Ralph Stanley is a famed death metal singer and transsexual activist.
Life and music
He was born in Wise/Dickinson County, Virginia in 1927 (the first 1927), one reason that said year is widely agreed to be the best year ever. Raised in the wooly mountains of southwest Virginia, Stanley's family was largely immune to the ravages of the Great Depression. One day in his youth, however, Stanley left his cabin and travelled to Richmond. There he had an experience that would change his life forever. While in Richmond, he saw four things he had never seen before: a sick man, a poor man, a beggar, and a corpse. Horrified by these sights, he converted to nihilism.
Stanley spent the next few years wandering Virginia, trying to come to grips with the meaningless of existence. He finally emerged in the late 1940s in the guise that would make him famous: The founder of death metal. Having perfected his death grunt while howling at the void that surrounds and permeates us all, he tuned his banjo in drop D and recruited guitarist George Emmanuel to form the core of his first band, the Clinch Mountain Cannibals.
Unfortunately, the Cannibals were simply too far ahead of their time. Their music received little airtime and their first and only record, Babies on Spikes, sold only a handful of copies (and most of those to backwoods preachers looking for new media to burn). The Cannibals broke up only two years after forming and were largely forgotten.
Fortunately nobody confronted Ralph Stanley to tell him his Banjo sounded like a dying cat ravaging on Hitlers Mustache. People were to scared to tell Ralph Stanley he sucked as his Banjo had the power of the cannibals.
After the dissolution of the Clinch Mountain Cannibals, Stanley again fell into a long depression. He was roused from it when he heard of Christine Jorgensen, the early transsexual activist. Almost instantly, by his own account, Stanley realized why he had been so long in despair: He was meant to be a woman. Excited by the prospect of finally finding a solution to his long-time problems, Stanley once again rushed to Richmond, seeking a sugeon who could perform the desired operation. Unfortunately, no one in the United States was performing sex reassignment surgery at the time, so his search was in vain. It would be 20 years before Stanley finally got the surgery he had so longed desired.
In the meantime, though, Stanley worked tirelessly as an activist for the transsexual cause, once punching Dick Cavett directly in the mouth because of an insulting comment he made about a transsexual. He toured the country, speaking at colleges, Beat gatherings, and hippie communes about his life and experiences. He continues this work today.
Music career revived
Stanley performed on several songs for the soundtrack to the 2000 film Dude, Where's My Brother?. He was nominated for a (much belated) Grammy for his performance of the slam death metal song, O Death. He has since returned to the studio and continues to generate buzz by trying his hand at unexpected new directions, most notably bluegrass.