Clinch Mountain Echo

The Stanley Brothers - The Little Glass Of Wine / Little Maggie

(Rich-R-Tone RRT-423) c1948

The Little Glass Of Wine
Little Maggie

This 78 was recorded at the Stanley's second session for Rich-R-Tone at the WOPI radio station in Bristol Tn., sometime late 1947 or early 1948.

The Little Glass Of Wine proved to be a hit on WCYB, and interest in the song persuaded Jim Hobart Stanton ('Hobe') to record the Brothers after he saw the mail the song was creating.[1] Eventually the local success of the song also led to the Stanley's signing to Columbia in October 1948.

Little Glass... was an adaptation of an old English ballad, which had many comonly themed variants in the UK/USA.[2] The Stanley's had learnt the song from Otto Taylor, as Ralph later recalled:- First we ever heard of the song was back in the late thirties when we were boys up on Smith Ridge, learning to play music. We had a neighbor named Otto Tayor, and he worked for the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company. He played banjo in the old drop-thumb style like my mother, and he used to sing an old ballad he called 'Poison In A Glass Of Wine'. He only knew a few verses, but we learned the melody from him"

"When we started on WCYB, we needed some songs to fill out the show, so Carter worked out some new lyrics to the melody we'd got from Otto, and we worked out a new arrangement. Well, once we started playing 'Little Glass Of Wine' on the 'Farm and Fun Time' program, people took to it right off. That was the one that really filled the mailbags. 'Little Glass Of Wine' goes a bit beyond your ususal murder ballad becausse here you've got a murder and suicide as well. The jealous man kills his girlfriend when he poisons her with wine and then he drinks it, too, and they die in each other's arms. It was popular for the same reason as 'Romeo and Juliet', I reckon. It touched people. LIke it says in the last line, 'True lovers are bound to die'."[3]

The Stanley Brothers re-recorded Little Glass... for Columbia, and it remained a regular at live shows. Ralph also later re-recorded it on his 1971 Jap only John Henry album, the Reunion: Featuring George Shuffler & James King CD and 2004's Sings His Favorites Now and Then.

Little Maggie has likewise always been one of Ralph's signature songs, which he attributed in interviews to having learnt from Steve Ledford who had recorded the song with Wade Mainer in 1937.[4] The earliest recording, however, was in 1928 by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter, who were another significant influence on both Carter and Ralph.[5] It seems the song is even older though, with a heritage shared with Darling Corey and variants.[6]

By the time of this second Rich-R-Tone session Ralph had yet to develop his 3-finger style, and plays banjo in 2-finger mode (ala Wade Mainer). The session also doesn't have anybody playing bass.

Both sides of the Stanley's 78 can be found on the Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s CD.


For a detailed breakdown and background to the Stanley's session, check Gary B. Reid's The Music Of The Stanley Brothers book, pages 13-14 and 18.

Original Release:
The Little Glass Of Wine
Late 1947 / Early 1948
Rich-R-Tone RRT-423 Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Leslie Keith
Pee Wee Lambert

C. Stanley
Little Maggie
Late 1947 / Early 1948
Rich-R-Tone RRT-423 Carter Stanley
Ralph Stanley
Leslie Keith
Pee Wee Lambert


Go To Top Of Page [1] Quote from Jim Stanton in the liner notes to Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s (p. 4)
[2] eg. Poison In A Glass Of Wine, Jealousy, The Cup Of Poison, Oxford City, Worcester City, Newport Street... Some are detailed here:- https://mainlynorfolk.info/joseph.taylor/songs/worcestercity.html with another variation here: http://www.thecopperfamily.com/songs/collected/poison.html and here: http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Bob-and-Jacqueline-Patten-Collection/025M-C1033X0039XX-0500V0
[3] Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean's book 'The Man Of Constant Sorrow' (p.110)
[4] Wade Mainer Little Pal / Little Maggie (Bluebird B-7201) 1937 - see https://www.discogs.com/Wade-Mainer-Zeke-Morris-Wade-Mainer-Zeke-Morris-Steve-Ledford-Little-Pal-Little-Maggie/release/9359690
[5] G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter recorded Little Maggie With A Dram Glass In Her Hand in New York 1st Aug. 1928. The song was released in 1929 on 78 - Little Maggie With A Dram Glass In Her Hand / Where Are You Going, Alice? (Victor V-40135) (see https://www.discogs.com/Grayson-And-Whitter-Little-Maggie-With-A-Dram-Glass-In-Her-Hand-Where-Are-You-Going-Alice/release/7835272). The song also appears on the Grayson & Whitter - Volume 2 (1928-1929) CD (Document Records DOCD-8055) 2008, which along with 'Vol. 1' is a fine anthology of this old-time outfit, and highly recommended. (Available from Document Records website.) You can also hear their version on youtube:- https://youtu.be/lJmJ0bo30Co
[6] Wayne Erbsen's book 'Rural Roots Of Bluegrass' (p. 114) reports the song as having been heard in the railroad and construction camps of West Virginia, and there is an online piece with Tommy Jarrell attributed as hearing the song whist growing up - around 1915/16. (http://www.tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Little_Maggie and http://www.mattesonart.com/little-maggie-history.aspx)