Clinch Mountain Echo

Carter Stanley Interview - March 1966

by Mike Seeger.

Carter Stanley c.1950

Below is a transcription of part of Mike Seeger's interview with Carter Stanley in March 1966, recorded whilst they were travelling on the tour bus on the package tour of Europe.

In the interview, Carter talks about many things including his and Ralph's early years, their band history, some of his influences and song-writing etc. A number of quotes have been used in articles and books on the Stanley's, but I thought it would be nice to see a full transcription in one place.

The original recording, which has a lot of background noise from the bus is on youtube, and I've attempted to remove some of the it using band-pass filters. In order to preserve the tonal quality of Mike and Carter's voices, it's still not clear in places, but it's a compromise... In the background you can hear Ralph and Roscoe Holcomb singing Village Churchyard at one point, as well as the voices of the other bands / Clinch Mountain Boys... Plus Tracy & Eloise Schwarz's young baby.

You can download an MP3 of the 'cleaned' version here (it's a 160kbps mono file saved as a 67Mb zip file). If you're using a modern-ish browser, you should be able to listen to a 96kbps (slightly lower quality) copy of the interview by clicking on the 'play' button below.

For more info on the European tour see the entry for the Various Artists - American Folk & Country Music Festival 2xCD box set, which includes the concert from 17th March 1966 at the Glocke Concert Hall in Bremen, Germany. There is also a B&W DVD of the German TV special 'American Folk & Country Music' (Bear Family BVD-20101-AT) 2003, which is worth picking up if you can find a copy.

I suspect that the recording which has been uploaded to youtube may not be the entire interview. I think I may have seen other questions and answers quoted elsewhere, and the recording starts and ends mid-sentance. The transcription is more-or-less verbatim... but, if you spot any errors please let me know via the Contact page.

The interview begins with Mike presumably having asked Carter something about what age he and Ralph were when they started to learn their instruments...

Carter:- about fifteen I guess Mike, yeah, fifteen... fourteen something along there. I don't remember exactly.

Mike:- What kind of songs were you singing and playing?

Carter:- Just old songs mostly.

Mike:- Can you remember any of them?

Carter:- Branded Wherever I Go, let's see... that's definitely one of the numbers. We'd sing some hymns like If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again.

Mike:- When you sang those songs did you, sing kind of like the people that you heard those sing or... what were you reaching for then?

Carter:- Really we didn't know.

Mike:- Well what got you started doing it for... as a band?

Carter:- Listening to old records. People like Roy Acuff, the Carter Family, Monroe Brothers, Mainers Mountaineers. That would about cover it, that's about the only kind of music we liked, y'know, what they played. That was about the only... and what we would and still do call 'real' country music.

Mike:- Well how about the people around home, did you learn much at all from them?

Carter:- No, there weren't many people around home playing music. Ma played the banjo a little bit. All of her family played the banjo, but not enough to really learn you very much.

Mike:- I remember you talked about this old guy coming to work on the farm or something like that, he'd come to stay with you and you heard him do that How Far To Little Rock?

Carter:- That was a fella by the name of Fletcher Moss, yeah.

Mike:- That people like that they... if not too much...

Carter:- There weren't too many of 'em. There was two boys that worked at the saw mill some, for our Dad, and that was Doc and Carl of the Virginian Boys. Doc Addington is Maybelle Carter's brother and Carl McConnell is a barber in Gate City, Virgninia, and I believe Doc's in Indiana someplace. It might be Richmond, I don't know.
There weren't too many of them around. They left before too long and went to live at the radio station there where they worked for a pretty good while.

Mike:- Now I think of your section of the country as being real musically rich area yet there didn't seem to be too much... or was there much going on down there then as far as bands and people playing radio stations?

Carter:- Well there were several Mike. A lot of them I can't even remember their names, they didn't get out too much, maybe they played a little and that was about it. I guess the Carter Family, naturally would be... They was over in Scott County there. We're from Dickenson County which is an adjoining county. Them and Doc and Carl are about the only people that I know of, right around home there, that ever commercialised this music. The Mainers Moutaineers I'd say they was over in Carolina and the Monroes were from out in Kentucky, quite a ways from us. So I guess Doc & Carl and the Carter's would be about the best known close picking neighbours that we had.

Carter Stanley as a young boy

Mike:- What was the thing that actually triggered forming the group?

Carter:- I really... that's a pretty hard question to answer. We just wanted to play music always. I saw a show, hillbilly show one time, the first show we ever saw was Clayton McMichen and the Georgia Wildcats... we was small boys at that time. I don't know, there's just something about it when the curtains opened and they started playing. Why... I just said 'If possible, that's for me'.

Mike:- Who was on?

Carter:- Clayton McMichen and the Georgia Wildcats

Mike:- Uh-huh

Carter:- I believe they were working out of Ashville at that time.

Mike:- Where did you see them?

Carter:- Over in Virginia, where we was going to school there, Ervington High School.

Mike:- Is it a school house?

Carter:- Yeah. Then Bill Monroe began to... that was about 1939 and Bill began to appear around there some and we had a chance to see him once in a while. Naturally when we did see Bill we'd heard his records, but when we saw him why... in our opinion that was the way we wanted to play, or as near like it.

Mike:- Did that seem new to you then or did it seem like something you'd heard? Or the way it should be? Or? Can you remember what you're feelings were when your first heard it?

Carter:- Well that's pretty hard to explain, a thing like that for me.

Mike:- I think you're probably one of the few people who could explain it,

Carter:- [laughs] It's just a feeling that you felt like, or like I felt like I was willing to devote the rest of my life to it, to do it if I could. Or at least be told I'm trying and it was a good feeling, still is. I still enjoy trying to play, a little, but naturally as many years as you, of course you know we've been on the road 20 years now. About a week ago I was 20 years on the road and some of the new-ness has worn off. The thrill you might say, how would you say that, the first wind maybe? But as far as enjoying it I still like it as well as ever. I'm probably a little more critical of it now than I ever was myself and others too. I think sometimes you begin to look for things you know that don't sound to suit you maybe or stuff like that.

Mike:- I was speaking with Leslie Keith about six months ago. I went out visiting in his trailer home out there. He was telling me how you all used to rehearse, or he kind of just mentioned it briefly how you'd be up there singing and he'd go out there and listen and then...

Carter:- That's right.

Mike:-'d go out and listen and try to figure out what parts were...

Carter:- We used to do pretty much that.

Mike:- Kinda rehearsing, it sounds awful careful rehearsing to me...

Carter:- Well we was, I don't know... We wanted... I've always tried to be a perfectionist in anything I might do. If I'm digging a ditch I want to do it right. Naturally music would be the same way. I don't mean that we can do it the best, I'm not saying that but do it the best we can. There's so many people come along now though playing music, you never know who you're gonna hear maybe fifteen years old who can just take a banjo or a fiddle and just tear it up. Back when we started I didn't happen to know many people that way. Maybe there was some that could, but like I said a while ago, there weren't too many around our immediate home there and we didn't have much chance to get about away from home. We went to school until we both went to service, Ralph and me. We walked to school and back and on weekends once in a while they'd have a pie supper around close somewhere. They might pick a tune or two there, but that was about it. We had our work to do around home, like milking, feedin'. We always called it 'doing up the work'. So we didn't have a chance to get out much. No transportation. Young people then didn't have cars like they do now.

Mike:- You both started playing at about the same time?

