Today, 86-year-old bluegrass maestro Ralph Stanley announced that he will be embarking on an 80-show farewell tour beginning October 16th. Entitled the Man Of Constant Sorrow Tour: The Dr.’s Farewell, the legendary Grand Ole Opry member will be accompanied by his acclaimed Clinch Mountain Boys, and various country and bluegrass artists appearing as supporting acts. The start of the tour coincides with Dr. Stanley’s 67th anniversary as a professional performer. Stanley began his career in 1946 with his older brother Carter, touring and recording as the Stanley Brothers before Carter’s death in 1966.
Over those 67 years, Ralph Stanley has mentored the likes of Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, won three Grammy Awards, been inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, and been a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. And possibly his most crowning achievement was his participation in the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack in 2000 that sold over 7 million records and opened the gift of bluegrass to a whole new generation.
Stanley’s contribution to that soundtrack was the old traditional song, “O Death.” Though a simple composition, the soul with which Stanley delivered its message is one of the most haunting music experiences a human can encounter. At 86-years-old, the frail Stanley’s best performance days are probably in the past, and as each year passes, he must lean more on his Clinch Mountain Boys to carry the show.
But if you’re wondering if it is worth seeing Ralph Stanley on his last go round, I couldn’t encourage it more deeply. Beyond the chance to see one of the very last bluegrass legends from the founding generation of the discipline while he is still around, Stanley still has the ability to deliver those indelible music moments that will linger with you for the rest of your life. Last year Saving Country Music named Ralph Stanley’s live rendition of “O Death” the Top Live Performance of 2012, above amazing sets and songs from generations of talented performers. The live music experience is about memory making, and there’s still none better at making memories than Ralph Stanley.
(dates will be posted when they are made available)