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Earl Scruggs

Bluegrass Music Innovator and Virtuoso

You are listening to a midi file of Earl's Breakdown.  Be sure to let it play out before you click on other sound files below.

A couple of years ago National Public Radio recognized Earl's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" as one of the 100 most influential musical works (all genres) of the 20th Century. Click here to hear the 10 minute clip and learn why as you view this page. You will need Real Player.

The early days over radio.


Earl's other instrument.

I remember the first time I ever heard him play as an eleven year old girl growing up in the country near Woodville, Mississippi.  I was only eleven and did not know at the time what I was listening to.  The focus was on Bill Monroe in particular and his Bluegrass Boys in general on the Grand Ole Opry; and Earl was Bill's twenty-two year old banjo player.  We who listened avidly knew that Monroe's band had a great sound! We loved the instrumentals, when Bill on the mandolin, Earl on the banjo and Chubby Wise on the fiddle would turn loose. "Kentucky Waltz" was Bill's hit ballad then and my mother's favorite song.  The accompaniment that best showcased Earl's gift was on "Molly and Tenbrooks," the race horse song.

The Earl of today still going strong.

Earl in the seventies when he formed with his sons, The Earl Scruggs Revue.

At that time (about 1946) you never knew whether you were going to be able to hear the Opry at all. Static was very bad, especially in the summer. WSM in Nashville was a "clear channel" station, but in those days you never knew what you were going to get.  Those were the "good old days." Recordings were the old 78 speed and usually scratchy. Young people today who have digital music and listen to CD's on state-of-the-art equipment, playing favorites over and over, don't know what they missed! I am being facetious.

From a recent T.V. special.

Earl (right) and his brother, little musicians.

The Opry was the highlight of the week; there was little entertainment other than radio and an occasional motion picture in town. As a family we would gather around the old battery operated radio on Saturday nights and hope that the radio would receive the Opry without too much extraneous noise.  We also hoped that Bill Monroe would be on.  He usually always was. And so, we were pioneers in hearing the now-famous Scruggs style of banjo pickin'.

Earl and his young sons.

Monroe, Flatt, Scruggs in the early years.

My brother re-introduced me to Bluegrass and Flatt and Scruggs in the 1950's. We saw them in person several times, making special trips to do so,  and Bluegrass became my favorite music.  Today I can sit at my computer and listen to all the Bluegrass I want without the static and with wonderful digital quality. I do enjoy Del McCoury, the Stanley Brothers, the Osbournes, Alison Krause, Ricky Skaggs and others. But some of what is called "Bluegrass" today is to me an unwelcome deviation and misuse of the name.

Blue Grass Boy


The Foggy Mountain Boys on tour.
Guess who the sponsor is.
"Martha White self risin' flour

has got hot rize!"

Earl is still the very best on the five string banjo, and has countless imitators who will acknowledge this.  He virtually created the three-finger style that one recognizes instantly when listening to any Bluegrass band. You have never heard and will never hear one hint of scandal about him, either.  He is a modest, soft-spoken Christian family man and country gentleman.  He is a credit to music in general and Bluegrass in particular.

Picture courtesy of

Today Earl is recognized and honored as the all-time master of the five string banjo and a fine guitarist as well. Along with Bill Monroe, he is certainly a major innovator in American music in general and Bluegrass music in particular. And at seventy-nine years old he has lost little of his touch, as attested to by the recent Great Performances television special on PBS, The Three Pickers, featuring also Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs.

Click here to go to National Public Radio's site to hear an interesting 12 minute interview with the Three Pickers; some pickin' included. After you get to the page, click on: "All Things Considered audio."

- Site by Mary Cage - "Just an enthusiastic fan."


   Biography, buy recordings, visit message forum and more!
Flatt and Scruggs Preservation Society

   Biographies of Lester and Earl and more.
Bill Monroe Foundation
Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music

   Bill and James Monroe official site.
Grand Ole Opry
   Read the history (with pictures) of this American insitution!

International Bluegrass Music Association
Public Broadcasting System
National Public Radio

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Also visit my Christian site: The Gospel of Grace

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