Carter:- Yeah. Best I can remember it we did, Mike. I got the guitar I believe first and the mail-boy was (a) fairly good guitar player, an awful good harp player. He played awful good harp and he carried the mail on horseback, and where our home is in Virginia, it's kinda in a 'V' shape area where two roads go by, and in the morning he'd go down about 6 o'clock down one ridge and about 11 o'clock that same morning he'd come back up the other ridge, after being a the post office dropping off some mail, picking up some more. So he brought the guitar on the horse, tuned it for me. I didn't know how to tune it. They sent me a little instruction book and I never could get anything from that. I didn't try very much.

Mike:- Who was 'they'?

Carter:- Montgomery Ward.

Mike:- Oh, yeah, that's really good.

Carter:- [laughs] We couldn't have got along without Montgomery Ward, ??? ?????? for different reasons. [laughs]

Mike:- So he taught you your chords and how to kinda get started on it.

Carter:- Yeah, he helped me all he could and then after I got that I... y'know, was more interested and I think I began to listen a litle closely to the radio. Like the people that I mentioned a little while ago. Well, Cousin Emmy we used (listen) to Emmy on a morning...

Mike:- Was that when she was on Louisville?

Carter:- Uh-huh, Cousin Emmy and Her Kinfolks was the way she was billed I believe. I always thought she had a good program, good interesting program.

Mike:- Nice voice.

Carter:- Yeah, and the Mainers' were on in the morning from I guess Ashville. Well later on there was other people y'know that catch your attention, like The Blue Sky Boys, I used to enjoy them. Later on we got aquainted with 'em, we worked some with 'em in Raleigh, around Bristol, 2 or 3 years maybe. Got to know 'em and I like their music even better when we'd got acquainted with them.

Mike:- Can you remember how it was when you first started. Can you remember travelling, or how travelling was and how your... how the shows were and everything? Can you recall that?

Roy Sykes and the Blue Ridge Mountsin Boys 1946, St. Paul Va. auditorium.

Carter:- Yeah. You see in 1946 you couldn't buy a new car, the average person couldn't buy a new car, so we bought an old car from one of our brother-in-law's, borrowed the money to buy it. Bought a little P.A. system and bought a guitar. Ralph had a banjo but my guitar wasn't good enough so I bought a little Gibson and they started writing to us at the station. We worked in Norton, WNVA about two months I believe.

Mike:- That was your first radio job?

Carter:- Yeah, as the Stanley Brothers. I'd worked a little while with Roy Sykes before that at Norton, but that was our first work as the Stanley Brothers. I believe it was the 2nd day of November 1946 and we were sponsored by a company called 'Clinch Valley Insurance Company' and we had originally planned to name the group the Clinch Valley Boys and as a result of thier name why they suggested we call it Clinch Mountain Boys. We stayed about two months and then this station went up in Bristol. A new station was built WCYB, so somebody told us about it and we went up and auditioned and started to work the day after Christmas in '46. I think we went and auditioned on Christmas Day, I believe that's right.. Maybe the day before and started work the day after, and we didn't know whether we could make it or not. They said they wouldn't promise us a dose of medicine, I'll never forget that. Ray Rogers, he was the vice president, a good fella, still a good friend, he says 'Fella's I won't promise you a dose of medicine you might starve to death up here'. But we went to work there, the program was called 'Farm and Fun Time' and we stayed there off an on about ten or eleven years I guess. So at least we didn't starve to death.

Mike:- But then you... Just short after you were at Norton, didn't you get some school house dates, things like that?

Carter:- Yeah, well the show-dates, they began to write in to us, what we called 'write-ins' y'know. So and so, maybe a member of a P.T.A., or a woman's club, or V.F.W., American Legion, different organisations, they would write and tell you y'know they'd like to have you so and so date, certain place. That's the way it started and our Daddy booked quite a few shows for us. He was about a half-way in retirement saw-milling / logging businnes. He was so... I think he liked music as well as me and Ralph, or better and he'd even even go with us a lot of times at night. He was getting up in years then, but he would manage to go with us. I guess that helped some.

Mike:- Helped you some?

Carter:- Yeah, by him being so interested I think that give us a little push. But we didn't have it rough, really like some have. It seemed like everything started going pretty quick for us. Started making a little money.

Mike:- What would the schedule have been like for say a week in that early time in Norton?

Carter:- Well there wasn't much going on in Norton, Mike.

Mike:- Well say then, Bristol...

Carter:- I believe that would be better, because Norton I think we only played two shows, two dates, personal appearances out of there and like I say we only stayed there about four or five weeks, I can't remember which. And this thing in Bristol looks y'know so much better to us that we moved up there, but the schedule would have been from 12 to 1 o'clock each day, six days a week with the program 'Farm and Fun Time' and we'd always get to the station by around 10 o'clock usually and we'd rehearse 'till 12 and we'd broadcast from 12 to 1 and then depending on the distance, how far we'd have to drive, whatever time we'd leave you know. Sometimes we'd leave as soon as we got off the program, sometimes a lot of the shows were sixty miles we could leave at six o'clock you know. Start the show, depending on the time of year in the wintertime about 7:30, summertime 8 o'clock. And then as time went by all of that began to vary you know. We found ourselves having to tape, record, of course at that time they didn't have tape, we did it on a disc and each program had to be an individual program. In other words for Tuesday you had to do it on Monday for Tuesday and then it was no good any more. And later on of course, you know how tape come about, and all that, and that was about it. We'd usually get home most everyday, we'd drive in and out. We'd get home anywhere from 10 to 1, 2, 3 o'clock.

Mike:- How many nights a week would you work personals?

Carter:- Well seven for a long time.

Mike:- For about how long?

Carter:-Ninety some days, I don't remember which. Ninety some days, in fact I didn't realise that we'd worked straight that long but our Dad kept a record of it and I'll never forget that, we was really wanting a day off. Just one day off would have been fine and we finally took it.

Mike:- So you were getting a lot of requests in the early days for appearances.

Carter:- Yeah we used to get anywhere... I think 12 or 14 is about the highest we ever got in one day. We'd sell song books.

Mike:- Did you sell a lot of song books?

Carter:- Quite a few. We sold books about three or four different times there in Bristol on this 'Farm and Fun Time' program. We'd average selling about 11 or 12,000 books every six weeks. They let us sell six weeks and then knock off, I don't know why they...

Mike:- You mean of the same 'folio?

Carter:- Yeah that's right.

Mike:- But you had to change 'folios...

Early promotional shot

Carter:- Yeah, every time we sold we'd have a new item. Then other people begin to come on the program and that cut some of our time down. I think then they added another hour to the show, so instead of doing a whole hour we I think wound up doing about 30 minutes, in two different segments you know. Say 15 minutes between 12 and 1 o'clock and 15 more minutes between 1 and 2 o'clock and that was to make room for the other people, and the sponsors began to be so plentiful on there that we didn't have that much time there to take care of the business, pay the bills for the station.

Mike:- What do you figure that you all had then? I could tell you what I think, but what do you think that you all had then that brought on this?

Carter:- I think Mike that the only way I could say er... we had a sound that I don't feel that anyone would want to copy and I don't think anyone could.

Mike:- That's true.

Carter:- ...and that's about all I guess. I think anybody that hears us will know who it is right away and I feel that that is (for) good or bad an advantage...

Mike:- It sure is.

Carter:- That's about all I can say there.

Mike:- When I listen back to the Lonesome River and some of those trio's there. It was something else. There was nothing else that was going on at that at all or like that.

Carter:- That's right.

Mike:- But those were a big difference from the Rich-R-Tone records that you all did. The Rich-R-Tone records, some were raw...

Carter:- Well...

Mike:- ...and some were a little bit like a quartet, you know what I mean?

