On the Crooked Road to Bristol June 2008

“In the deep rolling hills of old Virginia There’s a place that I love so well. Where I spent many days of my childhood, In the cabin where we loved to dwell.” ~Carter Stanley, The White Dove. It’s a beautiful drive from Bristol to Norton in Southwestern Virginia. The highway follows the Trail of the Lonesome Pine, deep into the Blue Ridge. After Norton it’s Coeburn and then up the narrow winding roads along the Dr. Ralph Stanley Highway, onto the Carter Stanley Highway higher and deeper into the Clinch Mountains, where so much of America’s musical heritage took root, was nurtured and grew. For nearly forty, years Ralph Stanley has been inviting his extended family up to Smith Ridge, the home place of the Stanley Brothers. It took us a while to answer the call but now we’re there every year, on Memorial Day to meet old friends and to visit the family.

The family has a many branches and each is essential to the music and the festivities. There are the pickers, on stage and up the hill, and the fans who support the music. David Gartland and I go up the mountain to represent the part of the family that works hard to get fine instruments in the hands of the people that play the music. That Family Bond is important to all of us here at Saga Musical Instruments and so each year we get together with Dr. Ralph Stanley and the sons and daughter of the late Carter Stanley to present one of the Carter Stanley Memorial Blueridge Guitars to one or two present or former members of the Clinch Mountain Boys. Past winners have included George Shuffler, Larry Sparks, Jack Cooke, Tom Morgan and this year…. Melvin Goins and Charlie Sizemore.

It’s an important journey for us, up that mountain. Stand up there on the ridge, alone with wind and the spirit of Carter…perhaps you will remember again why we are doing what we are doing… I hope to see you up there one of these days!

Richard Keldsen

San Francisco

June 2008