Known for his distinct banjo picking, Ralph Stanley is a bluegrass legend.
Unlike many bluegrass players, Stanley got his start in music as a teenager. But once he picked up a banjo, he never set it down.
In an interview from 2008 with Virginia Living, he gave the backstory of how he got started.
“I got my first banjo when I was a teenager. I guess I was 15, 16 years old. My aunt had this old banjo, and mother bought it for me… paid $5 for it, which back then was probably like $5,000.
My parents had a little store, and I remember my aunt took it out in groceries. She had 11 brothers and sisters, and all of them could play the five-string banjo.
She played gatherings around the neighborhood, like bean stringin’s. She tuned it up for me and played this tune, “Shout Little Luly,” and I tried to play it like she did. But I think I developed my own style of the banjo.”
Clearly, the sound he curated was a hit, as Stanley was one a member of the first generation of bluegrass musicians inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Not to mention he is also a member of the international Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.
In 1980, he graced the stage of Austin City Limits, bringing bluegrass to Austin.
“We get requests for it just about everywhere we go…an old timer called ‘Little Maggie.'”
With that, they start picking the intro of “Little Maggie.”
This song is not a Stanley original but a classic within the bluegrass community. It was first cut in the late 1920s, and then Stanley cut a version in the late 1940s, which put Stanely and his brother, who he toured with at the time, on the map.