Between the two Grammy winners announced to be in the area this week — both of whom began in famous duo acts and shelved announced retirement tour plans — Ralph Stanley, 87, has been playing by far the longest. In fact, he’s been performing as long as the other, Cher, has been alive. (She had to postpone her Verizon Center date Monday because of illness.)
Stanley’s stop at Alexandria’s Birchmere Music Hall Sunday with his Clinch Mountain Boys was once scheduled to be part of a farewell tour announced a year ago, but that distinction was dropped, according to his Web site, because “Dr. Stanley still is feeling great and going strong.”
As he put it in his own words: “God has had his hands on my career for the past 68 years. It’s up to him when I will quit. I have no plans of slowing down. I love my fans,
and I love performing.”
Here’s a bit more on Virginia’s homegrown bluegrass giant, by the numbers.
Cost, in dollars, of the first banjo Ralph Stanley’s mother bought for him in the early ’40s. Also, five is the number of strings on the instrument, which he learned on his own.
Day out of the Army in 1946 that he started singing with his brother Carter Stanley, who had been playing with Roy Sykes and the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys.
Frequency, in kilohertz, of the first station where the newly formed Clinch Mountain Boys performed on AM radio, WNVA in Norton, Va. They were later a staple on WCYB in Bristol, Va., for 12 years.
Years the Stanley Brothers performed with their band the Clinch Mountain Boys, from 1946 to 1966.
Age of Carter Stanley when he died of cirrhosis in 1966, putting an end to the brother act.
Different members of the Clinch Mountain Boys since 1967, including such famous names as Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks and Keith Whitley.
Generations of Stanleys who have been in the Clinch Mountain Boys, including Ralph’s son Ralph Stanley II and current member grandson Nathan Stanley.
Number of Stanley Brothers songs Bob Dylan has performed, recording “Rank Strangers to Me” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” and playing three live: “I’ll Not Be a Stranger,” “Stone Walls and Steel Bars” and “White Dove.”
Year of unsuccessful run for circuit court clerk of Dickenson County, Va.
Recording of “O Death” that Stanley made, an a cappella version for the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack in 2000, that earned him a 2002 Grammy for best male country performance.
Year he was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., leading to him being referred to as Dr. Ralph Stanley. He was also named Doctor of Music with an honorary degree from Yale in May.
Date in October when Stanley will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, Mass., in a class that also includes Al Pacino, John Irving and Jules Feiffer.
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys play the Birchmere Music Hall, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va., Sunday at 7:30. Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.birchmere.com.