Mountain Music Legends: The Stanley Brothers Legacy – Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys with special guests Larry Sparks and Ricky Skaggs


Moss Arts Center

190 Alumni Mall , Blacksburg VA

Crooked Road Concerts


7:30 PM

In this special Mountains of Music Homecoming concert, three leading bluegrass musicians—Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks, and Ralph Stanley II—celebrate the legacy of The Stanley Brothers (Carter and Ralph Stanley), natives of Clintwood, Virginia, and widely deemed among most important bluegrass groups since the genre's emergence in the mid-1940s. Sparks was a member of The Stanley Brothers, while Sparks, Skaggs, and Ralph II were all part of Ralph Stanley’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys. At this tribute concert the three musicians will honor the legacy of Carter Stanley (August 27, 1925--December 1, 1966) and Ralph Stanley (nicknamed "Dr. Ralph," who was born February 25, 1927 and who died in 2016 on June 23) by performing songs associated with both Stanleys.

While beginning with one or both Stanleys, each of the musicians has had a noteworthy career on his own. A child prodigy on the mandolin, Skaggs (born July 18, 1954, and reared in Cordell, Kentucky) joined the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1971 alongside his friend, the future country music star Keith Whitley. After backing up Dr. Ralph on numerous classic recordings of traditional bluegrass, Skaggs left the Clinch Mountain Boys by 1975, joining J. D. Crowe’s band The New South and beginning his foray into progressive bluegrass. Within a few years, Skaggs began recording mainstream country music, and by the early 1980s he was a major country star. By the mid-1990s he had gravitated back to his first love—bluegrass music—and thereafter he fronted his own band Kentucky Thunder and released a series of acclaimed albums. The recipient of numerous Grammy and IBMA Awards, Skaggs in recent years has dedicated himself to the repertoire and styles associated with traditional bluegrass, and on stage and in interviews he has consistently praised the founders of bluegrass, especially Bill Monroe and, of course, Dr. Ralph.

Larry Sparks, born September 25, 1947, was reared in Lebanon, Ohio, by a family with roots in eastern Kentucky. Sparks as a teenager played country and rock music as well as bluegrass. In 1964 when many of his peers were swept up in Beatlemania, Sparks joined one of the pioneering bluegrass groups, The Stanley Brothers, fronted by Ralph Stanley on banjo and vocals and Carter Stanley on guitar and vocals. When Carter died in 1966, Dr. Ralph continued fronting the band, now called Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys. As a vocalist and guitarist for the Clinch Mountain Boys, Sparks recorded several classic bluegrass songs, including “Sharecropper’s Son” and “I Only Exist.” In 1969, Sparks left Dr. Ralph’s band to form his own group, the Lonesome Ramblers. Sparks—nicknamed “the King of Country Soul”—has guided his band in the recording of a string of respected albums of traditional bluegrass for the Rebel label. Named Male Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2004 and 2005, Sparks in 2015 was inducted in the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Unlike his famous banjo-playing father, Ralph Stanley II (born August 20, 1978, and a lifelong resident of Southwest Virginia) embraced the guitar, inspired by the legacy of his guitar-playing uncle, Carter Stanley. Joining his father’s band in 1995 as lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Ralph II subsequently won many fans through his sincere commitment to traditional bluegrass. Ralph II has received several Grammy Award nominations, ultimately winning one in 2002 for a recording made with Dr. Ralph and singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale. A talented songwriter as well as a quietly charismatic performer, Ralph II has recorded six solo albums. In 2016, his father bestowed upon him the honor of continuing to use the family band-name, and now the son tours as Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Dr. Ralph’s legacy is alive and well in the care of this talented son. BACK TO ALL EVENTS