Carter:- Yeah, well we tried to do some quartet's I think one or two on Rich-R-Tone but I get what you mean. What we tried to do Mike when we was just getting started on Rich-R-Tone records, Columbia records called us and they wanted to know if they could record. They felt like that we had, got ourselves tied up in a contract to record and we hadn't signed a contract on Rich-R-Tone, it was all just gentleman's agreement... didn't turn out that way exactly but money wise anyhow. Then we did sign with Columbia. We figured that was, in otther words to us that would have been the impossible. We never expected it because they had Bill Monroe at that time and what I'm getting at is the trio sound on Lonesome River that you're speaking about, we had Pee Wee Lambert that sung this high part. Frankly to me Pee Wee never sounded too much like Bill Monroe with one exception he played the mandolin as near like it as he could and he did have a high pitched voice. So what we was trying to do was get a sound there, three parts, what we call a lead, a tenor and a high baritone, and of course now Maybelle Carter and her daughters use that arrangement and as far as I know I never heard that arrangement until we used it and of course some of the other bluegrass, so-called bluegrass groups has used that sound some since then, but to my knowledge I never heard that sound before and I don't mind to tell you who suggested (it) and helped us do it. It was a boy by the name of Art Wooten, playing the fiddle with us. He said that he felt that would be a good sound for us if we could y'know work it out and done parts the harmony. So as the records will tell, we worked some at it but we didn't perfect it of course, it's been done much better since then by others, but anyway...

Mike:- Let's not argue about that.

Carter:- ...that was the sound of The Lonesome River, Fields Have Turned Brown some of them numbers that you spoke about.

Mike:- There's a... your voices kind of they slide around there and they.. it kinda puts feeling into it, is that - that was also something new as far as the times were concerned then?

Carter:- I don't know if I understand exactly what you mean or not. Maybe I do, if I do I can answer it.

Mike:- Er, when you come into a note you kinda sound like your lifting up a little bit.

Carter:- We call it a slur, Mike.

Mike:- Slur, yes that's exactly what I would...

Carter:- Slur your voice That's what we call it, I don't know what other people call it. That's just the way we sing. There's no effort there and we do it without knowing it, I do and I'm sure Ralph does. It's just like I said, I don't think anybody would want to copy and I doubt if anyone could.

Mike:- When you were setting about to work out things then can you remember... how... sometimes things just happen, but often somebody has to try to be a director or somebody has a suggestion. Does anything stand out in your mind?

WSAZ-TV in Huntington in 1950. L-R: Pee Wee Lambert, Lester Woodie, Ralph and Carter.

Carter:- Not really, we had then pretty good help with people like Pee Wee Lambert, Leslie Keith and Art Wooten. People was pretty loyal back then and they didn't come and stay two months and have to check out someplace else you know, they would work well Pee Wee stayed around I guess six years, something like that and Lester Woody about three, Leslie Keith about two or three I can't remember, Art Wooten about the same. And you get to know people well enough in that period of time to er... they know what you're gonna do, you know what they're gonna do. I think that's an advantage in maybe getting some of the sounds that you speak about. At least that gives you all of your time to concentrate on what you're doing because you know you're not gonna have to worry about what they're doing, they know their job.

Mike:- It seemed to me there was some crossing of parts in some of those...

Carter:- Well I'm sure of that, yeah I'm sure there was Mike.

Mike:- I don't think too many people do that anymore.

Carter:- Well I guess you're talking about switching harmonies.

Mike:- Yeah... where a voice is singing below, another one y'know, say this is one voice and another and they go like this y'know.

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- So one goes up and the other goes down or something.

Carter:- Yeah. There's not too many people that do that. The Louvin Brothers I always thought was a good example of that. Both being naturally good country singers and I thought they handled that real well. They actually switched about as much as any two people I know of. I think you just have to be about brothers to do that, or stay together a lot of the time like someone say like Johnny & Jack maybe, you know they worked together for years. Are we running out of tape now?

Mike:- No we got enough...

Carter:- I think that's er, if that's what you mean then, brothers think alike they speak alike, they may not always look alike but they're natured alike and a lot of times if one burps the other'll just about do it at the same time y'know. That's kinda a low blow but anyway that's the only way I know how to put it.

Mike:- [laughs] I notice that when you and Ralph are singing at the microphone you're both looking just about straight ahead, and I don't think I've ever seen you start without him starting too y'know.

Carter:- Sometimes er... sometimes one will be maybe one beat off, something like that. Maybe have their attention distracted by something that might happen y'know but as a rule we don't need to look at one another. I can tell just about when he's ready and I guess it works both ways. There's always a beat if you want to be technical, but like I said awhile ago...

Mike:- There's always a...

Carter:- There's a rule, there's a beat if you want to go by strict rule or a certain beat, why of course we both understand that, but we've never used that, seldom ever. Maybe on record just to er get as much done as short time y'know. In the old days they played records three minutes three and a half was okay, now they want them down from anywhere from a minute forty to two-ten. Of course that's a jukebox deal that's brought that around. The nickels are not flying or the dimes fast enough if the records still on. That was one reason we put off recording The Hills Of Roane County so long and (when) Syd Nathan heard us do it. He realised I think that without telling the story it was a waste of time, and he says 'I don't give a damn if it takes five minutes'. So it took about four something to do it.

Mike:- That's one of the advantages of the LP, which you could take advanta.. that you couldn't do before the LP.

Carter:- That's right, that's right.

Mike:- Do you do most of your songs with an LP in mind now or?

Carter:- Yeah we do... well every session we've ever done for King, I believe with the exception of one or two we do say 12 numbers, or in one case I believe we done 14. They wanted 14 for some reason. Some of the numbers, a couple or three of 'em was pretty short so they asked for 14. But that's our normal schedule now to do, at least 12 sides.

Mike:- How long does it take you to do that?

Carter:- Well it all depends I guess, in our case on how well you've rehearsed and how well you know the songs. A lot of times we've never heard a song that we're gonna do a recording.

Mike:- Does somebody sing it for you at the session y'mean?

Carter:- Er yeah that could happen, or they... most of the time they'll have it on disc you know and in the studio they've got a record player where we can put it on there and get the idea ot it. They never ask for us to do it the way this demonstration has been done, or record, but they just want us to get the idea of it and the words of course and then do it in our way. The most records we ever got done was 17 sides in one day. That started probably about 10 o'clock in the morning and lasted until about that time that night.

Mike:- It must have been with some people you knew on that one.

Carter:- Well we knew the material better. That was the only one right off hand that I can remember is How Far To Little Rock, we did that during the... that was 17th number we done that day. We hadn't planned to do it. We didn't want to be out done, someone out there said 'we got sixteen, we'll finish tomorrow', why we started doing 'How Far To Little Rock' and somebody out there in the studio heard it and said 'Why not let's record that thing?'. We didn't want to record it, but they said 'Let's record it'.

Mike:- You didn't want to record it that night? or didn't want to record it at all?

Carter:- We didn't plan to ever record it. This fella that taught us that tune was, I think I mentioned his name awhile ago, Fletcher Moss. He was a carpenter. He came to build one of our brothers a house and stayed with some of the family while he was doing it... and he played the fiddle and he'd call it the 'Arkansaw Traveler' and he'd play a verse of the 'Arkansas Traveler', then he'd talk this 'Hello stranger' deal and answer his own questions. Ask the question and then answer it. So we learned it that way.

Mike:- You learned it back then when you were learning to play?

Carter:- Yeah. Before we ever played anywhere. That was one of the first we ever learned, and then Ma taught Ralph a few tunes on the banjo, Little Birdie and Cripple Creek, Chinquapin Hunting, a few of them. She taught him all she knew. She didn't know a lot of tunes but she... in that style, that old drop-thumb y'know, that most people play, she was pretty smooth. She played it well, her time was good, as good as anyone's.

Mike:- Did she know any old time songs? Lucy Stanley - Ralph and Carter's mother (aged 27).

Carter:- I doubt if Ma knows any old time songs. I've never heard her do much of that. I used to hear her sing in church a little y'know just from the book, but as far as ballads and old-time folk tunes that you're talking about, I don't think so. Dad knew some of them. He couldn't play a thing as far as an instrument but he... his voice was just the same as ours is. He sung Pretty Polly, Man Of Constant Sorrow, Little Bessie I believe. So I guess that's where we got what little singing we know. And our sisters they knew some of the old ballads like Omie Wise, Brown Girl and (Poor) Ellen Smith, that's the one's that come to mind first, I guess they knew others too.

Mike:- Like Brown Girl is one of the old ones.

Carter:- Yeah it is.

Mike:- Is that Ruby Rakes, is that your sister or is that your sister-in-law?

Carter:- No Ruby's our sister, yeah, it was her other sister that er... well there's four sisters in all, Georgia is the one and Buford...

Mike:- ...and Georgia?

Carter:- Georgia and Buford, and there was another sister Hattie, she was always in school.

Mike:- Now wait a minute, Georgia and Bu...

Carter:- Buford... that's a boy's name.

Mike:- I thought so, yeah.

Carter:- But that's her name too. [laughs] I didn't name her, she's much much older than me. I guess Dad done that. I don't believe I've ever heard of a woman named Buford before.

Mike:- Me neither, I've heard of very few men named that either.

Carter:- Well it's not a real y'know everyday common name maybe. It's common I mean but you just don't hear it around much. [laughs] At times I've seen her laugh about that, her say 'Lord I don't know who named me, I guess Dad did'. She's got a good knowledge of music, of songs y'know, the old-timers.

Mike:- Of the old-time songs.

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- Does she still live down around the...

Carter:- She lives in Castlewood, Virginia.

Mike:- Castlewood.

Carter:-Uh huh hat's near St. Paul Mike. St. Paul's near Bristol and I guess that's about the best, well you know that country I think well enough not to get lost in it.

Mike:- Not too well, I remember St. Paul. What is her married, last name?

Carter:- Buford?

Mike:- Uh-huh

Carter:- Tate. Yeah her husband's named Osborn, Osborn Tate yeah. Let's see I reckon Buford's the oldest one, she's I think probably about 50... I'd say Buford's about 55 or something like that.

Mike:- So you're the next to youngest are you?

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- and Ralph is the youngest?

Carter:- Yeah that's right.

Mike:- What did they think of you when you were starting to play music? Can you remember or do you want to tell me?

Carter:- I don't mind to tell you. I think Mother actually was the first to ever say anything about someday I'd like to see you boys broadcast and everything. Dad didn't think much of the idea back then but after we began to learn to play a little so I guess he could stand to hear it, why, he was all the way 100% then in favour of it. But they have never discouraged, in fact they've helped us in any way they could.

Mike:- Your Mother was very proud of you when we, Marge and I went by there...

Carter:- I didn't know you'd been by our home.

Mike:- Oh yeah, Marge and I went by and visited with your Mother for about 2 or 3 hours.

Carter:- Is that right... well how long ago was that Mike?

Mike:- Oh, that must have been six years ago.

Carter:- Well, that old place where you went then, that's all burnt down now.

Mike:- Oh, Gee...

Carter:- Yeah, everything, a pile of records, she had a copy of every record that we had ever made, Ralph saw to that.

Mike:- Including the Rich-R-Tone records?

Carter:- Everything. Perfect copies of everything. All the old pictures of different people that had been with us, different places we'd been, well like say we're visiting here now in Germany. She had a collection that money couldn't have bought and no way to replace it of course. Everything burned.

Mike:- Oh, Gee.

Still from Norma Fannin's home movie footage of Carter, Ralph and their mother Lucy.

Carter:- She got out with a dish-rag in her hands. She was canning apples and that place was going up in smoke before she knew it.

Mike:- Oh that's terrible.

Carter:- We never knew how it was started really. It must have been an electrical connection somewhere. So we had to rebuild a new house.

Mike:- She still lives down there though.

Carter:- Yeah, oh yeah. She comes to Florida once in a while and stays around 2 or 3 weeks, I think once she stayed 3 or 4 months with us. She goes to Detroit and stays a little spell with her niece up there, that we raised and her sister and her Momma is up there. Ruby Rakes and her daughter Billy Jean, that's the niece that we raised.

Mike:- I see. Oh yes, I remember you talking her.

Carter:- So she goes up there once in awhile, in fact she's up there this time. I talked to her for about 20 minutes from New York the other day before we left, coming over here.

Mike:- Let's see, the first time you ever recorded was in a small studio in Bristol.

Carter:- Yep, WOPI Radio Station.

Mike:- What year was that?

Carter:- Er... that would have been about, I'd say February or March of '47.

Mike:- That's just right after you'd come to Bristol?

Carter:- Yeah, we hadn't been there but just a few weeks. We never, we didn't realise that we could record that soon. We felt that maybe someday but we didn't ask anybody to record and...

Mike:- You say who didn't?

Carter:- We never asked anyone to, you know for a record contract or anything like that. Columbia, nobody like that, never did. But we just made a few records for Rich-R-Tone and then I guess Columbia. I don't know how many we made for them, in fact I don't know how many records we've made. I wish sometime I could take the time and the trouble to just go back through the years y'know and check it out, find out just how many that we'd made.

Mike:- It won't be long before some discographer or somebody gets, like Pete Kuykendall, will start figuring it out.

Carter:- I wouldn't be surpised if he don't already know. If anybody does I imagine it would be him, 'cause he follows things like that pretty close. Is that Pete Roberts?

Mike:- Yeah, Pete Roberts yeah.

Carter:- Yeah, Pete's interested in that kind of thing.

Mike:- When did you write your first song?

Carter:- When I was in the army in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Mike:- Oh yeah? What year was that anyway? I never knew that.

Carter:- Let's see, what year was the war over? '45? Well I was in Ft. Myers, Florida when the war was over so it would have been that year sometime. I was down there six months maybe, something like that. So I'm sure it would have to have been that year. I can't tell you right at this minute the name of that song (&) I name everyone.

Mike:- Did you ever keep it?

Carter:- No, never did use it. But I think I could go back sometime in my memory and probably come up with it.

Mike:- I'd like to try that sometime [tape cuts].

Mike:- Testing 1, 2, 3, 4, testing 1, 2, 3, 4.

Carter:- Testing 1, 2, 3, 4, sure is a beautiful day here.

Mike:- The second, when you started writing songs again after the er... or when you were recording I guess maybe at WOPI, I'm not sure which one it was...

Carter:- Yeah, I wrote some of the numbers that we done there for Rich-R-Tone but mostly we was just doing oh, Tragic Romance, Filipino Baby and Monroe's Columbia record numbers, and of course we had Little Glass Of Wine, Pretty Polly, some of the old standby's and then there was a little falling out about who was going to sing who's songs and Charlie Monroe had come to work there, at the station where we was. He didn't want us to do songs like Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms, you know Charlie I guess owns that material, at least he claimed it, didn't want us to do it. So then we began to write a little. It was either that or go home y'know. The station was pretty strict about it, they didn't want any... Charlie at that time though he hadn't come to work on the station, he wrote them a letter and told 'em he didn't want to hear the Stanley's do any songs that he owned, and he wrote down a list there, about as long as your leg, included was Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms of course you know that's older than several Charlie Monroe's as far as I know, but either way I guess he owned it.

Mike:- I have an old time recording of it.

Carter:- Sure, yeah. Well anyhow that was one of the numbers, Mother's Only Sleeping is another one he didn't want us to do. The station just said it's best if you don't. Just don't do 'em and we was gonna do them anyway. So one day we were singing Mother's Only Sleeping and they turned us off the air. They said don't do these songs. That was the end of it, we didn't do them songs, for a long time. It all kindly died away y'know. Then the Monroe tunes that we had been using, Flatt & Scruggs they'd come to work there after leaving Bill Monroe, and we'd do 'em on one program and they'd do 'em on another and we just decided that was no good, so getting back to writing, that's when it started.

Mike:- With the type of songs that you were writing there was a fair variety, I mean on the one hand there was a real lonesome song, was Lonesome River yours?

Carter:- Yep.

Mike:- On the one hand it was like that and on the other there was erm The White Dove, they're very different kinds of songs.

Carter:- Yeah, I believe that I wrote all the songs we've done, if you can remember better than me correct me on this, I'm not sure. I think I wrote all the songs that we recorded for Columbia with the exception of Pretty Polly, Constant Sorrow and let's see there's another of one. I believe there's three that I didn't write.

Mike:- Er, yes there a sacred, a gospel song, Gathering Flowers.

Carter:- Gathering Flowers For The Master's Bouqet, that's right. That's the only three now that I can think of, there might be others, but I can't think of them if there is.

Mike:- Nothing comes to my mind. There was quite a variety in those days of the songs. It seemed to me that the type of songs changed though in the later years, it got into more of writing one kind of song...

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- later years, in the '50s for instance.

Carter at New River Ranch 1961 (probably 27th Aug 1961 - Carter's 36th birthday.)

Carter:- Well, I'm sure it did. I think it's bad to rely strictly on your own material. I feel that eventually you're gonna, well you're gonna repeat y'know, you're going to get into a rut and stay there. I think different minds will create different ideas. I guess the reason maybe we began to change even some of our writing... time just changed it, and a man 35 years old don't think like one 21. You're outlook is probably some difference y'know. Now that would be about the only way I could explain that Mike. That's my feelings on it.

Mike:- Well also I guess you had to, probably had to have more releases in the late '50s at least than you did in the say, the late '40s.

Carter:- Lot's, lot's more. They had us set up on a schedule with King I believe 12 sides a year, 12 releases a year, that would be 24 sides and it got so that we were spending about, oh a third of our time going to and from Cincinnati and working in Cincinnati. They still have some stuff that's unreleased and we've got a session I believe to do in April, and we're supposed to have a sacred album out now.

Mike:- That's in the contract you mean, that you have to record that many sides a year?

Carter:- No, not really but er they was selling 'em I guess, and they wanted 'em, so we just... they say 'Come and record' and we always go. We're on about 22-3 albums, possibly about 16 or 17 on King and that would amount to quite a few numbers.

Mike:- Do they still release singles?

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- Y'see we're not involved in singles ourselves, I just don't know who is anymore 'cause I only see albums really of yours.

Carter:- Well I think the albums are, in fact I know, they're by far the best sellers in our case. People buy 12 for what $3.98 now and in some places $2.98 and they pay a $1 for two sides, so the bargain is in the album and most all machines will play 'em. So that's almost done away with singles, in fact I wouldn't doubt if sometime or other there'll be no more singles. They don't sell like they did, naturally the companies are gonna hang on to them as long as they can but they're looking for profit too y'know, so I think it's gonna wind up a strictly an album affair. Maybe with a few exceptions, like The Beatles they might have a single, for the juke box trade, but they're taking care of the albums too.

Mike:- You know they have fantastic selling albums as well as singles.

Carter:- Yeah, sure they do.

Mike:- Can you remember what you thought about that rock 'n' roll when it first came out in '55?

Carter:- Yeah, very well. I thought it was, er, funny and er just well, like Uncle Dave said about Bing Crosby, 'that boy will never make it' and er, [laughs] I thought the same about Elvis. So that goes to show, Mike.

Mike:- and I thought the Beatles sounded pretty bad when they first came out, but I got used to 'em.

Carter:- Yeah, yes sure they... Bill Monroe asked me one night, we was in Nashville to record and he said er after the 'Opry we'll go eat and he said then I want to come up to WSM studios, there's something up there I want you to hear, he had the record with him, Blue Moon Of Kentucky by Elvis Presley. And we had to go up there where they had the machine y'know. So he said I want you to hear something and he had never said anything like that to me before. So we went up and that's when we heard Blue Moon Of Kentucky by Elvis Presley, I believe that was his first number, his first record. And I... laughed a little bit, looked around and everybody else was laughing except Bill. He said 'You better do that number tomorrow if you want to sell some records'.

Mike:- He said that?

Carter:- Yeah. He said It'd be a good idea for you to do that number tomorrow. That would have been Sunday, and we did it on Sunday and then he said I'm going to do it the next Sunday. He was scheduled to record the next week. So I guess he had some vision there that I didn't have. Of course other's probably had vision too, or they'd have never recorded that boy. It was a different sound, no doubt.

Carter at New River Ranch 1961 (probably 27th Aug 1961 - Carter's 36th birthday.)

Mike:- I can tell, that guitar kind of had that kind of beat.

Carter:- It did.

Mike:- You did it with the guitar.

Carter:- Yeah, well we, I think that's the first guitar we'd used, y'know lead.

Mike:- Who played the parts like that?

Carter:- Charlie Cline played that I believe.

Mike:- Mmh-huh.

Carter:- Yeah they came over and that got recorded the next day, Bill and Bess. That was a fairly good seller for us, of course Elvis naturally sold the records, but it didn't hurt us.

Mike:- Well that was about the time that I was first learning about, really learning about bluegrass music, it had been about 2 years before that when I'd heard you first, your Little Maggie on Rich-R-Tone and that was all the rage in Baltimore at the time, that and Hard Times and er, Say You'll Take Me Back.

Carter:- Hard Times... that was recorded the same day that the Blue Moon Of Kentucky was. I think we done eight sides that day I believe. That was on Mercury.

Mike:- Well there's actually there's several periods, several different sounds that you had there's the Rich-R-Tone, there's the Columbia...

Carter:- Well I guess I don't think I really have an explanation for that more than different studios. Now Rich-R-Tone we did 'em in Bristol, Columbia we did 'em in the Tulane Hotel in Nashville, that was what they called the Castle studio, that's where we did the Lonesome River and all of that material then, and now Mercury I don't know whether you noticed it this close or not but I have. Our first session for Mercury was down in a little studio in an alley there I think it was owned by Owen Bradley, called Bradley studios. We done four sides there and then our next work for Mercury and all of the remainder of our work for Mercury was in different studios. Victor, Capitol I think maybe, in different ones. They began to build 'em you know in Nashville. So I think we got two or three maybe more sounds on Mercury there, but I always like the first sound we got the best.

Mike:- Which were those songs?

Carter:- Er let's see The Heart You Stole Away and er... it just don't come to my mind...

Mike:- Poison Lies?

Carter:- No, that was later. I'm pretty sure it was.

Mike:- It had a real hi-fi sound to it.

Carter:- Yeah, sometimes I guess y'know we used different people and I think, well you've heard it said, no two people get the same tone from an instrument. That might allow for a little of that.

Mike:- I guess no two engineers get the same sound out of a microphone.

Carter:- I believe that, I sure do. They set you up different y'know, use different type mic's. I've seen that change a complete sound, you might say, just switching mic's over, different instruments or maybe moving one man over to a different position... things like that. That's a little bit out of my line, as far as actually knowing what it is but naturally I been in er...

Mike:- You can see what's going on.

Carter:- You can see, that's right yeah.

Mike:- There's a lot of magic in it anyway.

Carter:- I really believe that. I think, Mike, the best engineer that we have ever had was the one that worked for King Records so long. He's with Victor now. He handled us for a lot of sessions for King, I don't know I guess maybe a 100 sides or more and he got well enough acquainted with it that if he knew we was coming in he could just almost set the thing up without seeing us or knowing what we was gonna do. So naturally that made his work easy and I think it helped some on the sound.

Mike:- It had a very clean sound, that first King record that you came out with. That impressed me.

Carter:- Yeah. I felt like the last time we was there we got the best sound we've ever got at King. I haven't heard any of it yet, so I don't know, but it was a sacred album and I believe it's supposed to be released almost anytime. I know I was well pleased with the sound. [tape stops]

Mike:- One thing that struck me was the ???? basically the bluegrass music is a lot more serious. Have you ever written for instance a humorous song?

Carter:- I wouldn't think so Mike. Not that I could remember now.

Mike:- 'cause that seems to be a major difference between your type of music, or ours or Bill Monroe's too and other types of old time music are not.

Carter:- I think that's true

Mike:- I wonder why that is, it just seems...

Carter:- I think it's people's nature. That's about the only way I can explain it

Carter and Ralph (photo by Steve Gossage).

Mike:- I was speaking with Bill a little while ago and he's talkin' this Butcher Boy, this song, I think it's called the Butcher Boy. He said he didn't think that would go at all in bluegrass style, but to me I thought, it seemed to me that it would, now that's his nature is I guess how you would say.

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- Because some would think it wouldn't go. Can you think of what certain subjects are dealt with in bluegrass music?

Carter:- Er... Yeah... A lot of it is I guess just run of the mill 'I loved her, lost her, somebody else got her'... just along that line, and I think it's like, a lot of songs have to do with that. Of course some of the bluegrass songs are things that really did happen you know, they'll be true stories like... I can name one right off hand that we done, that we wrote as a result of this flood of '57, that's (an) actual true story. Of course there's a lot of fiction in bluegrass too, like we said a minute ago there about 'I loved her, and she left me, he got her' or something like that.

Mike:- Well how did you get the idea, how did you come to write that song The Flood?

Carter:- Well we was in the area where it was the worst, around Haysi Va. and that section, and we saw a good bit of it... I don't know, it just come to me to write it and me and Ralph were driving home one night after playing someplace. The road was rough going to our old home place, a dirt road. I asked Ralph to stop the car and I wrote it in about five minutes sitting in the middle of the road... And the next night we began to try to sing it a little and about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning we got it where I wanted it, the way I thought was the best way to get it. So I called Wesley Rose at Nashville and sung it to him on the phone, at that time in the morning.

Mike:- At four in the morning?

Carter:- Yeah... and he said let's record it, and get it here as soon as possible, and I believe we done it the next night on record. Of course at that time, the flood was still going on, everything was still in bad shape. I guess when you see something like that, it kindly shocks you a little bit. It might prompt you to write that sort of song, that's the way I feel about it now. And of course on the other deal whereabouts 'you left me and so on' I think a lot of times that's the case. That part of it has never happened to me, but I'm sure it has happened to a good many people, but yet you might sing about it I guess, because people that it has happened to like to listen to it maybe. I don't know why, but I guess they do.

Mike:- Well the way that you told the story, it wasn't a story kind of like a story like the old ballads, but it kind of told about how people felt about it, or did it?

Carter:- I think you could say that, yeah. Being from that part of the country too Mike I imagine that would y'know... I could just imagine myself in those peoples.. in their position or whatever, a lot of them that we knew and actually saw, during and of course after that flood there. So I guess we felt more or less like they did, even though we didn't lose anything. We happened to be up on high ground, but we had a fella with us that week, travelling with us that you might have heard of. He was a movie star 'Fuzzy' St. John,[1] he was with us that week and he said 'No, that's no good to write about a tragedy like that' or something, but of course that didn't mean anything to me, hearing what he said because I figured I was about as much an authority on music as 'Fuzzy' was. Maybe not about being a cowboy, but on music. And then that naturally made songs like The Knoxville Girl, Hills Of Roane County and other tragedies come to my mind, y'know, and they've done alright so... The Flood has done alright for us, and we still, and this is around nine years later now, still get requests for that song most every place we go. I like the sad songs. I don't know why, I just like 'em.

Mike:- How did you come to write The White Dove? That's also one of your better known songs.

Carter:- That was one of the first that I ever tried to write. I really don't know Mike how I come to write it. I do, or have done the most songs that I've written at night. A lot of times travelling y'know. Nobody's saying much maybe, your mind wanders to one thing to another, I guess you call it imagination, I don't know.

Mike:- That's very interesting, you say you were traveling at night mostly you say...

Carter:- Yeah, mostly, most all the work that I've done that way at night. I remember very well when I wrote The White Dove. We was coming from Ashville North Carolina to Bristol Tennessee and I had the light on because I wanted to write it down and Ralph was fussing after me for having the light on. He was driving and said the light bothered him, but he hasn't fussed any more about that...

Mike:- This whole, what you said about you expected you knew as much about this type of music as Fuzzy St. John or fifty or more, it seems to run through your whole history 'cause you do have a different style, you've had a different style all the way down the line. I was wondering, sometimes the going get's rough I'm sure, how can you feel that you keep with it y'know, keep your own line all the way. It's what I don't understand.

Carter:- I don't think anybody understands that. I don't know...

Mike:- 'Cause there's more money, y'know, I kind of think sometimes. I'm sure there would have been more money in other ways.

Carter:- I'm sure of things that we could have done. Ah.. strictly out of the music business, where there would have been more money, but I'd rather do what I like to do, 'cause we're only gonna do it once, y'know. We just pass this way one time. And, er... I wouldn't want to be connected with something I was disatisfied with and I'm sure you've been in the business long enough to know or I hope you haven't but, er... I've had to sacrifice many things for this music, I think most everybody has, in one sense or the other, in one way or the other, financially or domestically or whatever you might call it. Do y'know I've been married 20 years and never been separated, never have. I don't know if I'm a good politician or she just figures she couldn't get anybody else, I don't know what to... what to... [laughs]

Mike:- It is... Often, I know very few people that either the country music area or in the folk music area that have been able to do that, what we wanted y'know. It's not easy. I know sometimes begin to think that everything's slipping away from me, or something y'know that, at least the way that I want to go and I don't have a chance and all that kind of stuff.

Carter and Ralph in London 11th March 1966.

Carter:- Yeah. Well there's times that I enjoy the work a whole lot better than I do others, because there's times that you feel better than you do at other times and for instance, right now I've got this very sore foot it's really hard for me to work, I can't move about like I like to and anything that's hurting you will that way will distract you some.

Mike:- Yet your spirits don't seem very far down though.

Carter:- Well I try my best to keep em up but sometimes like I say it's hard to do.

Mike:- I've seen entertainers where they'll go on and flash a smile, go along with the show.

Carter:- Yeah. They say that's the mark of a showman, I don't know whether it's a mark of a showman or someone just don't know any better, how it is. I think it's good that anyone can do that though.

Mike:- You think so.

Carter:- Yes I do.

Mike:- Sometimes I don't know if it's real or not though, not it's... me I feel torn sometimes.

Carter:- Well I don't smile a lot in our work, I just never was that... I never had that bit of personality I guess, but I think there's times that I've tried to smile and I... if I'd have been driving the car or sitting watching television or something I wouldn't have done it.

Mike:- You wouldn't have...?

Carter:- I wouldn't have smiled, no, Mike. I have tried to do it a few times, let's say when I didn't feel like it, actually hadn't got too much to smile about. It does get rough sometimes you're absolutely right.

Mike:- Bluegrass musicians don't seem to... it doesn't seem to be part of the music or anything to go out of your way to smile and all that. Nobody I've seen that I can remember.

Carter:- Well there's been a lot of criticism. A lot of complaints about that lack of personality in bluegrass music. I've had a few, quite a few times, especially from television producers, directors, things like that. I always felt that people would rather hear, if it is good music they'd rather hear it than see you smile a lot, I know I would and I don't think you can concentrate on too many things at one time and do any of them as best as that you maybe could do. Take this banjo picking for instance, that... I'm not a banjo picker, I wish I was, but they tell me that requires a lot of time before a man's done and he don't have too much time to play around and think of other things. You would know about that better than me.

Mike:- Oh I get the same kind of criticism myself. When I'm singing 'Keep on the sunny side of life' I have the sourest long face. Somebody said 'It looked like it just rained instead of it was the sunny side'.

Carter:- Well, that's true and other songs like... an old song Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms that seemed like it should be a just a hoopy deal, or Pig In A Pen things like that corn to feed him on and nothing in the world to worry about, but yet the smiles don't seem to come from people that do that, I don't know, I don't know why I guess that's probably part of what I said in the beginning - nature. I don't know, if it isn't that I couldn't tell you what it is.

Mike:- Let's see, here's one... You were talking about one of our friends, one of our heroes, I guess. One of the Monroe Brothers actually - Charlie. Some people feel real protective about their songs. I was wondering how you feel about people singing your songs?

Carter:- I'm very glad for 'em to Mike. If they think enough of 'em to sing 'em I'm happy for them, I'm really, really am because I think that's... naturally we got to make a living as we go along, poor boys do and I think that helps you to make a living, because anytime you sing another man's song if he's once made it known or slightly popular or whatever the case... during the course of that song I think regardless of who's singing it or how well they're singing, in the minds of the audience or the listener, the original... the originator of that song will come to their mind of probably maybe the performer and the audience as well. Do you believe that?

Mike:- I think in the long run, yes I certainly do. I know that there's some people who don't feel that way and I remember I was never surprised so much (as) when you wrote the song Going To The Races, and I liked very much the way that you all did it, and then I understood you gave it to the Country Gentlemen or something like that to do.

Carter:- I reckon that must have been the way of it, that's been so long I don't remember exactly.

Mike:- It must have been ten years ago.

Carter:- Yeah it has been that long I suppose, but I believe they recorded that.

Mike:- I think so yeah. Yeah that's a nice song too.

Carter:- And another thing, on speaking about protective I believe, there was one time I guess and maybe will always be a certain amount of professional jealousy Mike. That's one thing I have never had and I think that's another thing that cause people to be... to feel the way they did about their songs, in other words 'I don't want anyone to do my songs - except me'. I think that's very wrong of anybody, unless circumstances might arise that would out-date a song, in other words if something might happen that would er... bring memories maybe that would be unpleasant to people, if you want to put it that way.

Mike:- I don't know what do you mean exactly with that.

Carter:- Well, I don't hardly know how to explain it. If you remember Jimmie Rodgers had a tune out called The T.B. Blues, well according to what I've been told that was the cause of Jimmie Rodgers death. Well I understood, and I don't know that this is true, i've heard that Mrs Rodgers had the song banned from public performance and so on because I suppose it brought back memories of Jimmie there, that she didn't want to have maybe. That's the best I can explain it. That's just... that's about the best example of it that I know. And I'd attribute most of the other 'Don't do my number' attitude to the jealously, frankly I must be honest it's my opinion.

Mike:- Well it seems to me, most of the people y'know, it's something that you can't take away from them, or with most of the performers it's that way anyway.

Carter:- That's true.

Mike:- It certainly is true of you and Ralph 'cause nobody could ever do songs... well I suppose you realise that, but some of these other people... I know Bill isn't that way now. In fact I was shocked, he wrote this new song, he and Peter Rowan I think Walls Of Time.

Fincastle Virginia, 1965 L:R - George Shuffler, Bill Monroe, Carter Stanley and Ralph Stanley. (Photo by Ron Petronko.)

Carter:- I don't believe I've heard it.

Mike:- I think it's been... It's probably has been since you seen... No, it was last June that I first heard him do it, and it's a duet between him and Pete.

Carter:- They sing good together I think. Sound real good together. I just heard 'em a little bit at Roanoke last year. I thought they fit mighty well. Bill's had some wonderful ideas for songs that never come out and yet never will, he forgets them y'know. And I know when I, in the little short time I worked with him we would write a few songs, start to write songs together and some of 'em I would remember and I'd finish them y'know, even after I'd left him. I'd finish the songs and give him half the publishing deal on it.

Mike:- Would you care to name a couple of them?

Carter:- This Weary Heart You Stole Away.. and let's see..., no I believe I'm wrong on that one... it's Say Won't You Be Mine that we done on the same session as This Weary Heart, and let's see there's others but I can't remember them Mike, there's likely two or three more.

Mike:- You wrote or sang one of his songs, it's special I remember... You'd Better Get Right?

Carter:- Yeah, now all I knew of that song was the chorus and after I left Bill we wanted to record it and I didn't know the verses he used. And I just kindly took a word here and there from what I'd heard him do and added a few words to 'em and done our version. Of course I gave him credit for the writer, as the the writer of the song 'cause I think that was right. It was his idea, his tune and everything. We're always kidding each other about things like that.

Mike:- It seems to me that the song's he's written too have changed too over the years.

Carter:- Yeah, they have.

Mike:- In the early fifties he was writing a kind of song that was really almost strange, y'know er... the chorus goes 'there's a little village church yard, on the tombstone there's a'...

Carter:- Memories Of Mother And Dad Well that's what it says on their tombstones up at the old place in Kentucky I believe. I've been there, I don't remember whether I've seen the tombstones or not, seemed like I did, but I've been there several times with Bill, fox hunted with him down there, stayed with his brother John, Birch and all that bunch of Monroe's down there. They're good people, I think a lot of them folks, all of them. I admire their music and always have. Never, never made a secret of it and maybe I've admired them really too much, I don't know. I think they deserve a lot of admiration.

Mike:- I think so too. I believe... I guess he's been more of a musician, he's been a kind of encouragement to a lot of people too.

Carter:- Many people They really went strong for a while, the Monroe Brothers.

Mike:- They what?

Carter:- I said they really went strong there for a good long while and they was like... I think like a lot of the rest of us they didn't realise maybe what they did have or what they could do with what they had... and after they did realise it maybe they didn't want others to come along too close to 'em y'know... I think that would stand up in court. By that I mean they just didn't care about people doing there songs at that time, but I know Bill's attitude has changed on that since then. I don't know whether Charlie's has or not 'cause I'm much better acquainted with Bill than I am Charlie.

Now Charlie, (we) we're speaking about smiles, Mike, Charlie Monroe was a fella that... I know you've seen Charlie and seen him work. Most all the time he's got some smiles for people.

Mike:- I remember him giggling on stage.

Carter:- Oh yeah, that's one of his trademarks, yeah. I heard Charlie on the radio in fact we worked with him for a good long while in Bristol there on the same program and I know of... I heard lot's of people say 'Well I really love to hear Charlie Monroe laugh', I guess it just did something for 'em. That's definitely one of his trademarks.

Mike:- A friend of mine's mother's said that his mother went to the shows to hear him laugh.

Carter:- Yeah, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

Mike:- Although I like his voice.

Carter:- Very good voice and I hear that it's still good. I haven't seen Charlie for a few years. I hear that it's still good and clear, loud. I think that's something that he's pretty well taken care of. He never smoked I guess as far as I know, never drank, he's always lived a pretty good life y'know. So I suppose that has had something to do with it, and he's never really worked the road as hard as... we as hard as I have even. Of course not in comparison to Bill, or people like Acuff and Ernest Tubb, just many of us has travelled a lot more than Charlie. He's always been fairly local, in other words driving out and in each night.

Mike:- He has a morning Radio program, or something like that.

Carter:- Yeah, a daily program and then drives to the date the same day and night, maybe say 1 o'clock will be late for Charlie to be out after 1 o'clock in the morning y'know. He's worked it that way. Whether it's... he's kept local.

Mike:- I guess that it's one reason he hasn't got so well known.

Carter:- Well that's true. He's never spread out like er... I don't think he spread out like he could have. I think at one time he could have gone just most anywhere he wanted to because back in the days when they recorded together y'know they weren't too many... the business wasn't too crowded.... wasn't too hard to get record deals, but now you almost got to sing perfect harmony and stand on your head because if you don't somebody else will.

Mike:- There's no doubt about it the business has become very competitive.

Carter:- Well, I guess that's another reason. It kinda keeps a lot of people in the business, it's a challenge always. I had a purpose in mind to organise our group. I won't go into that, but er...

Mike Seeger and Carter Stanley - European Tour March 1966 (photo by John Cohen)

Mike:- Are you sure you don't want to?

Carter:- I'd rather not.

Mike:- I don't have to put in in print if you don't want to.

Carter:- Well, we er... You see I was working with another group. I got out of the service about 9-10 months, before Ralph did, so I was working with another group and gettin' on okay, getting along fine, I had no trouble at all, worked out all right, but we didn't seem to be getting very far, small station, not too much work. When Ralph come home he joined the show right away. In fact, before he took his uniform off, he was at the station with us, and he didn't like it, so he stayed three weeks I believe and we decided to pull out and all of the advice we got was 'You do and you're through' - Just that way. 'That's the end of you' so it was a challenge to me see if that was right or not. I figured I might as well learn it then as later. Because we did want to work for ourselves and that was kind of a challenge, of course after there was some ill feeling. A little bit of ill feeling because we left and it lasted for a while, but it's all over now and the fellow that we was working with, when we quit and organised our group, is my brother-in-law, a very good friend of mine. We visit one another and everything. Why that was one and the... the others I won't go into.

Mike:- Well that's... I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of myself.

Carter:- Oh I'm not ashamed of it, I mean I just didn't wanna...

Mike:- As long as the name isn't named.

Carter:- I wouldn't mind a bit mentioning the name, it was er...

Mike:- It doesn't have to be...

Carter:- Well it wouldn't mean anything to ya, I think. You probably never heard of him. He's a policeman, he's name is Roy Sykes.

Mike:- Oh, you've mentioned him before yes.

Carter:- Yeah, Roy's a very good friend of mine. Like I said we visit, play together now everytime we get together. We just didn't agree on the kind of music we play. That was another thing. He was interested in the swing music, like erm Paul Howard, Pee Wee King... Good music of course, but I couldn't play it, didn't want to... and frankly he couldn't neither. So...

Mike:- You see those things I think are some of the important things in figuring out, at least what I'm interested in, is what makes people or what brings people to play and to think the way they do, y'know. That intrigues me. For instance how you... what your ideas were when you get started, how you come to write a song 'though we've already gone through that pretty much.

Carter:- Well I think that er... when I really made up my mind that I wanted to do this type of work was the first show that I ever saw. I think I've mentioned that to you before but probably not on tape here. That was Clayton McMichen, I don't know whether I mentioned that the other day when we was talkin' or not, but anyway I saw that show and it just seemed... the hair on my head, just seemed to stand up on end and I never had a feeling iike that before or since, but I didn't particularly like that type of music. At that time I didn't know too much about it, but I knew that was a good type of work I wanted to, put it that way.

Mike:- I see [tape cuts]

Mike:- People can in bluegrass music can talk about things, what they do you know. I don't know hardly anybody who can't. It's only... I can't think of anybody I know. Maybe it's something that shouldn't be talked about, but they talk about it just the same.

Carter:- Yeah.

Mike:- So this is why it's so different to me. Especially the people who were getting it started.

Carter:- Well I don't think it's anything wrong with the talkin' about music as long as you tell the truth. Tell it the way that it happened. If you do that you can always tell a same story withour being scared you're gonna tell a wrong thing. I don't think there's anybody who hasn't told a little white lie or two in their lives but if it's something that makes... means anything I believe you should stick to the truth if you can.

Mike:- Let's see. One thing I wonder is how you put up with travelling for 20 years? It just seems to me, well I saw a little bit of it when we were driving up to Boston, or driving back, on this trip I've seen a little bit of it...

Carter:- I don't know how to hardly answer that.

Mike:- George was telling me about some of the games y'know that you play, when you drive along.

Carter:- Oh, we've played other games besides 'horse'. I think that was probably what he was telling you. We played cards in the car some.

Mike:- Of course you tell some good jokes...

Carter:- Well...

Mike:-...loads 'n' loads of jokes.

Carter:- Sometimes the jokes get a little stale y'know after 20 years you forget which ones you've told sometimes. Everybody's always a pretty good car comedian, by the times they get on stage y'know they freeze up... they don't... their delivery is not as good.

Mike:- Tracy (Schwarz) is that way.

Carter:- Is that right?

Mike:- Oh, boy. He get's a little drink in him, he's a very jolly fellow.

Carter:- I don't think I ever heard Tracy tell a joke.

Mike:- He tend's to be a little bit straight on the stage. He's the best of the three of us. He knows more too.

Carter:- I think it takes good team work to put on a good show Mike. You got the... it's like a ball team or anything like that, you got to rely on the other man too y'know. If you got people with you that you know can do the stuff, why I think you're so much better yourself because you're not worried whether they're gonna mess up or not, you know they know their business. You should know yours, otherwise you shouldn't be there so, that makes a much better show. Anytime that you break in new people or people don't know your songs too well, the musicians tend to be slightly lazy y'know, sometimes you just have to rehearse 'em yourself every time and after you done numbers for, well we're talking about 20 years, numbers that you been doing for 20 years, you hate to sit down and go through it a half a dozen times with a fella or sit up that night after a show or something and have to go through it all. But in some cases you have to do that. Some people learn quicker than others. Some people'll untilize their time in learning them. In fact for a long time, there are times, I remember a boy that we... actually it was the first professional work he ever done with us, you've heard of him, Joe Meadows, and frankly I was ashamed for Joe to play with us on the stage when he come down there and I told him to stand way back where people would hear him and I had Chubby Anthony at that time too... and Chubby was getting ready to leave so we broke Joe in that way, and every spare minute that boy had he would work, work on that fiddle, and he didn't work...

[tape ends]

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