Ralph Stanley Passes. The bluegrass community has lost one of the great ones. “Dr.” Ralph Stanley passed away June 23, 2016 from complications of skin cancer. Ralph started playing bluegrass in 1946, although he called it “mountain music” to distinguish it from the “bluegrass” being played by Bill Monroe at the time. Ralph started out with his brother Carter, and the duo billed themselves as the Stanley Brothers or the Clinch Mountain Boys. After his brother Carter passed away in 1966 at the age of 41 from cirrhosis, Ralph took a year off and then resurrected the Clinch Mountain Boys and began his long solo career.
Ralph was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, and was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. When Ralph and Carter were first signed by Colombia Records in the late 1940s, Bill Monroe left that label in protest, offering insight into the early rivalry between these two pioneering standouts. Later, however, the breach was healed when Carter Stanley joined Bill Monroe’s band, with Ralph later reporting that Bill Monroe loved the Stanley Brothers music.
Ralph was the last of the living first-generation bluegrass pioneers. Over his lengthy career he played with too many people to mention and won too many awards to catalog. He rose to his highest prominence late in his career for performing “Oh Death” in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? The movie also used a song popularized by Ralph as its theme: “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Lovers of traditional and bluegrass music will long remember Ralph’s mournful songwriting and singing on such classics as “White Dove” and his driving banjo style exemplified by the classic “Clinch Mountain Back Step” that Ralph penned. Rest in peace Ralph!
Summergrass This Month! It’s finally here! The west Coast’s premier bluegrass festival, Summergrass will be held August 19-21 at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista. This year’s festival features top national acts, including the award-winning Gibson Brothers and a range of regional and local acts to fit all tastes: workshops, Kids Music Camp, Adult Boot Camp, vendors, camping, and more. See the article on page 3 for further details, or visit the website at: www.summergrass.net.
Brick 15: a New Acoustic Venue in Del Mar. A cool new venue has opened in downtown Del Mar. Brick 15 is a coffeehouse with coffees, teas, sandwiches, salads, and the like offered in the daytime, and converting to an acoustic venue in the evenings. The cozy and welcoming atmosphere seats 89 concert attendees. Owners Liam and Laura Murphy plan to bring national and local singer songwriter and other acoustic acts, including bluegrass, to their stage. And, they plan a Tuesday open mic. The Troubadour will have a more detailed article about the new venue in the September issue.
Tuesday Bluegrass in San Diego. Tuesday is bluegrass night in San Diego, featuring regular monthly events. You owe it to yourself to get out to one or more. Bring your instrument if you play, or just come to listen. You will be welcome either way.
The first Tuesday of every month is bluegrass night at the Round Table Pizza in Escondido at the corner of Ash and Washington. Open mic and pickup bands start the evening at 6:30, and from 8-9pm a featured band is presented in concert. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. The event is presented by the North County Bluegrass and Folk Club.
The second Tuesday of every month is bluegrass night at Fuddruckers Restaurant in the Grossmont Center in La Mesa. Open mic and pickup bands take the stage from 6:30-9 pm. Presented by the San Diego Bluegrass Society and hosted by SDBS’s George Noble, Jr., second Tuesdays are an awesome bluegrass experience. Stop by and see for yourself. If you are a player, be sure to bring your instrument to take part in the extensive informal jamming, which happens on the patio.
The fourth Tuesday of every month is Featured Band Night at the Boll Weevil Restaurant, located at the corner of Ruffin Road and Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in Kearny Mesa. Open mic and pickup bands take the stage from 6:30-8pm, with a featured band in concert from 8-9 pm. Admission is free and the public is welcome. The event is presented by the San Diego Bluegrass Society.
All these Tuesday events are open to the public and do not charge admission, although they do suggest and accept donations to their non-profit sponsors, SDBS and NCBFC. Come by, have some fun, meet some new people, and go home with a smile on your face. You’ll be glad you did!