Earl Scruggs Center: Music & Stories of The Carolina Foothills

Earl Scruggs with Co-Chair of the Oral History Committee for the Earl Scruggs Center, Kathryn HamrickWe received a note from Emily Epley, Executive Director of Destination Cleveland County, with an update on the Earl Scruggs Center, a museum program currently in development to commemorate the music of Earl Scruggs near his childhood home in Shelby, NC.

Emily fills us in on what is happening with the Scruggs Center since we last posted about their efforts in July of 2008.

Progress is being made though as many museum experts tell us, “museum time is slow time.” A foundation of the project, the master plan, has been completed with input from local citizens led by Cissy Foote Anklam of museumconcepts.com. The “Stories” piece is underway as our volunteer oral historians, initially led by UNC-CH graduate students, capture and preserve stories of the people to bring life to the Center in four key areas: textiles, music, the untold African American story and the 21st Century. How enriching to hear stories of folks impacted by Earl or who shared the seemingly mundane daily life at the textile mill where he worked (and sometimes played). Each story brings a new dimension to who Earl Scruggs is and what elements of our region may have impacted him.

The Earl Scruggs Center will be a remarkable showcase for the history and cultural traditions of the Carolina Foothills, as well as the unique musical contributions of Earl Scruggs, the region’s most pre-eminent ambassador of music. Planned as a cultural crossroads, the Earl Scruggs Center stands to become a model for fostering community understanding, cultural tourism and regional pride.  DCC’s efforts on two projects, The Earl Scruggs Center and The Don Gibson Theatre (opening Fall 2009) have gained recognition regionally and beyond as catalyst projects for economic development.

We are so excited to have Earl and his sons coming home again for a benefit concert on June 19, 2009. Earl performed in his home county on October 11, 2007 to a sold-out crowd at Malcolm Brown Auditorium. What a concert! There are no words to describe how Earl electrified and mesmerized his audience with his incredible banjo playing. Concert tickets for this year are on sale at www.destinationclevelandcounty.org.

In The Charlotte Observer, Earl was quoted in connection with DCCs project as saying “I think it’s a high honor.  I’m real proud of it.”

Earl and his sons slip into town from time to time to visit with relatives. They were here as recently as March 18, 2009. On that trip, we took the opportunity to have our museum film director, Robert Gordon, fly in from Memphis. With the able assistance of Earl’s nephew, J.T. Scruggs, filming for the future center continued over several days. We all loved hearing Earl tell stories about his childhood and his journeys since leaving here after World War II. His sons chipped in with a story or two-ask them about eating the famed “livermush” or the time Ravi Shankar called their father and asked if he could come to their home and play with Earl. We have heard disks of Earl with artists of many genres and we can just imagine the thrill of the universal language of music that those two created.

We are proud to have Earl Scruggs as a native of our county and feel honored and humbled by his willingness to come here once again for a benefit concert. We hope to see you at the concert. If you can’t join us but are interested in supporting the efforts of Destination Cleveland County, please contact us at info@destinationclevelandcounty.org.