Imagine having to live up to a father's legacy that includes 55 years spent at the top of a very public profession, plus more than 100 recordings. Those are some huge shoes to fill when the father is Ralph Stanley
, a bluegrass giant who simply shines on the banjo. His son, Ralph Stanley II
, aka "Two," no doubt suffered from a fair share of apprehension when he decided to become a musician, too. As he began his own solo career, however, his recordings made his journey seem almost effortless. Critics and lovers of bluegrass responded immediately and favorably to his first release from Rebel Records, Listen to My Hammer Ring
. When the younger Stanley
followed up with Pretty Girls, City Lights
, the release received an equally enthusiastic welcome.
Although he now plays the guitar, Stanley
's first introduction to a musical instrument came when he was three years old and started on the banjo, his father's instrument of choice for more than five decades. His dad taught him to play until he decided that he'd rather take up the guitar two years later. Still, he hadn't set his sights on becoming a professional until he was about 12 years old. Inspiration came in the form of Keith Whitley
, whom the younger Stanley
saw in a video that was made when Whitley
sang with the Clinch Mountain Boys
sometime during the 1970s. Once he decided what he really wanted to do, Stanley
pursued his dream by practicing and practicing some more, perfecting his guitar playing in the family basement. By 1995, his dream came true when he, too, joined the Clinch Mountain Boys
and his dad on-stage, playing guitar and singing lead vocals. Frequently fans compare his voice to that of his uncle, the late Carter Stanley
. A year after joining the band, Stanley
graduated from high school. He wed in 2000, and he and wife Kristi reside in his hometown of Coeburn, VA.