That's Dr. Stanley, again
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That's Dr. Stanley, again

Monday, May 19, 2014 – Dr. Ralph Stanley became a doctor for the second time today as Yale University awarded him an honorary degree.

Stanley received the Doctor of Music degree at ceremonies in New Haven, Conn. that also saw honorary degrees going to World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, poet Rita Dove and actor Anna Deavere Smith.

Stanley's award was presented by Yale president Peter Salovey, a bluegrass enthusiast himself who plays bass in a band called Professors of Bluegrass.

Stanley's citation read "You are the patriarch of traditional mountain and bluegrass music. From the Clinch Mountains of southwest Virginia to the concert halls of the world, you have taken a distinct American sound and made it your own. Your music has its roots in the gospel songs of your childhood and in the banjo playing you learned from your mother. The Stanley style of picking produces a distinctive and characteristic rhythm, and generations of singers have been influenced by your signature voice with its mournful sounds and raw emotional power. You are a living legend and we sing your praises as we award you this degree."

The conferral ended with an academic-robed professor "kicking off" on the banjo a version of Stanley's famed "Man Of Constant Sorrow" as an orchestra picked up the melody, and the crowd rose to applaud.

This is Stanley's second honorary doctorate, the first having been awarded him in 1976 from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.

Stanley began his career in 1946 as the younger half of the Stanley Brothers, a group then headed by singer-songwriter Carter Stanley. The Stanley Brothers performed, recorded and appeared on television together until Carter's death in 1966.

Stanley later built and led a band that at various times featured such rising talents as Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks and Charlie Sizemore. Stanley's prominence arose thanks to being on the soundtrack of the 2000 movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" He went on to earn a Grammy as top male country music vocalist, edging out Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw and Lyle Lovett. He has won three Grammys.

Stanley's latest album, "Side By Side," pairs him with his son and musical heir, Ralph Stanley II, an acclaimed singer in the Keith Whitley vein.


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CD reviews for Ralph Stanley

CD review - Man of Constant Sorrow (2015) Dr. Ralph Stanley can't sit still; he tried to retire in 2013 and even went out on a farewell tour, but the three-time Grammy winner just wasn't ready to say farewell, yet. Making music for well over half a century, Stanley has been re-shaping music his entire career, riding firmly in the path of bluegrass tradition while helping shape that tradition with his iconic high lonesome sound. After his brother Carter's death in 1964, he refashioned the Clinch Mountain Boys, focusing on ...
CD review - A Mother's Prayer On encountering a new album from an artist whose catalog already runs into triple digits over a career now in its seventh decade, it's easy to wonder how much more he's really got to say. But for Ralph Stanley, now 84 and more than 10 years removed from the renown he gained in the course of the O Brother phenomenon, there's still a deep well of music to be drawn from the lives and faith of his Appalachian forebears. "A Mother's Prayer" is far from his first ...
CD review - Old-Time Pickin' A Clawhammer Banjo Collection After more than 50 years of pickin' and singing, Dr. Ralph Stanley's legend continues to grow. Stanley is widely renowned for his clawhammer banjo picking, which he picked up as a child in the hills of Virginia. With brother Carter doing most of the singing, they formed a powerful presence in traditional music. It was not until the death of Carter, that Ralph's own vocal prowess began to emerge. Stanley's tenor vocals truly shine in harmony here with Charlie Sizemore in ...


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