Clinch Mountain Echo

Ralph Stanley - Way Out West - 1977

(Stanley Family Records SFR-005) 2019


Live At The Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival, Maine 1987
CD Inlay picture - photo by David Weintraub Another photo - likely to be from same tour Another photo - likely to be from same tour Flyer for the 25th Oct Santa Monica show
Flyer for the 30th Oct University of Oregon show in Eugene, OR Post gig session (from Steve Waller) Post gig session (from Steve Waller) Post gig session (from Steve Waller)
Post gig session (from Steve Waller) Ad for the last show Keith Whitley played with Ralph - Bluegrass Unlimited Oct. 1977

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This CD on Ralph II's 'Stanley Family' label, provides a glimpse into the CMB's from Oct/Nov. 1977, a decade into Ralph's solo careeer and recorded during Keith Whitley's last outing with the band.

Housed in a 3-fold card digipack, the disc includes a 45 min set from Arcata, California. with another seven tracks from Portland, Oregon. Sound quality on the Arcata show is excellent, and whilst the Portland tracks aren't quite as good, they are nonetheless still far superior to the audio recording on youtube. The six tracks omitted on the CD from the Portland recording, are incidentally all renditions of songs which were performed on both the Arcata and Portland shows.

The CD doesn't seem too easy to find outside of the US, but is sold on Ralph II's merchandise website:- https://ralph2-165910.square.site/

The CMB's at the time consisted of a four-piece, with Ralph, Curly Ray Cline, Jack Cooke and Keith Whitley; Troy 'Renfro' Profitt had presumably quit sometime after the K.E.T. Bluegrass Bluegrass TV show (2nd June 1977) and the start of the West Coast tour.

The CD comes with well researched liner notes by Gary Reid and a couple of period photo's by David Weintraub. Gary kindly sent me a list of the show dates he'd found from newspaper advertisements. According to the liner notes, the tour started on the 22nd October with a gig at New York University's 'Loab Student Centre' before the band presumably flew out to Tucson Arizona for a gig on the 24th. There is also however mention of a Ralph playing at 'Kings Dominion's 3rd Annual East Coast Country Music Championship' on the 22nd Oct in Doswell/Richmond, Virginia[1] so either this or the New York date is erroneous.

A rough tour itinerary can be pieced together from Gary's detective work, with additional reminiscences from the late Bill Hicks who was the fiddle player at the time for the Red Clay Ramblers. His outfit were a long-hair old-time string band, who shared the bill with the CMB's on the tour and had a couple of albums out on the Flying Fish label. Much of what follows is nicked from recollections of the tour on his webpage.

From Bill Hicks' notes, the Red Clay Ramblers joined the tour on the 25th October, where the gig flyer for McCabe's also shows that the musicians did a 'mountain music' workshop in addition to the gig.

Bill Hicks:- "We got off the plane in LA. Somebody or other met us, and we followed him to a van, loaded in the instruments and bags, went over to the venue I think - McCabe's in Santa Monica - left the instruments there, did a sound check or something, got a bite to eat. I think Ralph Stanley's band was coming in at a different time, and the McCabe's folks went back to get them. These details are blurry. We played the gig, maybe did a workshop with Ralph about mountain music. The next morning it had snowed on the mountains that ring LA to the east, and it was crystal clear, and we watched the snow melt from Pasadena, where we were staying with Tom Sauber, and then the haze came in, the mountains disappeared, and we flew up to San Francisco to play the Great American Music Hall."

It seems that the bands didn't go directly to San Franciso, as there's a review of a gig at the Fox Venice Theatre in Los Angeles in 'Folkscene', which would presumably (given locations) have been on the 26th Oct. The review notes that:-

"...neither act came across as forcefully as one might have expected in live performance. The music was there, but the electricity between artist and audience was missing. Ralph Stanley and his band suffered most from the situation, combined with the fact they were tired from their long trip out here. Their set was short, disjointed, and disappointing compared to the previous shows I have seen them do. Even Curly Ray Clines antics only briefly livened up the show. In all fairness to Ralph, it was obviously just a rare off night. Hes had maybe one or two bad nights in the past 10 years - not a bad record. Also disappointing was the performance of Keith Whitley, lead singer of the Clinch Mountain Boys. Im convinced now, more than ever, that he should be singing other kinds of music. I hear a George Jones quality in his voice, and perhaps it is country music or Newgrass that he should be singing".[2]

More details have resurfaced, on the show on the day after, at San Francisco on the 27th Oct...

Bill Hicks:- "At the SF airport a barefooted guy named 'Kansas' met us and led us to the van we were going to ride in up the coast to Seattle. Ralph took shotgun. Everyone in his band (that would be Keith Whitley, Jack Cooke, and Curly Ray Cline) called him "Sherm." He was certainly the General. At the Music Hall we split sets and did two shows, a complement to someone's drawing power. Between their sets Ralph and his bunch went next door to the Mitchell Brothers Theatre and staggered back to play with sweat showing through the backs of their suit jackets. "Ain't never seen sompin' like that," Curly Ray opined. Later on in the trip 'Penthouse' or 'Playboy' came out with an article on Ralph,[3] and everyone passed the mag around backstage, whoopin' it up. This is why "someone" had drawing power maybe. We never got an article in such a magazine."

The Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre story is confirmed by another musician on the BGRASS-L group. Jim Moss:- "Ralph and Keith had me walk them over to the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre 'Ultra Room', between sets at the Great American Music Hall. I walked them up to the door, opened it, and they went right in." Jim also contends that Ralph was known for renting out adult videos to musicians from his bus whilst on tour too.[4]

According to Wikepedia, the O'Farrell theatre, which is adjacent to the Great American Music Hall, opened the 'Ultra Room' in 1977 and featured live strip shows.[5]

Following on from the San Francisco show, Bill Hicks recalled:- "We went up the coast, spending the night in Arcadia, CA, in the redwoods, a marvelous cabin back in the woods that I have no idea how I could ever find again, probably some friend of Kansas'. I think we played in Arcadia, too. Then it was on to Oregon-Medford, Eugene, Corvallis, Portland."

As Arcadia is roughly 400 miles south of San Franciso & Arcata is roughly 280 miles to the north, I think Bill's memory may be playing tricks here - either confusing Arcata with Arcadia, or perhaps they stayed in Arcadia on the night of the 26th Oct following their Los Angeles show.

Gary Reid's liner notes says the there was a brief menton in the 27th Oct edition of 'The Times Standard' newspaper in Eureka, Ca. to let folks know about the Arcata show: "Concert, Bluegrass and string-band music with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mt. Boys and The Red Clay Ramblers. Humboldt Stare University Rathskeller, 7:30 pm and 10.30pm $4.50."

This is of course the show that is mainly featured on the CD.

I'm a bit sketchy on the next three show-dates. A flyer for a show in Eugene, Or. lists the 30th Oct, but Gary's email has two different Eugene, Or. dates... It is interesting that the flyer specifically emphasises the Clinch Mountain Boys "featuring Curly Ray Cline on fiddle", in relation to the events surrounding that gig...

Bill Hicks:- "In Eugene Ralph's band played a joke on Curly Ray. Curly Ray was gregarious, and loved to say stuff like it was really him who carried the show. He got a small solo section in each show, and he also carried his own records and other paraphernalia, which he hawked constantly. In LA he had sold out of Curly Ray key rings and must have said about 20 times, to all assembled, "Boys, this here is key ring country!" Next morning he was calling home to Pike County to get a key ring drop set up somewhere up the road...."

"Anyway, in Eugene he did his solos - a funny song and a very fine old time fiddle tune - and then looked around for the boys to come back out. And they didn't. I was up in the balcony and could see Ralph, brown, shiny suit and Stetson, standing in the wings. Curly Ray finally played another tune. Still no band. He played on, told a story, sang another song. And eventually he just ran out. It started to hurt, just watching. Still no band. Finally they came out and finished the set. And Curly was a lot quieter for a while."

Ralph too also commented on this gag in his autobiography with Eddie Dean. Ralph:- "One show out on the West Coast, Curly got carried away, hawking his stuff a little too hard, so me and the other Clinch Mountain Boys decided to play a trick on him. Just to learn his a lesson that it wasn't all the Curly Ray Show. He ripped into one of his selling routines and we all sort of eased our way off the stage, one by one, leaving Curly out there by himself. He started into a fiddle medley to hold the crowd until we got back on stage. But we didn't come back. We waited out in the wings and just watched until Curly run out of tunes and was standing there, a fiddle player with nobody to play with. We put him on the spot and let him sweat it out. Just to remind him that he was in a band."[6]

A few pictures of a post gig session was posted in Feb 2014 by the late Steve Waller (Sawtooth Mountain Boys) of:- "a get together and jam at George Relles' house after the Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys show at University of Oregon, along with the Red Clay Ramblers. Lots of the Eugene/Corvallis bluegrass pickers were there and we had a grand ole time picking, singing, joking, telling stories, eating and drinking a few beers. I got to sing some harmony with Keith Whitley, Ralph and Jack Cooke that night. Great memories."

George Relles also recorded the Portland Oregon set from the 4th Nov, which rounds out the CD and can be found in full (but worse sound quality) on youtube.

Their show on the 5th Nov in Seattle garnered a review in 'Victory Music Folk and Jazz Review' which emphasised the contrast between the sounds of the Red Clay Ramblers and Ralph's act which "...showed a mellow, smoothness like well-aged Kentucky bourbon and their well-practiced instrumentals and positive vocals drew good audience response".[7]

Bill Hicks:- "After we got done with the Northwest we flew back into the winter of Calgary (Canada) and then on down to Chicago, where we'd left our van. We (the Red Clay Ramblers) drove to Springfield, Ill., where we met Ralph and the Boys one last time. Ralph's plane had hit weather, and it was rough enough to leave all of the boys shaken. I was glad to have missed that and sorry they didn't. We played the show, and they did the same exact set they'd done every show. Then we all said goodbye, and that was about another round except we had a couple more gigs on our own to do."

This comment indicates that the Red Clay Ramblers didn't play at the Salt Lake City show, with Ralph and the CMB's flying back to Illinois.

After the tour Ralph was listed in 'Bluegrass Unlimited' as playing University of Maryland, College Park - Cole Field House "Bluegrass 77" on the 12th Nov. This is likely to be the last show to feature Keith Whitley, as Ralph saw Charlie Sizemore play with the Goins Brothers on the 19th Nov at the '4-H Building' Greenfield, In. and he took over lead vocals by the time of the Myrtle Beach Sc. festival on the 25th. J.D. Crowe was also on the bill at the "Bluegrass 77" show and in the "Kentucky Treasure: The J.D. Crowe Story - Part 9" on youtube, he and Jimmy Gaudreau recall that Keith was getting itchy to leave Ralph. Keith and Jimmy Gaudrea had played together in Country Store in 1973.

Jimmy Gaudreau:- "He didn't think a lateral move to another bluegrass band, was what he really wanted to do, if indeed he was going to make any change at all."
J.D. Crowe:- "And I always knew he liked 'Country'. Every time he'd come on our camper he'd get the guitar & sit there and he'd sing songs - George Jones, Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell. Of course that's what I liked too, so..."
Jimmy Gaudreau:- "And my pitch was that J.D. had already used a steel guitar and drums on his previous album 'You Can Share My Blanket', and he would be looking at an opportunity to record with these instruments on the next project as well. That seemed to get his attention."
J.D. Crowe:- "So he did quit and I think, in fact we were on the same show, somewhere in Maryland I think... I knew I could remember where it was, in fact it was a bunch of acts on the show. We was there, Ralph Stanley was there. And that was Keith's last show with Ralph, and he (Keith) rode back with us when we came back home. We left that night & Keith rode back with us. So that's how Keith came to be in the 'New South'".

J.D.'s recollections also tie in with an anonymous eye-witness account of Keith leaving his car at the rendezvous point with Curly Ray Cline when on the road with Ralph, and not picking it up when the band returned from the tour. (See the Portland youtube video.[8])

A new chapter in Ralph's career began the following week, when Ralph saw Charlie Sizemore playing with The Goins Brothers and offered him a job in the band...[9].

Date:
Venue:
City:
Misc:
22nd Oct
Loab Student Centre, New York University
Or Kings Dominion 3rd Ann. East Coast Country Music Championship
New York
Or Doswell/Richmond Va.

24th Oct
Temple of Music and Art
Tucson, Az. 8.00pm, Adults $7, Children $3.50
25th Oct
McCabe's Guitar Shop
Santa Monica, Ca. 7 - 10pm, $10 with concert & workshop
26th Oct[c]
Fox Venice Theatre
Los Angeles, Ca.
27th Oct
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Ca. 8pm & 10pm (Two shows), $6
28th Oct
Rathskeller, Humbolt State University
Arcata, Ca. 8.30pm, $4.50
30th Oct[d]
ERM (Erb Memorial Union) Ballroom, University of Oregon
Eugene, Or. 8pm, Adults $5, Children & Senior Citizens $2.75, Students $3.75
2nd Nov
St. Francis School??
Eugene, Or.
3rd Nov
Memorial Union Ballroom, University of Oregon??
Eugene, Or. $4.50
4th Nov
Neighbors of Woodcraft Hall
Portland, Or.
5th Nov
Roosevelt High School
Seattle, Wa. 8pm
6th Nov
MacEwan Hall, University of Calgary
Alberta, Canada 8pm, $5 advance, $6 on the door
9th Nov
Union Ballroom, University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Ut. 8pm, $5 ($4 with student ID)
10th Nov
Illinois Country Opry
Petersburg, Il. 8pm, $5

