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June 23, 2016 was a sad day for everybody as the world mourned the loss of Bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley. Yes, you read it right; banjo player Ralph Stanley is dead. Also known as, Dr. Ralph Stanley, he wrote and co-wrote more that 200 songs, which include “Hard Times” and “The Darkest Hour Is Just Before The Dawn.” Ralph Stanley died at the age of 89. To remember him and his work, we have compiled a list of four facts about him.

Four Facts about Ralph Stanley


Ralph Stanley was born as Ralph Edmund Stanley on February 25, 1927, in rural Southwest Virginia, in a small town called McClure. He moved to Dickenson County in 1936. He was born to Lee Stanley and Lucy Stanley. He graduated from high school in 1945. On May 16, immediately after completing his high school graduation, he began serving in the military where he was for more than a year.


Ralph Stanley songs are famous all over the world. According to him, he received his first musical instrument when he was 15. He said, “I got my first banjo when I was a teenager. I guess I was 15, 16 years old. My aunt had this old banjo, and mother bought it for me, paid $5.00 for it, which back then was probably like $5,000. My parents had a little store, and I remember my aunt took it out in groceries.” His mother taught him how to play banjo, claw-hammer style. He was reluctant about pursuing a course in veterinary studies and instead decide to form a band with his older brother, Carter Stanley. Hence, this is how they formed The Clinched Mountain Boys in 1946. They started their career by playing on local radio stations.

They started a show called Farm and Fun Time in WCYB; however, they didn’t stay at that place continuously, they kept traveling. At first, they were associated with a company, but soon left it because of less pay hence they started writing their own songs. The Stanley brothers also collaborated with King Records, which was a highly reputed company back then. They performed as Stanley Brothers from 1946 to 1966, even after his brother’s death, Ralph Carter still continued performing solo with the same band name.

After his brother’s death in 1966, Ralph was apprehensive about performing on stage alone, but due to his fan following and requests, he finally decided to go ahead with it. Ralph Stanley songs are pretty famous because it has a distinctive tune and sound to it, no wonder he was loved by his fans and in the music industry.


Due to his impressive work, he received many awards and recognition. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and Grand Ole Opry. He also won a 2002 Grammy Award because of he sang the song “O Death” in the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Additionally, Ralph also received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University.


The Ralph Stanley dead news is heartbreaking for everybody in the world. He died of skin cancer on June 23, 2016. He had been suffering from skin cancer for a long time, and he died in his sleep. His grandson wrote a note on his Facebook page saying, “I feel so lost and so alone right now. He was my world and he was my everything.”