Earl Scruggs
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who helped profoundly change country music with Bill Monroe in the 1940s and later with guitarist Lester Flatt, has died. He was 88.

Scruggs' son Gary said his father died of natural causes Wednesday morning at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

Earl Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered the modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian's prop — to a lead instrument.

His string-bending and lead runs became known worldwide as "the Scruggs picking style" and the versatility it allowed has helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.

The debut of Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys during a post-World War II performance on The Grand Ole Opry is thought of as the "big bang" moment for bluegrass and later 20th century country music. Later, Flatt and Scruggs teamed as a bluegrass act after leaving Monroe from the late 1940s until breaking up in 1969 in a dispute over whether their music should experiment or stick to tradition. Flatt died in 1979.

They were best known for their 1949 recording "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," played in the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde," and "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" from "The Beverly Hillbillies," the popular TV series that debuted in 1962. Jerry Scoggins did the singing.

After the breakup, Scruggs used three of his sons in The Earl Scruggs Revue. The group played on bills with rock acts like Steppenwolf and James Taylor. Sometimes they played festivals before 40,000 people.

In a July 2010 interview, Scruggs said in the 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."

Scruggs will always be remembered for his willingness to innovate. In "The Big Book of Bluegrass," Scruggs discussed the breakup with Flatt and how his need to experiment drove a rift between them. Later in 1985, he and Flatt were inducted together in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"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."

He said he enjoyed playing because "it calms me down. It makes me satisfied. Sometimes I just need to pick a few tunes."

At an 80th birthday party for Scruggs in January 2004, country great Porter Wagoner said: "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."

In 2005, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" was selected for the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry of works of unusual merit. The following year, the 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," on which Scruggs was one of many famous guest performers, joined the list, too.

Scruggs had been fairly active in the 2000s, returning to a limited touring schedule after frail health in the 1990s. In 1996, Scruggs suffered a heart attack in the recovery room of a hospital shortly after hip-replacement surgery. He also was hospitalized late last year, but seemed in good health during a few appearances with his sons in 2010 and 2011.

In 2001 he released a CD, "Earl Scruggs and Friends," his first album in a decade and an extension of The Earl Scruggs Revue. Over 12 songs, he collaborated with an impressive stable of admirers: Elton John, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Vince Gill, John Fogerty, Don Henley, Johnny Cash and actor Steve Martin, a banjo player, were all featured.

Scruggs, born Jan. 6, 1924, in Flint Hill, N.C., learned to play banjo at age 4. He appeared at age 11 on a radio talent scout show. By age 15, he was playing in bluegrass bands.

"My music came up from the soil of North Carolina," Scruggs said in 1996 when he was honored with a heritage award from his home state.

He and Flatt played together in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, then left to form the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948.

Their popularity grew, and they even became a focal point of the folk music revival on college campuses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Scruggs' wife, Louise, was their manager and was credited with cannily guiding their career as well as boosting interest in country music.

Later, as rock 'n' roll threatened country music's popularity, Flatt and Scruggs became symbols of traditional country music.

In the 1982 interview, Scruggs said "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" broadened the scope of bluegrass and country music "more than anything I can put my finger on. Both were hits in so many countries."

Scruggs also wrote an instructional book, "Earl Scruggs and the Five String Banjo."

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

"I never in my wildest dreams thought of rewards and presentations," he said. "I appreciate those things, especially this one."

Louise Scruggs, his wife of 57 years, died in 2006. He is survived by two sons, Gary and Randy. Gary Scruggs says funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Associated Press writer Joe Edwards contributed to this report.

