Earl Scruggs in the Congressional Record

Harold Rogers, a 16 term Congressman representing the 5th District in Kentucky, had the following tribute to Earl Scruggs read into the Congressional Record on April 17.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of Earl Scruggs, who passed away on March 28, 2012. He was a noted banjo player whose style changed the way the banjo is played and whose music will endure for generations.

Born on January 6, 1924 in western North Carolina, Scruggs came into a musical family. His parents, brothers and sisters all had musical talents and traditional music was heard all around him. His love for music started at an early age after watching his older brothers master the banjo, which promoted his interest in playing. The support and practice he received at home with his family produced an artist who would go on to leave an indelible mark on traditional American and bluegrass music.

Scruggs began his remarkable 67-year career in music in 1945 when he began playing with Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass music, and his band the Blue Grass Boys. On these earliest recordings, his peculiar style of playing the banjo, which brought out a syncopated rolling rhythm using three fingers as opposed to the old ‘‘clawhammer’’ style, was immediately recognized as a fresh approach to playing the instrument. This style has been imitated by so many players that today it is referred to as the ‘‘Scruggs style’’ and is the preferred style among many musicians in traditional and bluegrass music. Bluegrass music is an essential part of the heritage of my congressional district in Southern and Eastern Kentucky, and many of the musicians in my region were influenced by him and play the banjo in his style.

In 1948, Scruggs joined forces with band mate Lester Flatt to form Flatt & Scruggs, and the two played together for over 20 years. In the 1970s, he formed the band Earl Scruggs Revue and expanded his audiences into genres where the banjo is not commonly heard, and even shared the stage with many folk, rock, and pop acts of the time, broadening the reach of traditional and bluegrass music. Even those who are not familiar with bluegrass music have likely heard Scruggs’ playing on ‘‘The Ballad of Jed Clampett,’’ which was the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies television program, as well as his Grammy Award winning ‘‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown.’’

Earl Scruggs was a two time Grammy Award winner, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor, as well as a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1992. His presence on stage will be sorely missed, but his music will last for many years to come.

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John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.