Clinch Mountain Echo

The Stanley Brothers - I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters / Hills Of Roan County

(King 6089) Apr 1967

I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters
Hills Of Roan County I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters (Promo) Hills Of Roan County (Promo)

Like the earlier King 6079 single, this 7" features two tracks from the 1963 'fake live' Folk Concert LP.

I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters was brought to the band by King. In Gary B. Reid's liner notes to The King Years, 1961-1965 King engineer Chuck Seitz confirmed that the title was thought up by label boss Syd Nathan and then given to two of King's A&R staff to write.

Hills Of Roane County is a murder ballad about the murder of Thomas Galbreath in 1884 by his brother-in-law Willis Mayberry, in Old Oakdale in Roane County. At his trial he admitted to leaving Roane County "but not until after the funeral" and travelled extensively for about 25 years, working in places such as St. Louis, Mo., Baltimore, Md., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Nebraska. In 1909 he returned to Roane County, where he was recognised and put on trial. He wrote a poem whilst in the courthouse jail called 'Roane County Prisoner'. It was later set to music and became popular in the '30s/'40s.[1] Versions of the song were recorded by several acts. The first to be issued was by The Blue Sky Boys,[2] although unreleased versions exist by Andy Patterson & Warren Caplinger who recorded it as Willis Mabry for Gennett in May 1929 and Jun 1930.[3]

The Stanley's knew the song very early on, and sometimes performed it whilst at school. Ralph:- "We'd just play around home and around the neighbors' houses and at school. They would have a junior play or a senior play or something and between acts they'd pull the curtains and we'd step out in front of the curtains and do a number while they was making the next setting for the next act. Things like that. We did 'Hills Of Roane County', 'When I Lay My Burden Down', 'I Called And Nobody Answered', 'Roll On, Buddy'. Just a lot of old-timers like that."[4]

In the 1966 interview with Mike Seeger, Carter later gave the length of the song as one reason for why they hadn't recorded it before: In the old days they played records three minutes, three-and-a-half was okay. Now they want 'em down to anywhere from a minute-forty to two-ten. Of course that's a juke box deal that brought that around. The nickels are not flying, or the dimes not 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.[5]

I don't have a copy of this 7", but I suspect it probably features the overdubbed fake applause and spoken introduction to Hills... that is included on the Folk Concert LP. Carter's introduction to Hills... is curiously very similar to the one he used when introducing the song at the 1965 Fincastle Bluegrass Festival.[6]

Both sides of the single, without the fake appaluse but with the spoken intro to Hills..., can be found on The King Years, 1961-1965 4xCD box set.


For a detailed breakdown and background to the Stanley's sessions, check Gary B. Reid's The Music Of The Stanley Brothers book, pages 165-169 and 201-202.

Original Release:
Lead Guitar:
I Don't Want Your Rambling Letters
28 Jan 1963
Folk Concert Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Ralph Mayo

Vernon Derrick
Curley Lambert

Nathaniel Nathan / Ray Starr / Gene C. Redd
Hills Of Roane County
29 Jan 1963
Folk Concert Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Ralph Mayo
Curley Lambert
Vernon Derrick

Willis Maberry

Go To Top Of Page [1] http://www.roanetnheritage.com/research/m&m/05.htm
[2] The Blue Sky Boys - In The Hills Of Roane County / Brown Eyes (Bluebird B-8693) recorded Oct 1940 and released Jul 1941: https://www.discogs.com/Blue-Sky-Boys-Bill-And-Earl-Bolick-In-The-Hills-Of-Roane-County-Brown-Eyes/release/4738818
[3] http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=44331
[4] John Wright's book "Traveling The High Way Home" (p.48-49)
[5] Mike Seegers 1966 interview with Carter during their Eurpoean tour. 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).
[6] See: http://frobbi.org/audio/ivor/Fincastle65-3/index.html