The passing of Earl Scruggs has brought a great many emotions to the fore, along with some wonderful memories from those who knew him, and those who have enjoyed his music over the years.
We’ve been fortunate to be able to share a few candid photographs of Earl from the Flatt & Scruggs days which, sadly, are relatively rare. Given that so much of the band’s touring was in rural areas prior to their increased visibility on television in the mid-1960s, and that film cameras were a costly luxury for country folks as a rule, that shouldn’t be a big surprise.
We have recently received this image of a Flatt & Scruggs show poster from Stephen O. Callaghan, who tells us he believes it was from 1957. One telling clue is found at the bottom of the poster which reads “NOTE: Earl Scruggs is now back with the show.”
Diligent students of Earl’s career will recall that he was in a serious auto accident in October of 1955 which took him off the road for nearly a year, making a January show in 1957 just about right for his return. Add to that the fact that January 2, 1957 was in fact a Wednesday, and it seems like Stephen is dead-on in suggesting that the poster is from that year.
During this absence, Curtis McPeake held the unenviable task of filling in for Earl Scruggs in the band.
Scruggs described the accident to Barry Willis for his book, America’s Music: Bluegrass, published in 1997 (now out of print).
“One Sunday afternoon, pretty late in the day, my brother called me and didn’t want to excite me too much, afraid I might drive too fast. Anyway, he said something was wrong with our mother. What had happened is she had had a stroke.
Back in those days, the only way you could get from here (Nashville) to Charlotte—and Charlotte’s about forty miles east of Shelby—you would have to catch a plane out of Atlanta. I believe you’d have to go Atlanta and change and go to Columbia, South Carolina, and change and go to Charlotte. That would take all day. And, of course, this being late Sunday afternoon we decided we’d just drive over ‘cause we could be over there by early breakfast the next morning by taking our time.
So we started drivin’ and we had gotten about fifteen miles east of Knoxville—I guess at the time that was during the two-lane highway days along 70 Highway—and we was on the straightest road between here and Shelby about three o’clock (my watch was broken at five minutes before three in the morning) there was a car came out of a side road [with a] boozed-up man and woman in it. That’s where it happened.
Luckily for us—we had two boys at the time Gary and Randy, they were two and six—one was on the pallet on the floor and one was layin’ in the back seat. This was before seat belts. And Buddy, when I hit that car—and everybody said I was drivin’ about 55—when I hit that car the seat stripped on the carriage. Louise knocked a hole in the windshield; she messed up her face real bad for several years and had a lot of plastic surgery done.
But it dislocated my hips and broke us up real bad. But we was young enough until after three months I had to have a metal hip put in and later have another metal hip put in. But everything came out real well, mainly because our two boys were not injured that much. And after enough years went by, we got to where we could get along all right even though we still have pain with it.”
Many thanks to Stephen Callaghan for sharing the show poster. Any readers who have photos, posters or any other Earl Scruggs memorabilia they would be willing to share, please contact us.