Bluegrass Legend, Earl Scruggs, Dies at 88
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Earl Scruggs, a bluegrass legend and pioneer with the banjo, passed away at the age of 88 on Wednesday morning. Gary, Scruggs’ son, said that Earl died of natural causes at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Scruggs used three fingers instead of a clawhammer style to play the banjo, which escalated the banjo from a comedian’s prop to a lead instrument.

Scruggs said back in 2010 during an interview that in his early days, “I played guitar as much as I did the banjo, but for everyday picking I’d go back to the banjo. It just fit what I wanted to hear better than what I could do with the guitar.”


The book titled “The Big Book of Bluegrass,” has Scruggs talking about his breakup with guitarist Lester Flatt.

“It wasn’t a bad feeling toward each other as much as it was that I felt I was depriving myself of something,” Scruggs said. “By that, I mean that I love bluegrass music, and I still like to play it, but I do like to mix in some other music for my own personal satisfaction, because if I don’t, I can get a little bogged down and a little depressed.”

Scruggs said that he had fun playing because “it calms me down. It makes me satisfied. Sometimes I just need to pick a few tunes.”

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Porter Wagoner, a country icon, said the following at an 80th birthday party for Scruggs:

“I always felt like Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be.”

The Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of works of unusual merit selected ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ in 2005. ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken,’ a 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record, was chosen the following year. Scruggs was one of a multitude of famous guest performers on the record.

Scruggs released an album in 2001, his first in a decade, titled ‘Earl Scruggs and Friends.’ There were 12 songs on the album, in which Scruggs collaborated with an unbelievable list of musicians. Those musicians included Dwight Yoakam, Elton John, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, John Fogerty, Melissa Etheridge, Johnny Cash, Don Henley and actor Steve Martin. Martin is a banjo player.

Scruggs was born in Flint Hill, North Carolina on January 6, 1924. He learned how to play the banjo at the age of four and appeared on a radio talent scout show at the age of 11. By the time Scruggs hit 15 he was playing with various bluegrass bands.

Scruggs was given a National Medal of Art in 1992 and said, “I never in my wildest dreams thought of rewards and presentations. I appreciate those things, especially this one.”



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