One-man show at Destin Library

Special to The Log
Gary Reid

The Destin Library will host a one-man two-act play, "A Life of Sorrow: The Life and times of Carter Stanley," by Gary Reid at 2 p.m. March 18. The performance is free and open to the public.

Stanley played the music, he wrote the songs, and … he self-destructed. The program touches on a variety of aspects from the rich and colorful life of this legendary mountain musician. With his brother, famed Appalachian performer Ralph Stanley, he fronted a bluegrass-styled band from 1946 until his untimely passing at the age of 41 in 1966. As the Stanley Brothers, they were the second professional band to perform the style of music that came to be known as bluegrass.

Carter Stanley was an expressive singer and a prolific songwriter. Bill Monroe, the acknowledged Father of Bluegrass, once called him the “best natural lead singer” he’d ever heard. The songs Stanley wrote and the recordings he made helped form the foundation of a music that is now a world-wide phenomenon. Gone from the music scene for 50 years, his legacy is largely forgotten. A Life of Sorrow affords today’s audiences a chance to connect with this bluegrass legend as he recounts highlights from his life and career, including childhood days on the family farm, old-time musicians who influenced him, his songwriting, struggles with alcohol, stories from life on the road, and his admiration for Bill Monroe.

Although a native of Virginia, Stanley was no stranger to Florida audiences. He moved to Live Oak in the latter part of 1958 to help resurrect the Suwannee River Jamboree, a popular weekly country music program. He was subsequently seen on television in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Tampa, and Ft. Myers under the auspices of their sponsor, the Jim Walter Corporation of Tampa. Stanley’s efforts did much to pave the way for the current popularity of bluegrass in the Sunshine State.

A Life of Sorrow is the creation of Roanoke, Virginia, actor Gary Reid. A bluegrass enthusiast and historian for over 40 years, he is regarded as the foremost authority on the music of the Stanley Brothers. After many years of research, his book The Music of the Stanley Brothers is now available. It traces the duo’s 20-year recording history. In 2009, Reid conceived the idea of putting together a one-man show about Carter Stanley. To that end, he took two semesters of acting at Virginia Western Community College and has since appeared in more than 60 productions and events at regional community theatres as an actor, producer, and stage manager and has appeared in several short films and commercials. Most recently, he won second place at the Sounds of the Mountains storytelling competition in Fincastle, Virginia, and is the 2015 recipient for the IBMA’s Print/Media Person of the Year award. Reid’s work with Fred Bartenstein on The Bluegrass Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies book earned a 2015 ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.

As a long-time fan of the music of Carter and Ralph Stanley, Reid has spent years collecting memorabilia of the brothers and has all of their single and album releases as well as some 80 hours of live recordings and close to 500 photos. But, he says, “Can you ever have too much?” Reid enjoys meeting and talking with fans who knew or saw the Stanley Brothers in years gone by, and encourages them to bring photos to the show and share.

For further information contact the Destin Library at 850-837-8572.