Bluegrass Pioneer Earl Scruggs Dies at 88
Posted by Michael Mueller on March 29, 2012 at 8:04 AM
One of the true legends of American music has left us. Earl Scruggs, the legendary banjo player who influenced countless bluegrass, country, folk, and even rock musicians, died on Wednesday (3/28) in a Nashville hospital. He was 88.
Scruggs is arguably the most influential banjo picker and bluegrass artist in music history. Working with his long-time guitar-playing partner Lester Flatt in the Foggy Mountain Boys, Scruggs recorded what has become the definitive bluegrass song, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Even many people who've never heard of Earl Scruggs probably heard his work, when he and Flatt recorded "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," the theme song of the 1960s television show "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Scruggs first picked up the banjo at age 4. At age 21, he joined Bill Monroe's (father of bluegrass) band, the Blue Grass Boys, where he met Mr. Flatt. Three years later, Flatt and Scruggs set out on their own, eventually forming the Foggy Mountain Boys. The group soon surpassed Monroe in popularity, and in 1955, they finally joined the Grand Ole Opry. In 1959, the band appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, which further expanded their audience to the youthful folk music revival of the era.
Flatt and Scruggs parted ways in 1969, and Scruggs formed the Earl Scruggs Revue, a mostly acoustic group that also found inspiration from rock and even modern jazz sounds. The group stayed together for the remainder of Scruggs's career, during which time the legend performed at Carnegie Hall and the Wembley Festival in London.
Scruggs is survived by his two sons Gary and Randy, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.