Thursday, March 29, 2012

Country Music Hall of Famer Earl Scruggs Passes Away at 88

Earl Scruggs, one of the most influential instrumentalists and figures in bluegrass music, has died in Nashville at the age of 88. Scruggs developed a unique three-finger picking style that revolutionized banjo playing- copied by many- and was crucial to the development of bluegrass and country music.

Scruggs was best known historically for his work with guitarist Lester Flatt.  But it was his start in the band of the bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe in 1945 that set his life course. Flatt was also a member of Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, but the pair left in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, later changing the name to simply Flatt and Scruggs. The pair played together for 21 years until 1969. Monroe was so furious at their departure from his band that he refused to speak to them for 20 years.

Scruggs's best known tune, recorded with Flatt, was Foggy Mountain Breakdown, which was recorded in 1949 and used as the getaway music in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Scruggs performed the song in 1969 at a rally against the Vietnam war, making him one of the few major country stars to support the anti-war cause. His involvement with the counterculture – he recorded Bob Dylan songs and appeared on bills with the likes of Steppenwolf – was one of the causes of his split with Flatt, who feared the duo's older fans would be alienated by the shift in emphasis.

"He was one of the first and the best three-finger banjo player," Scruggs's fellow banjo legend Ralph Stanley said in a statement last night. "He did more for the five-string banjo than anyone I know."

Flatt and Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

1 comment: