A Life Of Sorrow

Some years back we told you the tragic story of Carter Stanley who, along with his brother, Ralph, formed the Stanley Brothers of early bluegrass fame.

In the early days of bluegrass music formation, Carter Stanley and his brother Ralph wrote songs and made early recordings that set standards that many others followed to their own path to fame (including his little brother Ralph’s later rise to stardom). In fact Bill Monroe once called Carter Stanley the best natural lead singer that he had ever heard sing. But that was then and this is now. Carter Stanley has been gone for 50 plus years and his legacy is largely faded from memory.

But wait; several years ago a playwright named Gary Reid of Roanoke, VA, in an attempt to revive the memory of Carter Stanley, wrote a one-act play about Carter’s life. It was a good play and well received and has revived interest in Carter Stanley. Mr. Reid tours the play all across the Appalachian region. I saw this play performed at the City of Raleigh Museum several years ago while I was in Raleigh for the IBMA conference, and can attest to how well it is done.

Reid’s play is titled, A Life of Sorrow, and it permits bluegrass music fans of today a chance to connect with one of the founding fathers of a musical genre that reaches international audiences. A Life of Sorrow is a one-man play that combines songs by Carter Stanley interspersed with word monologues told in first person and in character by the actor to detail Carter Stanley’s tragic and short life.

Mr. Reid has been a music historian and bluegrass enthusiast for over 40 years. He has been involved in bluegrass and old-time music as a fan, a picker, a recording company executive and a playwright. He is regarded as the foremost authority on Carter and Ralph Stanley, and several years ago released a deeply researched print book titled, The Music of the Stanley Brothers, which traces their 20 years recording history.

In the process of research and writing that book, Reid conceived the idea of putting together a one-man play about Carter Stanley. To that end, he took two semesters of acting at Virginia Western Community College to prepare himself. Prepare well he did as I found Reid’s A Life of Sorrow to effectively capture the sadness that was Carter Stanley. Reid does that by reciting sad and poignant anecdotes and soulfully singing songs written by Carter and other meaningful public-domain old time period songs.

In addition to his one-man show, Gary Reid has also been a part of many other productions and events at regional community theatres as an actor, producer, and stage manager and has appeared in several short films and commercials. He is a three-time recipient of the IBMA award for Best Liner Notes and is a co-author of the book titled, The Bluegrass Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies 1991-2014, as well as other well researched books and stories..

By all means if you are a fan of those old original bluegrass pioneers and the music that they produced, you will enjoy this one-man show and should not pass up a chance to see it. To find out when the next production will be held or to host a performance of A Life of Sorrow, you can contact Mr. Gary Reid at: PO Box 13413, Roanoke, VA 24033; telephone or text (540) 982-6900; or email Mr. Reid at: