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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 178 - Dr. Ralph Stanley

 Ralph Edmund Stanley
25th February 1927 - 23rd June 2016
The Founding Father of Bluegrass

I only heard the news yesterday that Dr. Ralph Stanley had passed away, aged 89 from Skin Cancer. That happened on the 23rd June and yesterday I saw a tribute written by Mark Guarino on The Guardian website that I thought was quite good.

Dr Ralph Stanley had been making music since the 1940s along with his brother Carter. They recorded many singles (on 78rpm Discs) and also albums from 1958 onwards often under the banner of The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys. In 1966 Carter passed away and Ralph took the helm.

In all the years he had been playing Bluegrass he had seen it's popularity wane many times but somehow or other it always seemed to bounce back into the public conciousness particulary when the film O Brother, Where Art Thou was released. One of the main songs on the Soundtrack was one that went right back to when Ralph was a young boy and his Daddy used to sing it - I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow. The Stanley Brothers recorded the song as a B-side to their 1951 single The Lonesome River for Columbia Records

Also on the Soundtrack was a song that Ralph had already recorded for three different projects and it's the song he ended up winning a Grammy in 2002 for The Best Country Vocal with - O Death. Just like I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow it's a song that dates back into the 1920s! It is also a song that he often finished his performances with.

The Lyrics of the song are pretty powerful and worth printing in full:

O, Death
O, Death
O, Death
Won't you spare me over another year
Well what is this that I can't see
With ice cold hands takin' hold of me
Well I am Death, none can excel
I'll open the door to Heaven or Hell
Whoa, Death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I'll fix your feet til you can't walk
I'll lock your jaw til you can't talk
I'll close your eyes so you can't see
This very hour, come and go with me
I'm Death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim

O, Death
O, Death
Won't you spare me over another
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin' upon my soul
Oh, Death how you're treatin' me
You've close my eyes so I can't see
Well you're hurtin' my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul

Oh Death please consider my age
Please don't take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
The old, the young, the rich or poor
All alike to me you know
No wealth, no land, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul

O, Death
O, Death
Won't you spare me over til another year
Won't you spare me over til another year
Won't you spare me over til another year

The Complete Mercury Recordings
Recorded between 1953 & 1958.

The Stanley Brothers: 
Carter Stanley (vocals, guitar) and Ralph Stanley (vocals, banjo).

Other Personnel: 
Bill Lowe, Curley Lambert (vocals, mandolin); 
Ralph Mayo (vocals, fiddle); John Shuffler, 
George Shuffler (vocals); 
Charlie Cline (guitar); 
Roy Wiggins (steel guitar); 
Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert, Jimmy Williams , Bill Napier (mandolin); Chubby Wise, Joe Meadows, Howard Forrester, Art Stamper, Benny Martin (fiddle). 

There is such a large amount of music that has sprung from Ralph Stanley down through the years. He rarely strayed from Bluegrass and Country and was even insturmental in the rise of Bluegrass Gospel gaining an audience.

There are loads of full albums by Ralph Stanley,  and The Stanley Brothers  on You Tube that are worth checking out. Just type in "Ralph Stanley Full Album".

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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