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People's University: Appalachian Music & Folklore, Bluegrass

September 13, 2016
7:00pm - 7:00pm

Calendar Event Photo

Class 7, September 13: Bluegrass: The Music of the Stanley Brothers


A Life of Sorrow: The Life and Times of Carter Stanley 


Carter Stanley played the music, he wrote the songs, and… he self-destructed.  A Life of Sorrow touches on a variety of aspects from the rich and colorful life of this legendary mountain musician. With his brother, famed Appalachian performer Ralph Stanley, he fronted a bluegrass-styled band from 1946 until his untimely passing at the age of 41 in 1966. As the Stanley Brothers, they were the second professional band to perform the style of music that came to be known as bluegrass.


Carter Stanley was an expressive singer and a prolific songwriter. Bill Monroe, the acknowledged Father of Bluegrass, once called him the “best natural lead singer” he’d ever heard. The songs he wrote and the recordings he made helped form the foundation of a music that is now a world-wide phenomenon. Gone from the music scene for 50 years, his legacy is largely forgotten.   A Life of Sorrow affords today’s audiences a chance to connect with this bluegrass legend as he recounts highlights from his life and career, including childhood days on the family farm, old-time musicians who influenced him, his songwriting, struggles with alcohol, stories from life on the road, and his admiration for Bill Monroe.


Although a native of Virginia, Carter Stanley was no stranger to West Virginia audiences.  In 1950, as part of the Stanley Brothers, he headlined one of the first bluegrass styled bands to ever appear on television when the group had a regular program on WSAZ-TV in Huntington.  Two years later, they had a daily radio program on WOAY in Oak Hill.  In the waning days of his career, Carter (and Ralph) were cast members of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling.  In the intervening years, the duo played countless shows at theatres and school auditoriums throughout West Virginia.  Carter Stanley’s efforts did much to pave the way for the current popularity of bluegrass in the Mountain State.


Gary ReidInstructor Gary Reid is a veteran actor from Roanoke Virginia who created A Life of Sorrow.  A bluegrass enthusiast and historian for over 40 years, he is regarded as the foremost authority on the music of the Stanley Brothers.  After many years of research, his book, The Music of the Stanley Brothers is now available. It traces the duo’s 20-year recording history. In 2009, Reid conceived the idea of putting together a one-man show about Carter Stanley. To that end, he took two semesters of acting at Virginia Western Community College and has since appeared in more than 60 productions and events at regional community theatres as an actor, producer, and stage manager and has appeared in several short films and commercials.  Most recently, he won second place at the Sounds of the Mountains storytelling competition in Fincastle, Virginia, and is the 2015 recipient for the IBMA’s Print/Media Person of the Year award.  Reid’s work with Fred Bartenstein on The Bluegrass Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies book earned a 2015 ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.


Click here to listen to Gary Reid dicuss Carter Stanley and A Life of Sorrow.

Gary Reid


RSVP by email or call 304-232-0244.


The People’s University is a free program for adults who wish to continue their education in the liberal arts, featuring courses taught by experts in each subject that enable patrons to pursue their goal of lifelong learning in subjects such as history, philosophy, and literature. There are no grades and patrons are welcome to attend all or only some programs.

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