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RIP: Earl Scruggs
Old 03-28-2012, 11:40 PM   #1
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RIP: Earl Scruggs

Best known for 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' and the Beverly Hillbilly's theme song. Here's an awesome clip - I new Steve Martin could play, but I didn't realize he was of the caliber to sit in with these guys.

Earl Scruggs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 March 28, 2012[1]) 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. 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.


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Old 03-29-2012, 12:41 AM   #2
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I grew up listening to this music, on AM WCKY, a 50,000 watt station out of Cincinnati. It was heard all over the upper South and Midwest. Here is my favorite of their songs, Wildwood Flower. It has beautiful haunting lyrics too. Many will remember that Joan Baez performed and recorded this one in the 60s.

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Old 03-29-2012, 01:41 AM   #3
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How many times do we recall the music from a movie? Foggy Mountain Breakdown was such a part of "Bonnie and Clyde" that it would be difficult to imagine the movie without the music. So glad Earl had such a long and productive life. RIP indeed.
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Old 03-29-2012, 09:10 AM   #4
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Best known for 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' and the Beverly Hillbilly's theme song.
I think they'd have to be called the "Beverly Mountainfolk" today, or something like that...
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Old 03-29-2012, 09:14 AM   #5
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Here's an awesome clip - I new Steve Martin could play, but I didn't realize he was of the caliber to sit in with these guys.

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Steve Martin combined with modern bluegrass legends-in-the-making the Steep Canyon Rangers together won the IBMA Entertainer Of The Year award for the most recent year.

RIP Mr. Scruggs.
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Old 03-29-2012, 10:00 AM   #6
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Here is my favorite of their songs, Wildwood Flower. It has beautiful haunting lyrics too.
Very nice. Good to hear him play something sweet and subtle like that too, showing he can do the lightening fast 'flash' and also tender songs - a true artist.

Here's another FMB from 1965. Smaller band so I think you can hear each artist a bit better in this one compared to the 'big band' one I posted earlier. Love the dobro playing.



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Old 03-29-2012, 11:34 AM   #7
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Very nice. Good to hear him play something sweet and subtle like that too, showing he can do the lightening fast 'flash' and also tender songs - a true artist.

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You realize he's playing the guitar, not the banjo, on the Wildwood Flower cut, right?

Earl played guitar in the Maybelle Carter style. His banjo style, where he came to fame, was his own. A three finger style eventually named after Scruggs, moved the banjo from a rythm instrument to a lead instrument in Blue Grass music.

With Bill Monroe's passing a few years ago, Scrugg's death leaves really only Ralph Stanley remaining from the roots of Blue Grass. Ralph played at our local junior college this past weekend. Unfortunately, I was attending a Blue Grass festival in another town and had to pick between the two.
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Old 03-29-2012, 12:05 PM   #8
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With Bill Monroe's passing a few years ago, Scrugg's death leaves really only Ralph Stanley remaining from the roots of Blue Grass. Ralph played at our local junior college this past weekend. Unfortunately, I was attending a Blue Grass festival in another town and had to pick between the two.
Remember The Stanley Brothers' "Mother's Not Dead, She Is Only A Sleeping, Patiently Waiting For Jesus To Come...? I adored it, and had it on an old LP in college, but I cannot find it on U-Tube to post.
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Old 03-29-2012, 12:06 PM   #9
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You realize he's playing the guitar, not the banjo, on the Wildwood Flower cut, right?.
I do now!

But I imagine that Earl was fully capable of playing a variety of styles on banjo also. At any rate, really fine playing.


The 'jaw harp' section really jolted me - you don't hear that often. Sounded a bit like a Digideroo or Tuvan throat singing.

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Old 03-29-2012, 12:23 PM   #10
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I do now!

But I imagine that Earl was fully capable of playing a variety of styles on banjo also.
DW and I saw the original Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1964 or 1965 at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. Still have the ticket stubs. During that concert, Earl played a Carter Family tune claw hammer style so, yes, he could do more than three finger pick. But his Blue Grass work was overwhelmingly three finger picking (or Scruggs Picking as it came to be called). He also invented "Scruggs Pegs," now a common feature on high tier five string resonator banjos.
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The 'jaw harp' section really jolted me - you don't hear that often. Sounded a bit like a Digideroo or Tuvan throat singing.
Yeah, back in the day lots of those groups threw in gimmicks (jaw harp, spoons, jug, harmonica, wash board, wash tub bass, etc.) for humor and entertainment value. But I'm a bit of a purist and at festivals tend to stick with traditional groups featuring banjo, guitar, dobro, fiddle, madolin and bass in various combinations. Although, this past weekend, a group from Wisconsin (Art Stevenson) featured some harmonica playing which worked and I enjoyed.
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Old 03-29-2012, 12:37 PM   #11
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Ahhhh yes, rest in peace Mr. Scruggs...

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Old 03-29-2012, 12:45 PM   #12
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One of the rare performances where Earl sings. Lester Flatt, dead since the 70's I think, was the lead singer with the Foggy Mountain Boys but on rare occasion Earl would add a bit of harmony. Most of the time though, he stuck to the banjo. Actually, he rarely even spoke on stage.

Thanks for posting that.
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Old 03-29-2012, 12:55 PM   #13
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NPR commented on Earl's life this morning. He worked in a North Carolina mill for $0.40 an hour, then he was offered $50 a week to do a radio show. Earl said it was an easy decision to leave the mill...
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Old 03-29-2012, 01:02 PM   #14
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NPR commented on Earl's life this morning. He worked in a North Carolina mill for $0.40 an hour, then he was offered $50 a week to do a radio show. Earl said it was an easy decision to leave the mill...
Yeah, quite a raise percentage wise......

Actually, the $50 salary was for working with Bill Monroe as a member of the "Blue Grass Boys." Despite the seemingly high pay rate of $50/week, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt eventually left the group because they considered the extensive traveling and heavy work load intolerable. They left independently but later got together and formed the "Foggy Mountain Boys." As the business owners, suddenly the work and traveling became more acceptable.

Kind of reminds me of some of the career stories here on the FIRE Forum!
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Old 03-29-2012, 07:42 PM   #15
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Culture Desk: The Master from Flint Hill: Earl Scruggs : The New Yorker
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