Clinch Mountain Echo

The Stanley Brothers - The Flood / I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way

(Mercury 71064) Feb 1957

The Flood
I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way The Flood (78) I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way (78)

The Stanley Brothers' The Flood was written about, and recorded during, the devastating flood that hit southeastern Kentucky, southwestern West Virginia, western Virginia and northeastern Tennessee in late Jan / early Feb 1957. In Kentucky alone, 9 people died and the Red Cross reported 597 homes were destroyed, with over 10,000 sustaining some form of damage.[1]

The single was rush released on 14th Feb 1957 just a fortnight later, coupling The Flood with I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way from the Stanley's earlier Mercury session in July 1956.

'Billboard' magazine reviewed the single in their 9th March 1957 edition, giving The Flood a score of 76 and describing it as:- "Up-to-date documentary of the Kentucky - West Va. - East Tenn. floods of 1957. Touching piece of business for folk fanciers essayed in tangy back-country brother harmony. Could do some business in the territory affected." The flipside, I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way, scored 74 and was described as: "More fine, flavorsome brother singing on a mournful mountain song. Territorial sales likely."

Carter spoke about The Flood in Mike Seeger's 1966 interview[2]:-

Mike:- Can you think of what certain subjects that are dealt with in bluegrass music?
Carter:- 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 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. 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 want 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 possiition 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,[3] 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.

Ralph later re-recorded The Flood as Flood Of '57 on his Play Requests LP.

Both sides of the single can now be found on The Complete Mercury Recordings 2xCD set.


For a detailed breakdown and background to the Stanley's sessions, check Gary B. Reid's The Music Of The Stanley Brothers book, 60-61, 62-64, 78 and 81.

Original Release:
The Flood
1 Feb 1957
Mercury 71064 Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Chubby Anthony
George Shuffler
Red Malone

C. Stanley / R. Stanley
I'm Lost, I'll Never Find The Way
16 Jul 1956
Mercury 71064 Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Chubby Anthony / Ralph Mayo
Curley Lambert
Doug Morris

C. Stanley

Go To Top Of Page [1] https://www.weather.gov/jkl/1957flood
[2] You can hear the interview on youtube: https://youtu.be/YikIUZandsA. I've also attempted to clean some of the noise and you can download an MP3 of the result here (it's saved as a 67Mb zip file). The question about The Flood is at around the 01:02:01 mark.
[3] Alfred St. John aka 'Fuzzy Q. Jones' - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_St._John