CHRIS TALBOTT,AP Entertainment Writer


Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Published in The Advertiser on Mar. 28, 2012.
Memories & Condolences
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688 entries
May 11, 2020
God is a God of all Comfort and he will Comfort the family's..My heartfelt condolences to the family's...
March 31, 2020
I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of mr EARL SCRUGGS he was a well known country singer who will sorely be missed may the true God grant him peace
November 30, 2017
You are a "Centerpeice", in the musicians of the world. You have changed many musicians as to how they play the old 5-string. You will never be forgotten...
Gerald W Gay, Waverly, Virginia
Gerald Gay
July 15, 2017
My name is Thomas L. Thacker . Mr scruggs got me playing the banjo. Mr scruggs is the best Banjo player ever. I never got to meet him but will miss him. I grow listening to him and Mr flatt. Rest in Peace MR. Scruggs.
April 7, 2017
When I here earl play it brings peace and joy to my soul,wish I could of met such a humble talented gentleman,dan talbot ,west whately mass
Dan Talbot
March 28, 2017
What a great talent to be missed. It's so difficult to cope especially when we lose someone so talented; who meant so much to family and friends. May the God of all comfort be with you during this period of great loss as future promises awaits us when our mourning will be turned into joy .(Jeremiah 31:13 )
Rossy
October 26, 2016
You gave me great memories since I was a tot. You were the greatest ever. I will miss you and Lester always. Thank you for the memories and I will seek out your music so long as I shall live. There just aint nuthin better.
Rest in peace my friend. I hope to see you both on the other side.
Richard L Miller.
Richard Miller
March 29, 2016
Good man
March 29, 2016
Hi my mom said we was related to you. It's to bad we didn't get to know you.
Christie Wilkins
March 22, 2016
Sure miss you on the Beverly hillbillies.may you rest in peace god bless thanks for all the good music
allen hammond
October 1, 2015
The most imitated musician in American History. A hero of all banjo pickers around the world. I had an opportunity to visit the Earl Scruggs Center in his home town of Shelby, NC this week. All banjo players should visit, wonderful place to see the life of the Great Earl Scruggs.

