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archive head spider 2012_March 2012_March_29_1

Another one bites the dust - Earl Scruggs R.I.P....

Earl Scruggs, the Grammy Award-winning musician whose innovative bluegrass banjo work was heard in the theme music to the television sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” died on March 28 at a hospital in Nashville. He was 88.

Earl Eugene Scruggs was born Jan. 6, 1924, in Flint Hill, N.C., a tiny farming community. He was 4 when his father died, leaving Earl and his five siblings to tend a farm with their mother. Everyone in the family played music. 

“I was raised with a banjo and a guitar and an autoharp. I came up at a time - we were poor in the country -when we didn’t have a radio, so everything I did was self-taught.”

Earl and his two brothers taught each other timing by starting a song and then walking in opposite directions as they played. They would do this until they played in time with one another when they regrouped.
In a career spanning six decades, Earl Scruggs helped transform the reputation of the banjo through dynamic playing and public exposure through film, TV, record and radio. His flashy, three-fingered banjo style was a new sound to most audiences when he joined Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys in 1946. 

“When I was about 10 years old, I was just sitting there daydreaming with the banjo in my hand, and all of a sudden I was doing a three-finger roll, which metered out just fine. I played everything that I knew, and I played it so much until I learned little things to add to it myself”. 

His technique expanded the melodic possibilities of the instrument, putting it on equal footing with the fiddle and mandolin. The late 1940s version of the Bluegrass Boys, with Earl, guitarist Lester Flatt and fiddler Chubby Wise is widely regarded as the first group in the bluegrass style - a style built on the group’s vocal harmony and the interplay of Monroe’s mandolin with Scruggs’s banjo. 

In the three year period of 1945 to 1948, the banjo assumed a prominence in Monroe’s music that it had never enjoyed in any previous band, and a ‘bluegrass revolution’ got underway as both fans and musicians became attracted to the music.
In 1948 Lester Flatt and Earl formed Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. Their recordings of the theme to the T.V programme “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” which (1950) heard during the car chases in the 1967 film “Bonnie & Clyde” brought bluegrass to the masses. 

R.I.P, Earl….