Tracks 1-12:
Recorded at Rathskeller, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California
28th October 1977
by Michael J. 'Spu' Manetas.

Bonus Tracks 13-19:
Recorded at Neighbors of Woodcraft Hall, Portland, Oregon
4th November 1977
by George Relies.

Track:
Title:
CD:
(57:17)
1
Are You Waiting Just For Me

Ernest Tubb
2
Another Night

Jack Adkins
3
Cacklin' Hen

P.D.
4
John Henry

P.D.
5
If That's The Way You Feel

R. Stanley / Peggy Stanley
6
Rocky Island

P.D.
7
Pikeville Jail

Curly Ray Cline (?)
8
Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem

Robert F. Boyce
9
Gloryland

P.D.
10
Children Go Where I Send Thee

P.D. arr C. Love
11
Orange Blossom Special

Ervin T. Rouse
12
I Hear A Choo Choo Coming

Corbet 'Cuddles' Newsome
13
Lost Train Blues

Arthur Smith
14
Let Me Love You One More Time

R. Stanley
15
Little Maggie / Pretty Polly

P.D.
16
I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow

R.D. Burnett
17
Rank Stranger

Albert E. Brumley
18
Festival Pitch

n/a
19
Pretty Little Indian

P.D.

Go To Top Of Page [1] 'Bluegrass Unlimited' Oct. 1977 'Personal Appearances Calender' lists for the 22nd Oct: "Doswell/Richmond. VA - Kings Dominion's 3rd Annual East Coast Country Music Championship. JC Hale & THE BLU FESCUE, RALPH STANLEY, THE SELDOM SCENE, BILL MONROE, MAC WISEMAN, Kings Dominion Park."
[2] Gig not on Gary Reid's list, but as there is an undated LA gig review in 'Folkscene, February 1978, volume 5, #12' by John Delgatto, I'm presuming this was on the 26th Oct. http://www.earlyblurs.com/calendars/folkscene1.htm
[3] Anyone any ideas what this would be? I can only thing that it was the 'Bluegrass and The Counterculture' article by staff reporter David Standish that appeared in the US version of Nov. 1971's edition of 'Playboy' and covered Carlton Haney's 5th Berryville Festival. If anybody can send a copy of said article it would be appreciated!
[4] https://lsv.uky.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind1801B&L=BGRASS-L&P=R1509
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Brothers_O%27Farrell_Theatre
[6] Eddie Dean & Ralph Stanley - 'Man Of Constant Sorrow' book (p. 350)
[7] Seattle gig review: http://www.earlyblurs.com/calendars/stanley_victory.htm
[8] CAROLVS:- "Ralph did a Western tour in Nov. '77, flew back to the DC area and did another show. Keith didn't come home with the band. His vehicle sat where he parked it when he met Curly Ray for several weeks and his dad, Elmer, finally came and got it. I saw Ralph just before he left on that tour and within a week of when he returned..."
"Keith left his vehicle at the house of a fellow that owned some coal trucks near Ashcamp where he always met Curly Ray in Pike County, KY. (Keith lived near Sandy Hook KY which is more in the Morehead area.) They took turns driving on to Coeburn VA where they met Ralph and apparently this was Ray's turn to drive. After the CA tour they flew to the DC area and did Keith's last show. JD Crowe was on that show and Keith rode back with JD."
[9] Paul Morris interview with Charlie Sizemore, Bluegrass Unlimited (May 1986) (p.28). From the Bluegrass Unlimited gig listings, the show on the 19th Nov 1977 was at '4-H Building' Greenfield, IN. with Ralph, The Goins Brothers and Joe Jenkins. Charlie was playing lead guitar with The Goins Brothers. The next advertised gig by Ralph was at the Myrtle Beach SC festival on 25th Nov, where JD Crowe was also on the bill (25th-26th Nov).