Elton T. caviness
Elton Caviness
February 12, 2015
Patricia Yvonne
Rest in peace to a wonderful man.
November 27, 2014
Earl was the greatest banjo player in the world. His music will go on forever. Rest in peace and thank you for sharing your talent for the world to enjoy.
david corn
September 11, 2014
You Are Greatly Missed, I Met You Once And Seen You Several Times. You Were My Hero.
Bill Childs
May 30, 2014
This was truly an amazing person with so much talent the loss is clearly ours. Prayers fill our hearts while singing praises to God asking him to let us never forget the love we have for this wonderful person gone from our lives never forgetting the joy we shared experiencing a great talent. Hebrews 6:10.
April 4, 2013
SLIM WILSON AND THE DIXIE DRIFTERS.MAY
YOU REST IN PEACE.THE WHOLE WORLD WILL MISS YOUR GREAT TALENT FOR YEARS TO COME.
October 6, 2012
Terry Sharp , I seen him and lester at my Gym in concord,arkansas when I was 17 years old, They were fund raising funds for building a new masonic lodge there. I am now 66 years old. I will never forget seeing them.
July 17, 2012
ONE OF,NO THE GREATEST BLUE GRASS BANGO PICKERS THAT EVER OPICKED ONE UP, NEVER BE ANOTHER EARL SCRUGGS MASTER OF THE GIBSON,,,HIS MUSIC WILL LIVE ON AN ON,,,,,
JIM HINSON
June 11, 2012
Please accept my sympathy at such a sad time. May you find comfort from God's word recorded at Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 regarding the loss of your loved one.
Olga P.
June 2, 2012
Thomas O'Neill
June 2, 2012
Though I never personally met you, I miss you as a lifelong, dear friend by the music you left behind. I look forward to a day when I might jam with you as I transition to the other side.
Rest easy. . .
thomas O'Neill
May 23, 2012
Just think about all the "beautiful music" Mr. Earl Scruggs has shared with each of us! Let us be "thankful" for all of the good times. My family will truly miss ... THE EARL SCRUGGS! Our prayers are with the Scruggs family.
Patrick O. Clark
May 21, 2012
KATHY AND BUDDY BARNETT
May 12, 2012
We will miss earl scruggs,my mother said they was no man like him my mother is cousin with earl she is 85 years old and had cancer.my mother injoy watching him on tv and playing his song.
doris waters
May 1, 2012
At the end of each life is a legacy of love.. My deepest condolences to the family and friends. As the days and weeks pass and as you return to life routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of God, family and friend James 4:8 Draw close to God and he will draw close to you
l|LIsa Parson
April 27, 2012
God will give you your request.(Psalm 119:76) . . .May your loving-kindness serve, please, to comfort me. . .
FF
April 23, 2012
Earl and Lester were the best bluegrass pickers ever, no one could match Earl picking that banjo! I loved watching them on the beverly hillbillies.
May God give the family the strength and comfort needed in the days ahead!
R.I.P. Earl
Marsha Green
April 20, 2012
When I was a little girl, we visited family in Danville, Virginia. They took us to a huge barn dance, it was on live radio. When we walked in the door, Earl Scruggs said, "Here is someone from home! Welcome Herbert Foster!" And the audience did, it was a llittle embarrasing. As we were watching the dancing, our Mother got gone, we were concerned until we saw her across the dance floor, dancing too. She always enjoyed dancing, so it was fun. I now love and appreciate blue grass music. Had several friends who showed me the talent in it, "Daddy Bob" (Bob Overby, related to Earl Monroe) and Earl Miller (Carolina Ramblers). Peace to family members and friends of an icon in music.
Audrey Bost
April 17, 2012
may the God of peace reside with the families and friends.
maru holmes
April 16, 2012
I grew up listening to Flatt and Scruggs and later to Earl and his sons. You can't hear a banjo and not think of him. What an awesome "picker" Thank you for the memories and God be with all of your family.
Lillian Tripp
April 13, 2012
I play one track back to back to remember EARL. I hear perfect tonality.--Foggy Mountain
Bruno Vadigno
April 12, 2012
i love bluegrass and earl scruggs is an amazing banjo player my dad tries so hard to mirror the style but he doesn't and can't hit it right... so unique!
hailley hendrickson
April 11, 2012
bless you friend
whiskey ridge band
April 11, 2012
My thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Norma Jean Kretschmer
April 10, 2012
My Grandmother was a related to Mr.Earl Scruggs, and I fell in love with Bluegrass, as it knew it was in my blood.
We will dearly miss you and your music.
Mary Green
April 6, 2012
Thanks for everything, Earl!
Rene Marchand
April 6, 2012
Another American Jewel lost. Once again, we are diminished.
Blessed Be to his family.
Steve Bowley
April 5, 2012
My dear deceased father enjoyed your music so much and taught all of our family about bluegrass. What a beautiful sound. My condolences to your family. Oh how much Heavan will enjoy your sweet picking. God Bless
Patricia Kidd
April 5, 2012
One of the best pickers in the country music field. He will be sorely missed by all of the fans.
May God go with you and your's
Clayton Allen
April 4, 2012
You will surely be missed.
PW Lee
April 4, 2012
You music is a very happy part of my life. Thank you!
Nina McGee
April 4, 2012
The use of the word "Icon" has been worked to death in the media, and assigned to people who do not or did not deserve it. Earl Scruggs was a true ICON, in the clearest meaning of the word. He was the first, and probably the last on the 5 string banjo. He is in Heaven, but he will be missed by me and my family. From all appearances, he was a humble caring man, who was the BEST at his craft.
Steve Bennett
April 4, 2012
A true legend .we will miss you
John Grubb
April 4, 2012
will always remeber ur music
Beverly Price
April 4, 2012
Every time I hear a banjo I think of you. I still will. Tom Tolar and all of this Family
April 3, 2012
My Dad brought home a Flatt and Scruggs record when I was nine years old.That was forty nine years ago.I learned to play the banjo sometime later and I would have to say that Earl changed my life forever.I feel like I have lost a member of my family.I'll never forget you.
