Bluegrass music legend Dr. Ralph Stanley passed away Thursday night.
Stanley, along with his band The Clinch Mountain Boys, performed at Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin Parlor in West Columbia for a number of years. Willie Wells, the son of Bill Wells and owner of Bill’s, remembers that his father would get Stanley to stop by the concert hall after Stanley’s annual New Year’s Eve performance at Jekyll Island. “They’d known each other for such a long time – they grew up together in the same area of Viginia. My dad tried to make it an annual thing.”
“The shows always sold out,” says Wells. “He was such an influence and presence with his style. He’s the last of the bluegrass greats. The giants – Earl Scuggs, Lester Flatts and Bill Monroe ... and Ralph Stanley.”
“We’re dedicating Friday night to Ralph Stanley, I’m sure we’ll put a good show together.”
Just as Willie Wells took over Bill Wells’ band The Blue Ridge Mountain Grass, Willie Wells says, “I was talking to Ralph Stanley II just last week and his father had just turned the Clinch Mountain Boys to him. So now it’s Ralph II and the Clinch Mountian Boys.”
As Wells says, “(Stanley’s) ties here, in Columbia, with my dad and the guys who were honorary members of the Clinch Mountain Boys were pretty tight. He will be missed.”
Jesse Chavis is an honorary Clinch Mountain Boy. Chavis met Stanley through the cattle business when Stanley began purchasing black limousin cattle from Chavis in the 1980s. The two men formed a friendship, “he was always asking me and my wife to come and eat dinner with him,” says Chavis.
“We were best friends, even though I couldn’t carry a tune,” he said. “I’d never really listened to the music until I met Ralph, then I started going to his concerts. One of the real band members said that I was the only fella that could make Ralph laugh.”
“I always enjoyed being around him. He was my best friend, and I’m honored to have known him,” says Chavis. “Ralph treated us like family.”