Paganini of the Banjo: Remembering Earl Scruggs
Scruggs revolutionized string bands and bluegrass music by developing the three-finger banjo picking style and launching the instrument past its traditional use in comedy acts into a prominent musical role. Growing up in the infamous Piedmont region of North Carolina, he supposed started playing banjo at age four and started working on his signature three-finger rolls by age 10. Bill Monroe asked him to join his Blue Grass Boys in 1945 and Scruggs quickly rose in notoriety and left with band mate, Lester Flatt, to form their own group, the Foggy Mountain Boys, a few years later. Even after splitting with Flatt, Scruggs continued to play with his sons and other music notables into his final years including last year's Newport Folk Festival where he had played the original festival in 1959. Musicians from a variety of backgrounds including Mumford & Sons, Bela Fleck, and Dierks Bentley have recently spoken of Scruggs' inspiration on their own music, but the late country singer, Porter Wagoner, may have said it best, "Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball."