Sunday, March 14, 2010

Page 249 and Going Strong

I'm now on page 249 of the book "Man of Constant Sorrow."  So far, this has been a very good read, though not a fast read.  Here are some my thoughts at this point after having read this far.

I think that professional musicians of Ralph Stanley's greatness are far and few between.  Most people would not be able to live this kind of lifestyle clean.  I was surprised and impressed by Ralph's fairness to himself and others, yet I think he really did speak his mind.

Ralph's story is a good blueprint for others wanting to get into the bluegrass music field:
1.  He knew from a very early age what he wanted to do.  He pursued that and never let it go.  It was hard for him because he was so shy, but he didn't let that stop him.
2.  His choice for life was not made because he thought he could make lots of money.  He did it because he loved music and he couldn't see himself doing anything else.
3.  His longevity is due to the fact that he kept himself "clean."
4.  Ralph speaks quite often of the "Stanley sound."  Even though there were many changes of personnel in the band over the years, he was intent on keeping this aspect of the band no matter what.  This was the thing that set the Stanley Brothers apart from all of the other bands.  They knew what sound they wanted (and were good at) -- they set out to get it.
5.  Be ready for fatigue and frugality.  Ralph makes it clear how hard they worked, how long they were away from home, and how little money they actually made so much of the time.
6.  Success comes slowly and doesn't last.  Just when you think it's gone, it might come back!
7.  His family was very important to him.  They fully supported him, but they weren't the driving force behind him and his brother.  (My personal note to pushy parents: Stop!  Children are not an investment nor are they a lottery ticket.  Children have their whole lives ahead of them to become famous if that's what they want.  Even though Ralph knew he wanted to pursue music, it was Ralph himself who pursued this when he was old enough to pursue it himself.)
8.  Ralph understood that a good performance included entertaining the audience, not just playing good music.

I personally enjoyed reading about how close Ralph and his brother Carter were, and also about the special relationship they had with their mother.  They endured some incredibly bad times and events.  The music of this time reflected a lot of this as well.  (Which was actually eye-opening to me because there have been times when I have wondered why some of the old songs are so morbid.)

Wrapping this up, I'm a little more than half-way through the book so far.  It's still just as good as it was in the beginning.  Go get yourself a copy!

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