Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

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Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Ralph Stanley - Although he needs no introduction, we'll go ahead and give him one anyway. Ralph was born in Dickenson County, Virginia, where he still resides when he's not on the road. After 55 years in the business, he's still the best banjo picker and tenor singer in bluegrass music. As a recording artist, he has performed on more than 170 albums, tapes, and CDs. He's also written many songs himself and with his brother, the late Carter Stanley. Ralph's played throughout the United States and in many foreign lands, too, including several tours of Japan. In addition to the many honors Ralph has received as a bluegrass musician, including membership on the Grand Ole Opry, he is also a Shriner, a member of the Primitive Baptist Universalist Church, and active in his local community, having served on the Dickenson County School Board. Ralph is married to Jimmi Stanley, and they have two daughters, Lisa and Tonya, and, of course, one son, Ralph II.

Jack Cooke - Jack was born on December 6, 1936. A life-long resident of Norton, Virginia, Jack has been a Clinch Mountain Boy since 1970. His 36 year tenure as bass player makes him the longest serving Clinch Mountain Boy except for Ralph Stanley. What many fans may not realize is that Jack had two stints as a Clinch Mountain Boy. In 1955 Jack joined forces with Carter and Ralph Stanley as bass player. After that, Jack served as a Bluegrass Boy and Bill Monroe's lead vocalist for four and a half years (1956-1960) Jack's also played with the Virginia Mountain Boys, Earl Taylor, and the Stoneman Family before returning to the Clinch Mountain Boys for good in 1970. As a teenager, Jack told his sister, "I'm never going to work. I'm going to let this guitar do it for me." In addition to his musical career, Jack served half of a term as mayor of Norton Virginia in 1963. He views his appearances at the Grand Old Opry, Ryman Auditorium and his three trips to Japan to be the most interesting places he's performed during his long and distinguished musical career. Jack recently released his first solo album “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” which was produced by Jim Lauderdale.

James A. Shelton - James was born on November 3, 1960 and joined the Clinch Mountain Boys in March 1994 as Lead Guitarist. James grew up in Scott County, Virginia ( near the town of Gate City, Virginia). Since joining the Clinch Mountain Boys, he's taken on additional duties as Road Manager and for a time was the band’s booking agent. Before these duties, James was well-known for his trademark "Shelton Straps" and continues to make straps occasionally. James has seven solo projects out as well as a collaboration with veteran guitarist George Shuffler. James also has a book of Guitar Tablature through Mel Bay publications plus a guitar instructional video, "Clinch Mountain Guitar". He also has done three volumes of Ralph's Song and Memory Book which is currently out of print. He lives in Church Hill, Tennessee with his wife of 18 years, Greta. James owns several vintage guitars including a 1946 Martin D-28 herringbone. The Huss & Dalton Guitar Company in Staunton, Virginia now builds a “James A. Shelton Signature TDR- Model” guitar and James owns number 1 of 25 that are going to be built. James was recently nominated for “Bluegrass Instrumental Album Of The Year” for his “Half Moon Bay” CD.

Steve Sparkman - Steve was born Feb. 4, 1972 in Harlan Kentucky. He has always been surrounded by the old time music. His father , Lester Sparkman loved the Stanley Brothers and played the banjo claw hammer style as well. He took Steve around to the festivals in the area for years. Around age eleven, Steve's dad began to show him a few things on the banjo. Then Steve began listening to the Stanley Brothers albums and taught himself to play as close to the way Ralph did as he could. Ralph had seen and heard Steve play a little around the festival grounds at the Hills of Home park, and when Ralph broke his femur he knew just who he wanted to fill in until he recovered, Steve Sparkman. But when Ralph recovered he couldn't let Steve go. Ralph has said many times that Steve is the only banjo player as good as himself, so he kept him. Steve has been a Clinch Mountain Boy for eleven years now. As part of being a Clinch Mountain Boy, Steve has received several IBMA awards, as well as a Grammy for his work on the “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” project. Steve now lives near Lexington Kentucky with his fiancé of five years, Carolyn Harris and their two dogs, Bradley and Anakin. Even now Steve still practices his banjo for about two to four hours a day. You have to, to stay on top. Steve would like to thank all of the fans, and Dr. Ralph Stanley for everything, for without each of you...and god, none of his dreams would have come true.

Ralph Stanley II - A native Virginian from Coeburn, Ralph II is the son of Ralph and Jimmi Stanley and currently the youngest member of the band, having graduated in the Class of '96 from Ervinton High School in Nora, Virginia. For the past several years, Ralph II has distinguished himself as lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the Clinch Mountain Boys. Ralph II is now signed with Rebel Records and has four solo projects out. Both of his most recent CD’s “Stanley Blues” and “Carrying On” were nominated for Grammys. Ralph II is an accomplished songwriter, having penned many of the songs that are included on his albums. In August 2000, Ralph II was married to Kristi Ison of Pikeville, Kentucky. The couple currently resides in Coeburn, Virginia with their daughter Taylor Brooke and are expecting their second child in December 2005. When not on the road as part of his Dad’s band, Ralph II is also headlining some shows on his own these days along with the Clinch Mountain Boys.

Dewey Brown - The most recent addition to the Clinch Mtn. Boys, Dewey Brown, joined the band in June of 2005. Dewey, who hails from Graham, North Carolina, is an accomplished fiddle player who, while still in high school started his career playing with the band Blue Ridge. Since high school, Dewey has played with artist such as Honi Denton, Charlie Waller & the Country Gentlemen and on occasion, IIIrd Time Out. The 24 year old Brown started playing the fiddle at age 9 while watching his father play the bass with friends. A friend named Scott Greason, showed Dewey the first basics on the fiddle and after a while of informal lessons with Scott, Dewey was introduced to well known fiddler J.B. Prince. He studied with J.B. over a span of eleven years. In 1999 at the age of 17, Dewey won first place at the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, VA. In addition to his phenomenal fiddle playing, Dewey sings harmony at various times during his performance with Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mtn. Boys. Currently, Dewey lives in North Carolina where he collects vintage violins, Martin Guitars and Gibson Banjos.

Nathan Stanley - Born August 16, 1992 Nathan Stanley is the oldest grandson of Ralph Stanley. He quickly picked up the spoons at six years old, playing on stage with the Clinch Mountain Boys. A good looking young man with lots of stage personality, Nathan was a crowd favorite during shows. He began learning banjo shortly after but his true love is the mandolin. Nathan plays a Gibson F-5 and a Stanleytone mandolin. Nathan loves to collect classic country CDs from Charley Pride to the Stanley Brothers. His big influences are Dolly Parton, Jimmy Martin and the Stanley Brothers. He is more partial to the older style of traditional country and mountain music. He tends to stray away from the more "polished" modern sound of bluegrass. Nathan recently performed "Sandy Ridge" one of his original compositions, on the Grand Ole Opry, with the Clinch Mountain Boys. The tune is an upbeat instrumental. Nathan has several more original mandolin tunes that he has written. When not on the stage playing music you can find him at the record table. Nathan sells pictures of Ralph along with assorted CDs, tapes and videos.

E.C. French - E.C. is the Clinch Mountain Boys' bus driver and marketing specialist. When he's not driving the bus, you'll usually see him at a concession table at bluegrass festivals selling T-shirts, caps, and bumper stickers. He gets the Boys to all their shows safely and on time. This is no small task, given the many dates that they perform and the many miles that they travel. E.C. tells us they've logged over 100,000 miles so far this year on the tour bus.
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