Mar 28, 201206:51 PMThe Telegraph

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Hail and Farewell to Earl Scruggs

Mar 28, 2012 - 06:51 PM
Hail and Farewell to Earl Scruggs

Cowboys & Indians would like to extend condolences to the family, friends and many, many fans of bluegrass great Earl Scruggs, the Country Music Hall of Famer who passed away Wednesday in Nashville at age 88. Aptly described by Peter Cooper of The Tennessean in an eloquent obituary as “a singular talent of collective import,” the innovative banjo master teamed with guitarist Lester Flatt (who died in 1979) to dominate the bluegrass charts throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. During that same period, they achieved a mainstream breakthrough when they performed the opening and closing theme for TV’s The Beverly Hillbillies, and their music was audaciously used by director Arthur Penn throughout the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde.

As Cooper notes: “Rather than speak out about the connections between folk and country in the war-torn, politically contentious ‘60s, [Earl Scruggs] simply showed up at folk festivals and played, at least when he and Flatt weren’t at the Grand Ole Opry. During the long-hair/short-hair skirmishes of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he simply showed up and played, with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and The Byrds. And when staunch fans of bluegrass -- a genre that would not exist in a recognizable form without Mr. Scruggs’ banjo -- railed against stylistic experimentation, Mr. Scruggs happily jammed away with sax player King Curtis, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, piano man Elton John and anyone else whose music he fancied.”

Scruggs perfected and popularized a three-finger style of banjo playing that has come to be a defining characteristic of bluegrass music. He was an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003. At the 50th annual Grammy Awards in 2008, he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. 

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