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Earl Scruggs (1924-2012)

Earl Scruggs 2005Earl Scruggs, 88, the innovator of bluegrass banjo picking, has died.

Back when I first picked up the banjo, in 2008, Scruggs was the only banjo player's name I really knew and when I heard the term "Scruggs style" I thought that this must be the way.

I borrowed his banjo instruction book from the library and started picking out painfully slow notes. Thumb, index, middle: the forward roll. Middle, index, thumb: the backwards roll. And so on.

After six months of trying, I was frustrated that nothing I played sounded anything close to how Scruggs did it, but nobody else sounded like him either. He at once invented a style of playing and broke the mold doing so.

Listening to Flatt & Scruggs made me realize that I'd be better off learning clawhammer style banjo.

But beyond being a singular talent on the banjo, he was also a great ambassador of the instrument, spreading its popularity far and wide. Legions of men and women owe their interest in the banjo to the late, great Earl Scruggs.

Here's a nice tribute from KTBS 3 in Shreveport, La.

And here's a great video of Scruggs playing with Doc Watson and others.

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