, Nathan, who sings one song with the band. Stanley closes the show with a tribute to his late brother.