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Banjo Legend Earl Scruggs Dies at 88

Earl Scruggs

INDIO, CA - APRIL 25: Musician Earl Scruggs performs onstage during day one of California's Stagecoach Country Music Festival held at the Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2009 in Indio, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

GAC extends condolences to the family, friends and fans of Country Music Hall of Famer Earl Scruggs. The Tennessean reports Mr. Scruggs died Wednesday morning at a Nashville hospital. He was 88.

Scruggs popularized a three-fingered style of playing banjo that transformed the instrument, inspiring countless musicians and giving bluegrass one of its signature sounds.

Earl Eugene Scruggs was born in Shelby, N.C., and raised on a farm in the Flint Hill area. His father George, who played the banjo, died in 1928 following an illness. Earl started playing the banjo that year, at age 4.

“Dealing with the trauma of the death of his father at a young age, his emotional outlet turned to music,” Earl’s late wife (and manager) Louise Scruggs wrote in the liner notes to 2001’s Earl Scruggs and Friends album.

Scruggs and his musical partner, Lester Flatt, dominated bluegrass in the ‘50s & ‘60s. Before that, he was a member of bluegrass creator Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. He also influenced and played with a number of artists in other genres, including folk, country and rock. To this day, many music fans can still sing the 1962 Flatt & Scruggs song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which was the theme from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies. In 1969, Flatt & Scruggs won a GRAMMY for Scruggs’ instrumental, the now-classic “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

Here’s just a taste of some vintage Flatt & Scruggs, courtesy of our friends at the Grand Ole Opry:

“He was the man who melted walls, and he did it without saying three words,” said Marty Stuart in 2000. For a complete Earl Scruggs obituary and career retrospective, visit The Tennessean.

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