May seem a bit strange that a black urban guy likes Bluegrass – but I come by it honestly. My Dad was a West Virginia “Hillbilly” who listened to Bluegrass every Sunday on the radio when one of the local AM stations did a special show. And I am not ashamed to say that as a kid I enjoyed the hell out of trekking up and down those hills when we went to visit that side of the family – and have been known to take a trip up there when in need of a little solitude and reevaluation.
There are Master Musicians, and when you listen to them – it really doesn’t matter what the style of music is. Earl Scruggs 3 finger down Banjo style that he invented is used now by about 80% of the people who play Banjo.
Here’s an original Earl Scruggs/Lester Flatt piece from the 40’s –
Earl Scruggs remembered by Dierks Bentley, Steve Martin
It may be impossible to overstate the importance of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to American music. A pioneering banjo player who helped create modern country music, his sound is instantly recognizable and as intrinsically wrapped in the tapestry of the genre as Johnny Cash’s baritone or Hank Williams’ heartbreak.
Scruggs died Wednesday morning at age 88 of natural causes. The legacy he helped build with bandleader Bill Monroe, guitarist Lester Flatt and the rest of the Blue Grass Boys was evident all around Nashville, where he died in an area hospital. His string-bending, mind-blowing way of picking helped transform a regional sound into a national passion.
“It’s not just bluegrass, it’s American music,” bluegrass fan-turned-country star Dierks Bentley said. “There’s 17- or 18-year-old kids turning on today’s country music and hearing that banjo and they have no idea where that came from. That sound has probably always been there for them and they don’t realize someone invented that three-finger roll style of playing. You hear it everywhere.”
There was nothing jokey about the way Scruggs attacked his “fancy five-string banjo,” as Opry announcer George D. Hayes called it.
Dave Rawlings, a Nashville singer-songwriter and producer, says Scruggs remains every bit as influential and fresh seven decades later. He said it’s impossible to imagine nearly every guitar player mimicking Jimi Hendrix, but with Scruggs and the banjo, that’s the reality.
“The breadth and clarity of the instrument was increased so much,” he said. “He invented a style that now probably 75 percent of the people that play the banjo in the world play Scruggs-style banjo. And that’s a staggering thing to do, to play an instrument and change what everyone is doing.”
Here is a re-recording of the same song in 2001. Listen to Scruggs intro – “Like ringing a bell!”
The group playing with Scruggs on this one includes –
Earl Scruggs, banjo – Glen Duncan, fiddle – Randy Scruggs, acoustic guitar – Steve Martin, 2nd banjo solo – Vince Gill, 1st electric guitar solo – Marty Stuart, mandolin – Gary Scruggs, harmonica – Albert Lee, 2nd electric guitar solo – Paul Shaffer, piano – Jerry Douglas, dobro – Leon Russell, organ – Glenn Worf, bass – Harry Stinson, drums