30 March 2012

Earl Scruggs (1924-2012)

One of the advantages of having lived in Kentucky for ten years is that I gained an appreciation for bluegrass music. This week a lot of memorials are being posted to mark the passing of the legendary Earl Scruggs.  Instead of posting the usual "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," I've selected an earlier performance at the Grand Old Opry, in his classic pairing with Lester Flatt.

Here are a few biographical notes from AP, via the StarTribune:
"I just didn't know if or how well I'd be accepted because there'd never been anybody to play banjo like me here. There was Stringbean and Grandpa Jones. Most of them were comedians."

There was nothing jokey about the way Scruggs attacked his "fancy five-string banjo," as Opry announcer George D. Hayes called it. In a [1945] performance broadcast to much of the country but unfortunately lost to history, he scorched the earth and instantly changed country music. With Monroe on mandolin and Flatt on guitar, the pace was a real jolt to attendees and radio listeners far away, and in some ways the speed and volume he laid down predicted the power of electric music...

Scruggs' use of three fingers — in place of the limited clawhammer style once prevalent — elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or even a comedian's prop — to a lead instrument that was as versatile as the guitar and far more flashy...

"He invented a style that now probably 75 percent of the people that play the banjo in the world play Scruggs-style banjo. And that's a staggering thing to do, to play an instrument and change what everyone is doing."

1 comment:

  1. You bake right with Martha white, I woke to this every morning through my school days.


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