Without Carter Stanley, there would never have been the Stanley Brothers – one of, if not the most, well-loved brother acts in the history of country music. Carter was the founding member and the driving force of the duo, as his brother tagged along for the ride during the early years. Eventually, they became among the most respected and influential pioneering groups of a brand-new genre that will soon be known as bluegrass.
While Carter died without ever reaching superstardom or receiving a bulk of Grammys, his star has never dimmed. Let’s remember him through these facts.
1. He is a native of Dickenson County, Virginia.
Born Carter Glen Stanley on August 27, 1925, the bluegrass music lead singer grew up in the remote coal and timber fields in rural southwestern Virginia with his brother Ralph Stanley.
2. He is born into a musical family.
Carter’s father was a powerful singer in the Appalachian tradition, while his mother was an accomplished clawhammer-style banjo player. But it was his brother with whom he shared a strong interest in mountain music. They played widely at gatherings around their hometown as young teenagers.
3. He has composed over a hundred songs.
Carter’s knack for deviously simple lyrics that conveyed powerful emotion has been undeniable. Most of the songs he wrote have remained standards in the bluegrass genre – this includes “The Fields Have Turned Brown,” “Nobody’s Love Like Mine,” and “Think Of What You’ve Done.” He’s also the one responsible for the arrangement of the iconic song, “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
4. He played guitar for Bill Monroe.
In 1951, Carter joined Bill Monroe‘s Blue Grass Boys after the Stanley Brothers had temporarily disbanded. Carter made a handful of records with Monroe, including the famous “Sugar Coated Love.”
5. He was very chatty and friendly.
People are often struck by the contrast between Ralph and Carter. While Ralph is known for being reclusive, Carter could veer from being very serious and spiritual to being bawdy and telling vulgar jokes.
6. His daughter followed in his musical footsteps.
Carter’s youngest child, daughter Jeanie, was only four years old when her father died – but Jeanie’s mother told her many stories about Carter to make sure she knew who her father was. She paid tribute to him with an album called Baby Girl: A Tribute To My Father Carter Stanley – heartfelt and stirring renditions of Carter’s songs.
7. He’s a heavy drinker.
In the later years of his career, Carter’s alcoholism deepened. His health suffered that he even coughed up blood during a performance in Hazel Green, Kentucky – forcing him to leave the stage. Nearly two months later, Carter died of liver failure. He was 41.
Truly, Carter Stanley will forever be the most revered among the bluegrass circles and one of the great natural singers in country music history. He earned his recognition posthumously with his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1992.
Carter Stanley, The Stanley Brothers