Earl Scruggs – Banjo Icon Born Jan 6, 1924!

Earl ScruggsAs I listen to some great banjo picking from Greensky Bluegrass‘ banjo player I’m reminded that I read this morning that on today’s date in 1924 the legendary Earl Scruggs was born. Earl may have  passed away in 2012 but his banjo playing and his spirit that has inspired so many over the years, will continue to live on providing inspiration to  many future generations of banjo pickers.

Michael Bont of Greensky Bluegrass is one of those pickers. From the band’s website: Michael Bont….

 Being one of the founding members of the band he helped shape the sound that has become GSBG. When he picked up the banjo for the first time in 1998 after playing jazz guitar for years, it was clear that he had found an outlet for his musicianship. When you hear him play, it is clear that Bont took the time to study Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck and everything in between over the years. His playing is strong, driving and forceful, yet he also has his own melodic take on the instrument.

Here’s a little more information on Earl Scruggs from Wikipedia –

Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012) was an American musician noted for perfecting and popularizing a three-finger banjo-picking style (now called “Scruggs style”) that is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music. Although other musicians had played in three-finger style before him, Scruggs shot to prominence when he was hired by Bill Monroe to fill the banjo slot in his group, the Blue Grass Boys….

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. Flatt and Scruggs became members of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s.[7] In 1969, they broke up, and he started a new band, the Earl Scruggs Revue, featuring several of his sons. Complete biography

I have two Earl Scruggs albums in my collection one is a best of Flatt & Scruggs album and the other album that is in my music library is The Earl Scruggs Revue album released in 1973. The players on that album included:

Earl Scruggs – banjo and back-up vocals.
Gary Scruggs – electric bass, harmonica, and lead vocal.
Randy Scruggs – electric and acoustic lead guitars, rhythm guitar, and back-up vocals.
Jody Maphis – Drums and back-up vocals.
Josh Graves – dobro, guitar, and lead vocal on “Step It Up and Go”; also back-up vocals.
Jack Lee – keyboards

Not a bad line-up particularly Josh Graves on dobro – one of my favorite tracks on the album was “Step It Up and Go”, which he sang lead on! Another favorite was their version of “Salty  Dog Blues”

Here’s a performance of “Salty Dog” from the ACL concert : Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Part 2: The Bluegrass Sessions. Featuring Bela Fleck, and Earl on banjo and Sam Bush on lead vocals and mandolin! So Happy Birthday  Earl, we wish you could have been here to celebrate it with us!