Earl Scruggs (1924-2012)
The banjo man who co-wrote the instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” cannot be credited with inventing bluegrass music. That prize goes to the late mandolinist and singer of the "high lonesome sound" by the name of Bill Monroe. But Scruggs can be thanked in large part for bringing it to mainstream audiences, if only for his cameo appearances on "The Beverly Hillbillies" in the early 1960s, after having written its theme song, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." And while other banjoists in the southern mountains played in a three-finger style, it was Scruggs who gave it a new complexity, one which helped define the signature of the bluegrass sound.
After joining with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys in 1945, he left in 1948 with guitarist Lester Flatt to form "The Foggy Mountain Boys," later known simply as "Flatt and Scruggs." Unlike many folk musicians, Scruggs remained conspicuously non-political. And unlike other country musicians of the old school, Scruggs spent a lifetime redefining himself to successive generations of enthusiasts.
Earl Scruggs died on Wednesday morning of natural causes. He was 88 years old.