Ralph and Carter Stanley were two mountain boys who took those mountains – along with their beliefs, customs, and folk songs – and wove them into a traditional bluegrass sound of absolute purity, modesty, and bewildering magnificence. The incomparable sound of the duo’s gritty tenor vocals, the driving banjo, and the soaring duets in The Stanley Brothers songs become a favorite of many.
Let’s check out some of their greatest hits throughout the years.
1. I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow
The song was originally first published by Dick Burnett in around 1913. However, it was only popularized by The Stanley Brothers, who recorded “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” in 1950. The duo learned the song from their father, Lee Stanley, who turned the tune into a hymn sung a capella in the Primitive Baptist tradition.
The Stanley Brothers arranged the song into their own and performed it at a faster tempo. Nearly a decade later, the duo re-recorded the song wherein he was joined by other members of the band in added refrains.
2. Little Maggie
“Little Maggie” tells the story of a man who fell in love with a woman who drank and moved from one suitor to another. The first recording was around 1928 by the duo G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier, who were considered two of the most influential recording artists in the genre’s early days.
Two decades later, The Stanley Brothers cut the song, and it became such a hit – helping put the duo on the map. “Little Maggie” continues to be a standard for bluegrass pickers worldwide.
3. Rank Strangers to Me
The Stanley Brothers’ cover version of “Rank Strangers to Me” – originally released by Albert E. Brumley – was a memorable one, keeping the song alive in our musical consciousness for decades. The duo gave this special effect on the original song and increased its cultural significance by connecting it to new audiences.
4. Angel Band
The gospel music song became widely known in the 19th century, both in folk traditions and in published form. “Angel Band” was recorded by various artists, with The Stanley Brothers’ version being one of the most popular ones.
5. The White Dove
“The White Dove” was one of the first songs Carter Stanley wrote. Carter revealed that he penned the song in the back seat of the car while traveling home from North Carolina to Tennessee.
While it was not clear what Carter had in mind in writing the gospel, white doves are often associated with love and devotion, peace and unity. After all, white doves have many connections with scripture from the Holy Bible. Ralph also said that Carter was learning more about white doves at the time.
6. Think of What You’ve Done
This bluegrass song bears a theme that’s still relatable many decades later – lost love. It tells the story of a man whose lover left him in pain and sorrow and in big disbelief that they were through. Now, he has decided to go back to the hills where he learned to love her and will stay there until his death.
7. Love Me Darling Just Tonight
The Stanley Brothers definitely know how to make our hearts melt with this song about a man asking his darling to love him just for tonight. He’s begging her to take him into his arms and hold him tight, for he knows she will be holding another the next day.
8. It’s Raining Here This Morning
If there’s one thing The Stanley Brothers has mastered, it’s absolutely how to tell a story. The song narrates about an inmate trying to survive day by day. He misses his little darling, and was hoping he could have her in his arms and tell her he loves her just as before. While she promised to wait for him, she has sadly found somewhere else to wander.
Now, he’s hoping he could follow all the raindrops – down the Mississippi River.
9. Shouting on the Hills of Glory
The Stanley Brothers give hope for a blessed reunion where everyone will gather over yonder and will be shouting on the hills of God. After all, Jesus prepared a place in heaven, and there will be no more sorrow in the city.
10. How Mountain Girls Can Love
If there’s someone who knows the mountain girls so much, it would absolutely be The Stanley Brothers. So, the duo got some advice! And that’s to “treat her right, never wrong.”
Some More of The Stanley Brothers Songs That Made A Mark Throughout The Decade
Truly, The Stanley Brothers songs are some of the most prominent tunes that will live on forever. Here are some of their best hits that you need to check out.
Truly, you’ll never definitely know bluegrass without knowing The Stanley Brothers songs.
The Stanley Brothers