Home Arts & Culture Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo musician, has died at 88

Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo musician, has died at 88


Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo player who is credited with helping create modern country music, has died in Nashville aged 88.

Earl Scruggs died of natural causes at a Nashville hospital on Wednesday, his son Gary said.

The musician was known for his unique banjo playing technique, which involved just three fingers. It later became known as “the Scruggs picking style”.

Earl Scruggs’ innovative method can be heard on the theme tune to the 1962 series The Beverly Hillbillies.

He rose to the fame when Bill Monroe hired him to play in the Blue Grass Boys, one of the defining groups in the bluegrass musical genre.

Hollywood actor and fellow banjo player Steve Martin previously paid tribute to Earl Scruggs in the New Yorker newspaper.

“When the singer came to the end of a phrase, he filled the theatre with sparkling runs of notes that became a signature for all bluegrass music since,” Steve Martin said.

“A grand part of American music owes a debt to Earl Scruggs. Few players have changed the way we hear an instrument the way Earl has, putting him in a category with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, and Jimi Hendrix.”

Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo player who is credited with helping create modern country music, has died in Nashville aged 88

Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo player who is credited with helping create modern country music, has died in Nashville aged 88

Earl Scruggs later teamed up with Lester Flatt to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, also known as Flatt and Scruggs.

One of their most well known records included Foggy Mountain Breakdown, which featured in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde.

It was their recording of The Ballad of Jed Clampett that was used in The Beverly Hillbillies.

They eventually disbanded, and a rift grew between the two musicians, although they were inducted together in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

Earl Scruggs went on to form a group with his three sons in The Earl Scruggs Revue, playing alongside rock acts such as Steppenwolf and James Taylor.

In 1992, Earl Scruggs was among 13 recipients of a National Medal of Art.

Speaking at the time, Earl Scruggs said: “I never in my wildest dreams thought of rewards and presentations. I appreciate those things, especially this one.”

In 2001, Earl Scruggs released his first album in a decade, Earl Scruggs and Friends, featuring collaborations with other artists including Sir Elton John, Dwight Yoakam, Sting and Melissa Etheridge.

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Sonia is the heart and the artist of the team. She loves art and all that it implies. As Sonia says, good music, a well directed movie, or attending a music or film festival melts people’s heart and make them better. She is great at painting and photography. Working on scrapbooks is her favorite activity.