29 March 2012

Earl Scruggs, 6 Jan. 1924–28 Mar. 2012

Earl Eugene Scruggs, the Father of Bluegrass Banjo, died yesterday, almost three months past his 88th birthday. A memorial service will be held on Sunday 1 April at 2.00 p.m. in the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN. Visitation will be held from 3.00 to 7.00 p.m. on Friday 30 March and Saturday 31 March at Spring Hill Funeral Home, 5110 Gallatin Pike, Nashville. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum or to the Earl Scruggs Center, which is under construction in Earl's home town, Shelby, NC.

Tributes and personal reminiscences from fellow musicians are appearing on Bluegrass Today. Kevin Lynch has written a fine obituary for the European Bluegrass Blog, where you can find links to other published notices of Earl's death and accounts of his life and achievements; don't miss the Nashville Tennessean photo gallery. Colin Henry writes from Belfast:

I think if I had to cite who was the most influential musician in all my years of playing (i.e. who had the most effect on me) it would not be a dobro player, it would be Earl Scruggs. I was completely taken when I heard him for the first time and to this day I still love his playing. They always describe his playing as like a machine gun; what I hear is a melodic flow of notes like a river whitewater, powerful and mesmerising, every note crystal clear. No one plays Scruggs style like the man who created it.

The photos on this post (credit: johnnykeenan.com) were taken at the 3rd Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Longford in 2004, where Earl performed in his first European trip for decades. He is shown below with his wife, Louise, to whom he attributed his success, and with festival organisers Kathy Casey and Chris Keenan.

BIB editor's note: Would bluegrass music exist if it had not been for Earl Scruggs? My answer is yes ('bluegrass music' cannot, for me, be separated from the man who is the reason for its having that name). Would it be the same? Just as emphatically, no. It's not hard to imagine a parallel universe in which Don Reno was rejected for the US Army in 1943 and became the first banjo player in three-finger Carolina style in Bill Monroe's band; but with every respect to Reno's greatness, I believe things turned out for the best in this universe. Earl's playing, in which clarity, coherence, and authority were combined with a buoyant inventiveness that sprang from delight, was the best start that bluegrass banjo could have had.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home