I just found out that Earl Scruggs, bluegrass banjoist extraordinaire, died on March 28 at the age of 88. If you know country music, you’ll know him. Even if you’re not a country fan, you might still know of Scruggs for his famous rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (for which he won a Grammy; hear the original version here) or his composition of the “Ballad of Jed Clampett” for the execrable television show The Beverly Hilbillies.
Scruggs had a distinguished career, beginning with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, leaving it to join guitarist Lester Flatt (for which Monroe never forgave him), and later becoming quite innovative for a bluegrass musician, collaborating with folk and rock musicians like Joan Baez and the Byrds. (I previously put up a wonderful clip of him playing in a pickup session with Joan Baez).
Scruggs’ style of three-finger picking influenced banjo players everywhere. Here are two clips from the old days. I love how he bends the notes in the first clip by adjusting the tuning pegs:
With Lester Flatt, “Roll in my sweet baby’s arms”: