Bluegrass pioneer and legendary fleet-fingered banjo virtuoso Earl Scruggs died yesterday morning of natural causes in a Nashville hospital yesterday, as Entertainment Weekly reports. He was 88.
The North Carolina-born Scruggs joined the Blue Grass Boys, the group led by bluegrass originator Bill Monroe, in 1945. His freewheeling three-fingered banjo style was something entirely new to the genre, as he essentially invented the way every bluegrass devotee would play the instrument in the decades that followed. He’d play the Grand Ole Opry with Monroe, but he and guitarist Lester Flatt left the group in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, otherwise known as Flatt And Scruggs.
Flatt And Scruggs are probably best known for the brain-shattering instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” notoriously used as getaway-chase music in the movie Bonnie And Clyde. They also recorded the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies. They split up in 1969, the same year Scruggs became one of the few trad-country musicians to speak out against the Vietnam War. Scruggs went on to form a new group called the Earl Scruggs Revue with some of his sons, and he continued to record and perform into this decade.
Below, watch Flatt And Scruggs performing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” It is a minute and a half well-spent.