About Earl Eugene Scruggs
Earl Eugene Scruggs (born January 6, 1924) is an American musician noted for perfecting and popularizing a 3-finger banjo-picking style (now called Scruggs style) that is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music. Although other musicians had played in 3-finger style before him, Scruggs shot to prominence when he was hired by Bill Monroe to fill the banjo slot in the "Blue Grass Boys".
Scruggs was born in Scottville, North Carolina (formerly Flint Hill), to Georgia Lula Ruppe and George Elam Scruggs. He grew up in Cleveland County, North Carolina.
Scruggs joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in late 1945, and quickly popularized his syncopated, three-finger picking style. In 1948 Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt left Monroe's band and formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, also later known simply as Flatt and Scruggs. In 1969, they broke up, and he started a new band, the Earl Scruggs Revue, featuring several of his sons.
On September 24, 1962 singer Jerry Scoggins, and Lester Flatt and Scruggs recorded "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" for the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies which was released October 12, 1962. The theme song became an immediate country music hit and was played at the beginning and end of each episode. Flatt and Scruggs appeared in several episodes as family friends of the Clampetts in the following years. In their first appearance, season 1 episode 20, they portray themselves in the show and perform both the theme song and "Pearl Pearl Pearl".
On October 15, 1969, Scuggs played his grammy-winning "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on an open-air stage in Washington, D. C., at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, becoming one of the very few bluegrass or country-western artists to give support to the anti-war movement. In an interview after his performance, Scruggs said:
I think the people in the South is just as concerned as the people that's walkin' the streets here today . . . . I'm sincere about bringing our boys back home. I'm disgusted and in sorrow about the boys we've lost over there. And if I could see a good reason to continue, I wouldn't be here today.
Awards and honors
Flatt and Scruggs won a Grammy Award in 1969 for Scruggs' instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." They were inducted together into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1989, Scruggs was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship. He was an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991. In 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 1994, Scruggs teamed up with Randy Scruggs and Doc Watson to contribute the song "Keep on the Sunny Side" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization.
In 2002 Scruggs won a second Grammy award for the 2001 recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", which featured artists such as Steve Martin on 2nd banjo solo (Martin played the banjo tune on his 1970s stand-up comic acts), Vince Gill and Albert Lee on electric guitar solos, Paul Shaffer on piano, Leon Russell on organ, and Marty Stuart on mandolin. The album, Earl Scruggs and Friends, also featured artists such as John Fogerty, Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Travis Tritt, and Billy Bob Thornton.
On February 13, 2003, Scruggs received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, he and Flatt were ranked #24 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.
Scruggs' wife and manager, Louise, died on February 2, 2006, aged 78, at Nashville's Baptist Hospital following a lengthy illness.
On September 13, 2006, Scruggs was honored at Turner Field in Atlanta as part of the pre-game show for an Atlanta Braves home game. Organizers (Banjo.com) set a world record for the most banjo players (239) playing one tune together (Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"). On February 10, 2008, Scruggs was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.
Bela Fleck named Earl Scruggs among his influences and has stated that Scruggs is "certainly the best" banjo player of the three-finger style.