The Pocahontas County Opera House presents Gary Reid’s original, one-man play “A Life of Sorrow, the Life and Times of Carter Stanley,” Sataurday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m.
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 he 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.
“A Life of Sorrow” is the creation of Roanoke, Virginia, actor Gary Reid. A bluegrass enthusiast and historian for more than 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 and earned Reid the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2015 award for Print/Media Person of the Year. Reid is a three-time recipient of the IBMA’s award for Best Liner Notes. 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. 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 award.
Reid conceived the idea of putting together a one-man show about Carter Stanley in 2009. 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.
“A Life of Sorrow” has been performed nearly 40 times in many locations throughout southwestern Virginia as well as in West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona, and most recently a seven city tour of Florida. Additional performances are slated for Maryland and Pennsylvania.
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. 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.
Tickets for the June 4 performance are $10 for adults. Youth 17 and younger are admitted free of charge. Tickets are available at the door and in advance at poca hontasoperahouse.org or at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.
Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.