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The Life And Music Of Earl Scruggs

We’ll look at the life and music of bluegrass pioneer and banjo great Earl Scruggs.

Earl Scruggs, a pioneering banjo player and bluegrass icon, died Wednesday. (AP)

Earl Scruggs, a pioneering banjo player and bluegrass icon, died Wednesday. (AP)

Bluegrass pioneer and banjo great Earl Scruggs has died in Nashville at 88.  Earl Scruggs took the humble five-string banjo out of the rhythm section and gave it a thrilling voice.  Made it a solo star at the front of the bluegrass band.

He was there with Bill Monroe.  There with the Foggy Mountain Boys.  There when country music met rock and politics.  He was to the five-string banjo, it’s been said, what Paganini was to the violin.

This hour, On Point:  the life and music of the late, great Earl Scruggs.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Peter Cooper, senior music writer for the Daily Tennessean and a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter. You can read his Earl Scruggs obituary here.

Tony Trischka, one of the world’s top banjo players, he played with Earl Scruggs, Béla Fleck and actor/musician Steve Martin on the album Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular.

Ron Stewart, a celebrated banjo player, he was named the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Awards Banjo Player of the Year.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of players and helped shape the sound of 20th-century country music with his guitar-playing partner, Lester Flatt, died on Wednesday in a Nashville hospital. He was 88.”

USA Today “A quietly affable presence, Scruggs popularized a complex, three-fingered style of playing banjo that transformed the instrument, inspired nearly every banjo player who followed him and became a central element in what is now known as bluegrass music.”

Entertainment Weekly “Scruggs died Wednesday morning at age 88 of natural causes. The legacy he helped build with bandleader Bill Monroe, guitarist Lester Flatt and the rest of the Blue Grass Boys was evident all around Nashville, where he died in an area hospital.”

Video: Earl Scruggs and Steve Martin

Check out this preformance with Scruggs jamming actor and noted banjo player, Steve Martin.

Video: Earl Scruggs: Lonesome Road Blues

Check out this vintage video of Scruggs playing Lonesome Road Blues.

Video: Earl Scruggs and Béla Fleck

Here’s a video of Scruggs playing his song Salty Dog with banjo great Bela Fleck.

Video: Scruggs Picking

This musical documentary focuses on three “finger picking” musicians, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs.

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