Joseph Stultz
April 3, 2012
Thank You So Much For Your Love Of Playing Music For The World... The Banjo Was Just Awesome...R.I.P. Mr. Scruggs We Love You From Someone Who Cares... In Kentucky
April 3, 2012
Will be greatly missed
Wilma Hudson
April 3, 2012
Earl Scruggs CD will always be playing in my house, Best of the best.
Andre'
April 3, 2012
Will truly be missed
Michael Smith and family
April 3, 2012
so glad i got to see you play twice
glenda
April 3, 2012
Thanks for the music
LJ
April 3, 2012
joann branson
April 3, 2012
good bye friend
ward shields
April 3, 2012
My sincere condolences to the Scruggs family and dear friends. God will get you through this most difficult time. - Psalm 46:1
April 3, 2012
Great banjo picker. Great music.
Ken Hicks
April 3, 2012
sorry to hear about his death really enjoyes music from beverly hillbillies karen of pgh
karen edmondson
April 3, 2012
it's really a big lost of ,earl, one of the best of bluegrass ledgends,music has changed so much.i really miss the music that i was brought up on,i wish radio would play more of the real music
curtis pugh
April 3, 2012
Missing you...
April 3, 2012
THOUGHTS & PRAYERS ARE WITH ALL HIS FAMILY & FRIENDS. MAY GOD BE WITH ALL THE FAMILY AND COMFORT YOU. THE WORLD HAS LOST A GREAT BLUEGRASS LEGEND. HE WILL BE MISSED BY ALL. GOD BLESS, T & C HENDRIX LOVE FROM THE LONESTAR STATE**TEXAS
T&C HENDRIX
April 3, 2012
Scruggs & Flatt were the best ever!
You were the best and we bluegrass music lovers have lost a true bluegrass legend! Thoughts and Prayers to the family!
Scottie & Karen Underwood
April 3, 2012
There will never be another Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. They were THE BEST EVER. If you were able to stand still while they were playing, your next stop would be the undertaker.
Al Lee
April 3, 2012
Oh my what a true legend in his time awesome Banjo player and everything he played... May god bless your family Earl I know your family is truely heart broken by your loss as all of us your fans are by you passing... Your music I will listen to forever and ever... Earl R.I.P. always from a true fan of your music. Bluegrass music was your gift... From someone who cares!!
April 3, 2012
RIP
April 2, 2012
My Condolences to the Scruggs Family:
may you be comforted by God's Word, the Bible. James 4:8 encourages; "Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you."
April 2, 2012
so sorry to hear of mr.scruggs passing.iloved his music. i'll pray for his family.i loved the chieftains and earl playing together.
dorothy donovan
April 2, 2012
Oh, but to hear him play. I could not control my feet. Earl had complete control. His music will always be in my memory.
Connie Baker
April 2, 2012
I grew up listening to you play your banjo.It is my favorite instrument and I will never forget you and your music.and I am sure God needed you for his band.You will be greatly missed.
Betty DeBerry
April 2, 2012
Earl Scruggs was a Music Icon for sure ,loved his Banjo picking... and he and Lesters Flatts played The Ballad of Jed Clampett was AWESOME !!!!!!!! (:
Janice Howell
April 2, 2012
I love all his country music
Kenneth Wilson
April 2, 2012
I am eternally thankful to Earl for inspiring me to learn the banjo more than 35 years ago and launch a music career that I still enjoy today. May he forever fill heaven with his great banjo music and may God bring comfort to his loved ones. He will be dearly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to experience his great talent.
Dallas Cheked
April 2, 2012
My Dad raised us listening to this wonderful music. Our thoughts and Prayers are with you.
Bobby & Debra Cleveland
April 2, 2012
A great part of country music and Americana!
Condolences to his family.
May he keep on playin' in heaven!
Karen Lambert
April 2, 2012
I grew up listening to Earl Scruggs on radio. Love country music today but it sure has changed from the good ole days. R.I.P. You will be missed
Linda Watts
April 2, 2012
I am so sorry for your loss.
He was the best banjo players. I loved to hear him & Lester Flatt.Your family are in my prayers.
tammy walling
April 2, 2012
that is another famous singer gone but i will pray for the family
nikki mclendon
April 2, 2012
I am sorry for Americas loss and to all those people in this country, who didn't have the joy of listening to Flatt & scruggs play music like no one else has or will ever.
pearl boyd
April 2, 2012
Go with god mr. Scruggs
Elizabeth Carney
April 2, 2012
My condolences to the family of Mr. Scruggs. As the days and weeks pass and as you return to life's routine may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of your family and friends.-Romans 15;4.
Marilynn
April 2, 2012
Awesome Banjo player!!! No one can
compare. He will be sorely missed
at Hardly, Strictly Bluegrass.
My heartfelt sympathy to his family and
friends.
Greta G.
April 2, 2012
Many prayers for your family in this time of sorrow. I had the privalge of seeing him and his band the revue here in Kalispell MT backin the 70's. Just another fan of good traditional country music.
Curtis Schroeder Kalispeel MT.
Curtis Schroeder
April 2, 2012
WE ARE SENDING OUR LOVE,PRAYERS,&CONDOLENCES TO THE SCRUGGS FAMILY,FRIENDS,FANS&AAL WHO KNEW MR. SCRUGGS.
KEN&MARY O'DANIEL
April 2, 2012
I am so sorry for your loss. I will always remember his banjo playing. Mostly the Beverly Hillbillies. Your dad was a wonderful player. I just found out last night watching the CMA AWARDS that he had passed. I was in the hospital when he died. May God Bless You and your family. Sandra Slater-Louisville Ky
April 2, 2012
I am so sorry to hear this, I use to handle Mr. Scruggs auto needs while I was in Nashville at Preston Lincoln Mercury, He would come in and wait on his Lincoln to get service, I talked with him several times over the years, He and Mr. Flatt even played some music in our customer lounge several times, he was a very nice man. So sorry .
Adam "Butch" Hobbs
Adam Hobbs
April 2, 2012
May heartfelt thoughts bring you comfort and loving memories bring you peace.
With Deepest Sympathy

L. Green
April 2, 2012
When I was a country DJ, a cat wandered in the studio. I named him Scruggs!
Mike Jacobs
April 2, 2012
Bob Griffin
April 2, 2012
Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.
Harry Simpson
April 2, 2012
Carl Wells
April 2, 2012
I remember as a child listening to him and Lester Flatt play together on The Grand Ole Opera!!!!! Wonderful memories!!!!
Steve Mason
April 2, 2012
I grew up listening to Earl and Lester , my mother even gave me his name, I know his music is being played in heaven, God be with the family,he's gone to his reward.
Bradley Earl Morton
April 2, 2012
His music will live forever
Susan Bryant
April 2, 2012
Sympathies to the family and fans of Earl. He will be sadly missed. He leaves behind a great legacy in his music.
Garry Luke
April 2, 2012
Earl wiil live on forever,through his music.
James Bach
April 2, 2012
Your God given talent has and will continue to keep me tapping my feet and dancing in my heart and soul.. Betting you are still playing in Heaven. God made an amazing man when you were born. Thanking God for you.
A music lover in Pasadena,Tx Martha Jauregui Rocha
April 1, 2012
He taught me the True definition of music. From his heart and soul to mine. I feel for your loss and please know, I have passed the love of his music onto my children, and now theirs. God Bless
Amy Smith
April 1, 2012
The greatest banjo player ever. He will live on forever through his music. Bless him for the joy he made for music lovers all over the world.
John Kelsey
April 1, 2012
To the Scruggs Family,Sorry for the loss of your loved one.He was loved by many fans. Loretta and Bobby Prior,Jane Wilson,Phyllis Sanderson,Bobby Newman and Wayne Tucker of Florida
Loretta Prior
April 1, 2012
My thoughts and prayers are with the family during this sad time. I saw Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt in concert in Charlotte Court House VA when I was a child in the 1960's. I got both autographs that night and still have them today.

Kathy Jackson
Charlotte Court House, Virginia
April 1, 2012
Rusty Smith
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