Folk Alliance to Award Ralph Stanley, Rev. Gary Davis, Sing Out!

Folk Alliance will honor Ralph Stanley , the late Rev. Gary Davis and Sing Out! magazine with Lifetime Achievement awards during the organization’s 15th annual conference in Nashville, Feb. 6-9. Comprised chiefly of meetings, workshops and showcases, the conference will be held at the Nashville Convention Center and adjacent Renaissance Hotel. This will be the ninth year the awards have been conferred.

Stanley, who will accept his award Feb. 6, is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He and his late brother and singing partner, Carter Stanley, are members of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. Last year, he won two Grammys — one for his participation in the album of the year, the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and the other for best male country music performance. Two of his albums are up for Grammys this year in the bluegrass category. The Alliance cites his efforts in preserving “pure mountain music” both as a solo artist and as a partner in the trailblazing Stanley Brothers; his mentoring of such other artists as Ricky Skaggs , Keith Whitley , Larry Sparks and Charlie Sizemore; and his more than 50 years of recording and touring.

The Alliance will honor Davis, the legendary blues guitarist and singer, on Feb. 7. Davis became blind not long after his birth in 1896. By the time he was in his teens, he was supporting himself as a street musician in the cities of North and South Carolina. He switched his musical focus to spirituals after being ordained as a minister in 1933. Around 1940, he moved to New York City and began playing and singing gospel music on the streets of Harlem. His skill with the guitar and repertoire of tunes eventually caught the attention of those involved in the city’s burgeoning folk music scene. This connection led to his appearances at major folk concerts, including some at Carnegie Hall. Several musicians who would later become prominent in their own right studied or picked up techniques from Davis, among them Dave Van Ronk, Stefan Grossman, Bob Weir and Jorma Kaukonen. From the late 1950s until his death in 1972, Davis recorded for various labels and toured throughout North America and Europe. His compositions include “Candy Man,” “Death Have No Mercy” and “Samson & Delilah.”

Sing Out!, which has been chronicling, teaching, publishing, reviewing and arguing about folk music since May 1950, will be celebrated for its achievements on Feb. 8, the final night of the conference. An outgrowth of the publication Peoples’ Songs, Sing Out! took its title from a phrase in “The Hammer Song (If I Had a Hammer).” Originally published in New York and on a more frequent basis, Sing Out! is now a quarterly based in Bethlehem, Pa. It also has a book-publishing arm, Sing Out! Publications, and a mail-order book division, Legacy Books.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to