Attic Productions in Fincastle is hosting a performance of a one-man play called “A Life of Sorrow, the Life and Times of Carter Stanley” on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
For the uninitiated, Carter Stanley was an expressive singer and songwriter. As the front man for the legendary Stanley Brothers duo, he spent the best 20 years of his life pounding the pavement to take his gift to anyone who would listen. By 1966, he was tired. But he had a story to tell.
Raised in the coalfields of Appalachia during the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression, the bright lights of a country stage raised the hairs on the back of a 10-year-old’s neck. He had found his calling. A decade later, his musical expression of choice was a new phenomenon known to many as the high lonesome sound– what would come to be known the world over as bluegrass. Tormented by a parent’s adolescent rejection, frustrated by the lack of commercial success, still he held to his dream. He played the music, he wrote the songs, and ultimately, he self-destructed. “A Life of Sorrow” is the story of one man’s musical journey. From the Clinch Mountains of Virginia, around the world, and back home again.
“A Life of Sorrow” is the creation of Roanoke 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. 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. He was the second place finalist at the 2015 Sounds of the Mountains storytelling competition in Fincastle. Launched in September 2014, “A Life of Sorrow” has enjoyed 43 performances at theaters, festivals, libraries, and museums in 10 different states.
In addition to his theatrical endeavors, Reid is also a published author. After many years of research, his book “The Music of the Stanley Brothers” is now available. It traces Carter and Ralph Stanley’s prolific 20-year recording history. Also noteworthy is Reid’s work with Fred Bartenstein on “The Bluegrass Hall of Fame Inductee Biographies” book which earned a 2015 ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. For his work on both publications, Reid was the 2015 recipient for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Print/Media Person of the Year award.
As a longtime 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.