Thursday, March 29, 2012

Earl Scruggs Dies At 88

I once met this man at The Capital Music Hall in Wheeling, WV. My grandfather, who took me to see him, always had the greatest respect for Flatt and Scruggs. He was a character to say the least, and his exploits were not always for the PC crowd to be polite about it. I knew several of the old timers who played there and they could regale you with some stories that would curl the hair of some of the most worldly men among us. May he rest in peace and the Good Lord keep him...Or may he get to hell 10 minutes before the Devil knows he's dead.

Bill Monroe, the man widely acknowledged as the father of bluegrass music, was in search of a new banjo player for his famed Blue Grass Boys when a young musician turned up backstage at Nashville's celebrated Ryman Auditorium during a 1945 Grand Ole Opry radio broadcast, hoping to audition.

Once Monroe and his guitarist, Lester Flatt, heard the sparks fly from 21-year-old Earl Scruggs' instrument, the bandleader asked Flatt what he thought. "If you can, hire him," Flatt told Monroe, "whatever the cost."

Upon joining Monroe's band, Scruggs solidified a lineup that came to define bluegrass, a rural strain of country music typified by the "high lonesome sound" of tight vocal harmonies and frequently peppered with fleet instrumental interplay among guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and string bass, while wholeheartedly adopting the precepts of solo improvisation and collective empathy of jazz.

Scruggs, who died Wednesday in Nashville at 88 of natural causes, according to his son Gary, brought a distinctive three-finger playing style that became the musical touchstone for thousands of instrumentalists who followed in his wake — among them actor, comedian and banjo player Steve Martin — and helped popularize the banjo far beyond its traditional home in Southern regional music...Read More

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