Earl Scruggs, dead at 88

Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 06:54 am
Earl Scruggs, of bluegrass and banjo fame has departed.

Known for a great banjo and guitar playing ability, he had some additional fame brought to him with musical partner (for some 20 years)Lester Flatt(who departed in 1979) in the 1960s with the theme for The Beverly Hillbillies, the title tune being The Ballad of Jed Clampett


And of course Foggy Mountain Breakdown

(Foggy Mountain Breakdown is a personal favorite of mine, I can listen to it repeatedly and still want more)

Earl Scruggs, who died Wednesday at age 88, was the banjo player of his time, right? Right. He defined the sound of a bluegrass band with his banjo style, right? Right. A bluegrass band without a Scruggs-style banjo isn't a bluegrass band, right? It may be a country band, a folk band or some kind of jazz band, but it's not a bluegrass band, is it? Right about that, too.

You'd think transforming the way people worldwide play, perceive and enjoy one instrument would be enough of a contribution for one musician. But with musicians as inspired as Scruggs, peeling back the sparkling outer layer often reveals more glowing layers within.

In Scruggs' case, when you gently peel back the banjo layer of his musical persona, you find a guitar player as impressive as the banjo picker, as well as a gospel singer the equal of any in the finest Southern traditional quartet.

Scruggs' finger-picked guitar, which often came front and center in the Foggy Mountain Boys' religious numbers, was memorably powerful and fluid. Check it out here on this late-'40s Flatt & Scruggs recording of "God Loves His Children." Bluegrass and acoustic musicians love to listen to and study his guitar work, which is easily the equal of his banjo playing in its sheer power, its creative noting and syncopation, rich tone and fluidity.

If you think at times you're hearing a trademark three-finger Scruggs banjo roll on the guitar, you are — it's incredible — while his baritone singing is solid, straightforward, unassuming. "God Loves His Children" serves as audible proof that Scruggs not only had heard traditional church music as a kid in rural North Carolina, but was fully steeped in it. He knew it in his soul.
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 07:18 am
I adored Flatt and Scruggs. Both were absolutely marvellous musicians - did a lot to save some old music and wrote some memorable pieces as well.

I liked how they kept up with changes and recorded with younger musicians. Passed on the tradition and kept things fresh.

Thanks Earl!
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 07:26 am
Thanks for starting this thread Sturgis.

I met Earl in the late 70's when our band opened at various festivals for the Earl Scruggs Review. He had just survived a near fatal plane crash and was barely able to perform.

To add to your npr piece, here's a very astute tribute from country music historian, Rich Kienzle

The video of Earl finger-picking "Jimmy Brown The Newsboy" underscores Scrugg's mastery of the guitar.

Earl Scruggs And The Five String Banjo is the best instruction book I ever used. If you know anyone that wants to learn the banjo that's the one to get.
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 07:57 am
He made me love the banjo. RIP
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 08:13 am
It's the passing of a master.

Joe(not many left now)Nation
Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 08:28 am
@Joe Nation,
there's still steve martin

RIP mr. scruggs
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 08:42 am
I was lucky to have seen him play live once. Great show, great performer. R.I.P Mr. Scruggs, you made the world a better place.
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 09:37 am
OOH I will miss him. I loved the music of Lester Flatt and Earl SCruggs. I especially liked some of thweir "sacred harp" stye of singing whenever they went a capea on one of their sacred hillbilly songs/
A true master

Fortunaltely there is an Earl SCruggs Jr who, at last listening is also quite the virtuoso of the 3 finger method.
Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 09:40 am
Live today on PBS NewsHour: Béla Fleck on the passing of Earl Scruggs. http://bit.ly/newshourlive 6-7 PM ET
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 09:45 am
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Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 10:18 am
May he rest in peace.

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Well the first thing you know ol Jed's a millionaire,
Kinfolk said "Jed move away from there"
Said "Californy is the place you ought to be"
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

Hills, that is. Swimmin pools, movie stars.

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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 30 Mar, 2012 11:48 am

This sounds odd when I say it out loud, but one thing I liked about these two guys is that their names sounded so grounded; so unfancy: so of the people.

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

You just knew they were from the common folk.

Joe(am I nuts?)Nation

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