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Ralph Stanley Turns 80

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Pete Wernick was requested by a British bluegrass publication to offer some thoughts on this occasion.

Somehow Ralph Stanley makes me imagine what might result from the union of a wise mountain spirit and an mischievous elf. His voice unabashedly penetrates the centuries, hollering, grieving, crying holy, telling stories, sad and strange.

But Ralph is down to earth too quiet, humble, ready to enjoy a good laugh, someone who loves to entertain and travel with respect in the world of musicians and good bluegrass folks. And that powerful banjo sound as only he could play it!

Forty years ago, I saw him endure his brother’s death, carrying his music on when his fortunes weren’t good. It’s sweet indeed to see Ralph receive his due during his lifetime, as a powerful, heart-touching, enduring influence on this music.

Happy 80th Ralph! You inspire all of us.

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