Earl Scruggs

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Earl Scruggs
Earl Scruggs 2005.JPG
Earl Scruggs in 2005.
Background information
Birth name Earl Eugene Scruggs
Born (1924-01-06)January 6, 1924
Cleveland County, North Carolina--Flint Hill community near Boiling Springs, NC,[1] U.S.
Origin Shelby, North Carolina, United States
Died March 28, 2012(2012-03-28) (aged 88)
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Genres Bluegrass, country, gospel
Occupations Bluegrass artist
Instruments 5-string banjo, guitar
Years active 1945–2012
Labels MCA Nashville Records
Associated acts Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Flatt and Scruggs, Earl Scruggs Revue
Website earlscruggs.com
Notable instruments
A 1934 Gibson Granada previously owned by Don Reno and Snuffy Jenkins, and "Nellie", a 1935 Gibson RB-3 flathead[2][3]

Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012) was an American musician noted for perfecting and popularizing a three-finger banjo-picking style (now called "Scruggs style") that is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music.[4]

Although other musicians had played in three-finger style before him, Scruggs shot to prominence when he was hired by Bill Monroe to fill the banjo slot in his group, The Blue Grass Boys. He later reached a mainstream audience through his performance of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett", the theme for the network television hit The Beverly Hillbillies, in the early 1960s.

Early life[edit]

Scruggs was born and grew up in the Flint Hill community[1] in Cleveland County, North Carolina,[5] to Georgia Lula Ruppe and George Elam Scruggs, a farmer and bookkeeper, who played banjo and died when Scruggs was four years old. His older brothers, Junie and Horace, plus his two older sisters, Eula Mae and Ruby, all played banjo and guitar. Scruggs' mother played the organ.[5][6]

Career[edit]

Scruggs joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in late 1945, and quickly popularized his syncopated, three-finger picking style. In 1948 Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt left Monroe's band and formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, also later known simply as Flatt and Scruggs. Flatt and Scruggs became members of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s.[7] In 1969, they broke up, and he started a new band, the Earl Scruggs Revue, featuring two of his three sons.

On September 24, 1962, singer Jerry Scoggins, Lester Flatt, and Scruggs recorded "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" for the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, which was released October 12, 1962. The theme song became an immediate country music hit and was played at the beginning and end of each episode. Flatt and Scruggs appeared in several episodes as family friends of the Clampetts in the following years. In their first appearance (season 1 episode 20), they portray themselves in the show and perform both the theme song and "Pearl, Pearl, Pearl".

On November 15, 1969, Scruggs played his Grammy-winning "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on an open-air stage in Washington, D.C., at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, becoming one of the very few bluegrass or country-western artists to give support to the anti-war movement.[8] In an interview after his performance, Scruggs said:[9]

I think the people in the South is just as concerned as the people that's walkin' the streets here today ... I'm sincere about bringing our boys back home. I'm disgusted and in sorrow about the boys we've lost over there. And if I could see a good reason to continue, I wouldn't be here today.

In January 1973, a tribute concert was held for Scruggs in Manhattan, Kansas. Among the artists playing were Joan Baez, David Bromberg, The Byrds, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Doc and Merle Watson. The concert was filmed and turned into the 1975 documentary film Banjoman.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Flatt and Scruggs won a Grammy Award in 1969 for Scruggs' instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". They were inducted together into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1989, Scruggs was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship. He was an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991. In 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 1994, Scruggs teamed up with Randy Scruggs and Doc Watson to contribute the song "Keep on the Sunny Side" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization. In 2002 Scruggs won a second Grammy award for the 2001 recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", which featured artists such as Steve Martin on 2nd banjo solo (Martin played the banjo tune on his 1970s stand-up comic acts), Vince Gill and Albert Lee on electric guitar solos, Paul Shaffer on piano, Leon Russell on organ, and Marty Stuart on mandolin. The album, Earl Scruggs and Friends, also featured artists such as John Fogerty, Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Travis Tritt, and Billy Bob Thornton.[11] It includes the song 'Passin' Thru', written by Johnny Cash and Randy Scruggs, with the refrain 'It's a mighty world we live in but the truth is we're only passin' thru'.[12]

On February 13, 2003, Scruggs received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, he and Flatt were ranked No. 24 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.

Still actively touring at age 80, Scruggs performed at the Toronto, Ontario, Bluesfest in 2004.[13]

On September 13, 2006, Scruggs was honored at Turner Field in Atlanta as part of the pre-game show for an Atlanta Braves home game. Organizers set a world record for the most banjo players (239) playing one tune together (Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"). On February 10, 2008, Scruggs was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.

Scruggs was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Scruggs' wife and manager, Louise, died on February 2, 2006, aged 78, at Nashville's Baptist Hospital following a lengthy illness.[15]

He is the father of Randy Scruggs, Gary Scruggs and Steve Scruggs.

Death and funeral[edit]

Scruggs died from natural causes on the morning of March 28, 2012, in a Nashville hospital.[16][17][18] His funeral was held on Sunday, April 1, 2012, at the Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, at 2pm, and was open to the public. He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in a private service.

Legacy[edit]

At an 80th birthday party for Scruggs in 2004, country singer Porter Wagoner said, “Earl is to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was”, Wagoner said, “and the best there ever will be.”[19]

The Earl Scruggs Center[edit]

The Earl Scruggs Center--Music & Stories from the American South opened January 11, 2014, in the historic court square of Cleveland County, in uptown Shelby, North Carolina. The Scruggs Center showcases the history and cultural traditions of the American South, and the unique musical contributions of Earl Scruggs, the region’s most pre-eminent ambassador of music. Envisioned as a cornerstone for regional, cultural, and economic development, the Center serves as a cultural crossroads for visitors, students, and residents.

The Earl Scruggs Center explores Mr. Scruggs’ innovative career and the community that helped shape it, while celebrating how he crossed musical boundaries and defined the voice of the banjo to the world. For more information: http://www.earlscruggscenter.org

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US US Heat US Bluegrass
1967 Strictly Instrumental (with Lester Flatt and Doc Watson)
1967 5 String Banjo Instruction Album
1968 The Story of Bonnie and Clyde (with Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys)[20]
1969 Changin' Times
1970 Nashville Airplane
1972 I Saw the Light with Some Help from My Friends
Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends
Live at Kansas State 20 204
1973 Rockin' 'Cross the Country 46
Dueling Banjos 202
The Earl Scruggs Revue 169
1975 Anniversary Special 104
1976 The Earl Scruggs Revue 2 161
Family Portrait 49
1977 Live from Austin City Limits 49
Strike Anywhere
1978 Bold & New 50
1979 Today & Forever
1982 Storyteller and the Banjo Man (with Tom T. Hall)
Flatt & Scruggs
1983 Top of the World
1984 Superjammin'
1998 Artist's Choice: The Best Tracks (1970–1980)
2001 Earl Scruggs and Friends 39 33 14
2002 Classic Bluegrass Live: 1959-1966
2003 Three Pickers (with Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs) 24 179 2
2004 The Essential Earl Scruggs
2005 Live with Donnie Allen and Friends
2007 Lifetimes: Lewis, Scruggs, and Long

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1970 "Nashville Skyline Rag" 74 Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends
1979 "I Sure Could Use the Feeling" 30 41 Single only
"Play Me No Sad Songs" 82 66 Today & Forever
1980 "Blue Moon of Kentucky" 46
1982 "There Ain't No Country Music on This Jukebox"
(with Tom T. Hall)
77 Storyteller and the Banjo Man
"Song of the South" (with Tom T. Hall) 72

Guest singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Chart Positions Album
US Country
1998 "Same Old Train" Various Artists 59 Tribute to Tradition

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1992 "The Dirt Road" (with Sawyer Brown) Michael Salomon
2001 "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" (Earl Scruggs and Friends) Gerry Wenner

DVDs[edit]

  • Earl Scruggs – His Family and Friends (2005)
    (Recorded 1969. Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Bill Monroe, Joan Baez et al.)
  • Private Sessions (2005)
  • The Bluegrass Legend (2006)

Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs

  • The Three Pickers (2003)

Flatt and Scruggs

  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 1 (2007)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 2 (2007)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 3 (2007)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 4 (2007)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 5 (2008)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 6 (2008)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 7 (2009)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 8 (2009)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 9 (2010)
  • The Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show Vol 10 (2010)

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Earl Scruggs". Telegraph. 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  2. ^ "Gibson Banjos 1925 and Later, # 9584-3". Pre-War Gibson Banjo Serial Number Listing. Banjophiles.org. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  3. ^ Cushman, Charlie (2009-03-13). "Scruggs/Reno 1935 RB-3". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  4. ^ Trischka, Tony, "Earl Scruggs", Banjo Song Book, Oak Publications, 1977
  5. ^ a b "Earl Scruggs Biography". Earlscruggs.com. Retrieved March 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. "Ancestry of Earl Scruggs". William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  7. ^ "Opry Timeline - 1950s". Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Earl Scruggs Performs At Anti War Demonstration". Youtube.com. July 13, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ Garfinkle, Adam. ''Telltale Hearts: The Origins and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement''. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. Books.google.com. 1991-01-26. Retrieved 2012-03-29. 
  10. ^ "IMDb: Banjoman". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  11. ^ Earl Scruggs and Friends (MCA Nashville, 2001)
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ }It's Banjos meet crunk at Bluesfest", The Toronto Star, 23 June 2004
  14. ^ "2009 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Music Industry Pioneer Louise Scruggs Dies". CMT.com. 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  16. ^ Associated Press. "Son: Bluegrass legend, banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs dies in Nashville at age 88; changed music". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2012. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Bluegrass, banjo legend Earl Scruggs dies at 88". The Birmingham News. Associated Press. March 28, 2012. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  18. ^ Wilson, David (March 28, 2012). "Earl Scruggs, Banjoist Who Invented 'Scruggs Style,' Dies at 88". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  19. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (March 29, 2012). "Earl Scruggs, Bluegrass Pioneer, Dies at 88". NYTimes.com. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Nashville Scene". Billboard Magazine (Nielsen Business Media) 80 (22): 43. June 1, 1968. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved November 24, 2009. 

References[edit]

  • Rosenberg, Neil V. (1998). "Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 173–4.

External links[edit]