RIP Earl

From the NY Times

Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt probably reached their widest audiences with a pair of signature songs: “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which they recorded in 1949 with their group the Foggy Mountain Boys, and which was used as the getaway music in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde”; and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song of the 1960s television sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” (Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt also appeared on the show at times.)

But he also helped shape the “high, lonesome sound” of Bill Monroe, often called the father of bluegrass, and pioneered the modern banjo sound. His innovative use of three fingers rather than the claw-hammer style elevated the five-string banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian’s prop — to a lead or solo instrument. What became known as the syncopated Scruggs picking style helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.

Mr. Scruggs, who had played banjo since the age of 4, got his big break when he joined Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys, in 1945. The band included Monroe, who sang and played the mandolin; Mr. Flatt on guitar; Howard Watts (a k a Cedric Rainwater) on bass; and Chubby Wise on fiddle.

Comments

  1. Joshua Sanders says:

    Porter Wagoner, on Earl Scruggs: “Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball.”

  2. Its also interesting, when you look at the video, that Earl is looking directly at the camera while burning up that banjo… Very few players have that ability (James Taylor comes to mind) but he is engaging his audience while playing these incredibly complex parts.

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