Ralph Stanley: Tiny Desk Concert Now 82, he sits atop a 60-year legacy of making music, both as the preeminent purveyor of clawhammer-style banjo picking and as a singer with one of the most widely imitated voices in country music.
NPR logo Ralph Stanley: Tiny Desk Concert


American bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley has devoted his life to his music, singing and playing the banjo.


He started performing with his brother Carter in 1946. One of their earliest hits was "Man of Constant Sorrow."

(Soundbite of song, "Man of Constant Sorrow")

Mr. RALPH STANLEY (Musician): (Singing) I am a man of constant sorrow. I've seen trouble all my days.

BLOCK: Carter Stanley died of cancer in 1966, but with encouragement from his fans, Ralph continued to tour and sing, and the bluegrass legend has written all about his music and career in a new memoir.

Mr. STANLEY: This book here?

BOB BOILEN: Yeah, that nice, little thing.

Mr. STANLEY: Yeah, I'm running around up here to advertise this book. I'd like to sell about 1,000 of them today here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STANLEY: If anybody wants one, "Man of Constant Sorrow."

BOILEN: Anything you left out you want to tell us about?

Mr. STANLEY: I didn't leave out a thing and may have added some stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: That's Ralph Stanley speaking with Bob Boilen of All Songs Considered. Stanley visited NPR in Washington and shared a few songs with us for our Tiny Desk Concert series.

Mr. STANLEY: (Singing) If you have.

That's a little high. Hit me a key somebody.

(Soundbite of song, "Gloryland")

Mr. STANLEY: (Singing) If you have friends in gloryland who left because of pain, thank God up there they'll die no more. They'll suffer not again. Then weep not friends, I'm going home. Up there we will die no more. No coffins will be made up there. No graves on that bright shore.

(Soundbite of applause)

BLOCK: That's 82-year-old bluegrass great, Ralph Stanley. His new memoir is called "Man of Constant Sorrow."

NORRIS: And if you want to hear and see more of Ralph Stanley's live performance, go to nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song, "Man of Constant Sorrow")

Mr. STANLEY: (Singing) Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger, a face you never will see again. But there is one promise that is given. I'll meet you on God's golden shore.

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