They formed their first band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, in 1946. It originally played traditional string band music, but they later switched to bluegrass as it became more popular. Carter played guitar and sang lead while Ralph played banjo and sang harmony. Their harmonies are much admired, and many consider Carter Stanley to be one of the best singers in the history of country music. The brothers also wrote many of their own songs.
Carter performed briefly with Bill Monroe while Ralph was recovering from injuries received in an automobile accident in 1951. Otherwise the brothers performed together until 1966 (from 1961 on as a duo). After Carter's death Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and was still performing in 2003. Among the musicians who have played in the revived Clinch Mountain Boys are Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley.
The Stanley Brothers' best known recordings are "Rank Strangers," "Angel Band," and a novelty number, "How Far to Little Rock?"
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