Earl Scruggs: Bluegrass Legend

by James Burkinshaw 

Earl Scruggs, bluegrass legend, died on Wednesday, 28th March, aged 88. Accompanied by his partner Lester Flatt on guitar, Scruggs played the banjo with a frantic intensity that helped define bluegrass music. Flatt and Scruggs reached their widest audience with "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", best known as the "getaway" music in the movie "Bonnie and Clyde" (see video above), but other classics included "Old Salty Dog Blues (see video below).
He started his career with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, in the 1940s, but, tired of the low pay, Scruggs and Lester Flatt soon decided to strike out on their own. Angry and hurt, Monroe refused to speak to them for the next 20 years, a feud that became famous in country-music history. Flatt and Scruggs formed "The Foggy Mountain Boys", eventually overtaking "The Bluegrass Boys" in popularity. Scruggs was respected and  revered by musicians far beyond bluegrass and country music, including Elvis, Bob Dylan and The Byrds.

He was one of the last exponents of the "high lonesome" musical tradition born in the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains. With him passes an entire era of American music.

"Old Salty Dog Blues":

See, also, a tribute to the gospel singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and to country singer, George Jones.