Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley Dies at 89

Ralph Stanley, a renowned banjo player who helped define modern bluegrass music, has died at the age of 89.

Born and raised in Southwest Virginia, Stanley learned to play the banjo at an early age. With his older brother Carter, he formed the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. Together, the Stanley brothers helped define the contours of modern bluegrass music throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s, and as a member of the Clinch Mountain Boys, Ralph Stanley introduced clawhammer banjo to a broad audience.

After his brother’s death in 1966, Ralph continued to play solo for a year before reforming the Clinch Mountain Boys, who he continued to play with in the following decades. His work advancing the genre of bluegrass received ongoing attention, and in 1976 he received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Lincoln Memorial University.

His work was highlighted by producer T-Bone Burnett in the 2000 Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou? The soundtrack for the film garnered wide acclaim, selling nearly 8 million copies since its release and exposing a new generation of music fans to bluegrass.

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