The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum heralded the opening of its new Ralph Stanley exhibit with a reception Thursday evening (July 12) that drew family, friends and former members of Stanley’s fabled Clinch Mountain Boys band.
Officially titled “Ralph Stanley: Voice from on High,” the exhibit opens to the public Friday (July 13) and will remain in place through Jan. 6, 2019. Greeting the guests, Brenda Colladay, vice president of museum services, observed that “Voice From on High” is a fitting title for the display “because Ralph Stanley’s divine gift, his voice — the reedy, resonant tenor that became burnished and richer with age — is one that will endure.”
Apart from Stanley’s direct artistic contributions to folk and bluegrass music, Colladay noted that he had also mentored via his band such future bluegrass and country stars as Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley and Larry Sparks.
Furthermore, Colladay said, Stanley counted among his many admirers and collaborators George Jones, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss.
Stanley’s son and musical heir — Ralph Stanley II (familiarly known as “Two”) — told the crowd that the elder Stanley originally wanted him to learn to play banjo but that he finally chose the guitar.
He toured and recorded as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the Clinch Mountain Boys for several years preceding his father’s death in 2016 and continues to perform with the latest edition of the band.
He said he was reminded of his father’s stature as an artist following a show in Santa Monica, Cal., when rock legend Tom Petty came by and asked if someone would introduce him to Stanley. Told that he could just “go over” and talk to him, Petty confessed he was too awed by Stanley to make such a direct approach.
The younger Stanley pointed out that Stanley was the first member inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in the “new millennium,” having joined the cast in January 2000.
Among the guests at the reception were Stanley’s widow, Jimmi, and daughter, Lisa, former Clinch Mountain Boys Steve Sparkman, John Rigsby and Dewey Brown, Sirius XM disc jockey Kyle Cantrell, Stanley’s frequent producer and engineer Bil VornDick, songwriter Jerry Salley and Stanley’s longtime bus driver Leonard Stacy.
Enjoy scenes from Thursday’s preview: