Why Earl Scruggs Matters To Me + His Five Best Songs

View Comments
Michael Buckner - Getty images

Michael Buckner - Getty images

He died last week at age 88.  [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Earl Scruggs[/lastfm], along with[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Lester Flatt[/lastfm], recorded one of my five favorite live albums of all time: [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Flatt and Scruggs[/lastfm] at Carnige Hall.  The other four are [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]James Brown[/lastfm] Live At The Apollo Volume 2, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Nat King Cole[/lastfm] Live At The Sands, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Ventures[/lastfm] On Stage (which really wasn’t a live album) [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Otis Redding [/lastfm]Live In Europe.  At first glance they may seem miles apart musically.

They all share a passion for the music they’re playing.  All of the four artists were recorded at the peak of their abilities in unforgettable live performances.  In the case of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Flatt and Scruggs[/lastfm], how many ‘bluegrass’ groups would have filled New York’s Carnige Hall in 1962?

For me, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Earl Scruggs[/lastfm] means as much to the banjo as [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Les Paul[/lastfm] did to the guitar.  Instead of ‘claw strumming’ the banjo, He came up with a three finger picking style that every banjo player has emulated at one time or another.  he developed the ‘Scruggs keys’ which allowed bending of the strings while playing.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I learned to play guitar listening to[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Peter Paul and Mary[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Ventures[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Beatles[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Kingston Trio[/lastfm], and[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Flatt and Scruggs[/lastfm].  With another buddy Cary Lawson), we learned and played together.  Occasionally we would join up with a third friend (Jerry Estes) who had mastered the Scruggs style of picking, and we’d sit there for hours wondering how in the world he did it.  As good as our pal was, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Earl Scruggs[/lastfm] was the architect and master.

Best known for The Beverly Hillbillies Theme (The Ballad of Jed Clampett) and Foggy Mountain Breakdown which was used in the Bonnie and Clyde movie, there was so much more to Earl Scruggs.  This post is just my long-winded way of saying thanks Earl.  Thanks for giving me the inspiration to keep picking (poorly) through the years.  Thanks for all the joy your music brought and continues to bring to me and my friends.  I never met you, but you affected my life in so many positive ways.  For that I’m grateful.

And if you ever run across that Carnige Hall Album on vinyl or CD, take a listen.  It may just inspire you too.

Here’s a link to Earl Scruggs web page, including a message form his family.

And here are 5 of my [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Earl Scruggs[/lastfm] Favorites.

The Ballad Of Jed Clampett

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 362 other followers