Bluegrass music legend Ralph Stanley dead at 89

Tom Hinde

Ralph Stanley, the patriarch of the Appalachian music sound that became known as bluegrass, has died at his home in Sandy Ridge, Virginia. According to his publicist Kirt Webster, Stanley was battling difficulties related to skin cancer. Stanley and his brother Carter helped expand and popularize Appalachian music in America and around the world.

He influenced generations of musicians and was himself influenced by Grand Ole Opry star Bill Monroe. The Stanley's created a distinctive three-part harmony and used the old-time clawhammer playing style they learned from their mother who played the banjo. Born and raised in Big Spraddle, Va., a land of coal mines and deep forests, he and his brother formed the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946. Stanley nearly stopped performing when Carter died in 1966 of liver disease.