Earl Scruggs

In the NYT on the 29th, an obituary by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt:

Earl Scruggs, Bluegrass Pioneer, Dies at 88

Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of musicians and helped shape the sound of 20th-century country music with his guitar-strumming partner, Lester Flatt, died on Wednesday in a Nashville hospital.

Some details:

Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt probably reached their widest audiences with a pair of signature songs: “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” a rollicking number that they recorded in 1949 with their group the Foggy Mountain Boys and that 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.”

But he also helped shape the “high, lonesome sound” of Bill Monroe, often called the father of bluegrass, and pioneered modern banjo playing. His innovative use of three fingers in an up-picking style, rather than the mostly two-fingered claw-hammer down-picking technique, 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.

In addition to playing the banjo and singing, Scruggs was also an accomplished guitarist. And he played for audiences for almost 70 years.

There are audio clips for three songs on the NYT site: “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, “Baby Blue Eyes”, and “Pain in My Heart”.


One Response to “Earl Scruggs”

  1. the ridger Says:

    He was a true innovator, a genius in fact. He’ll be sorely missed.

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