Mac Wiseman remembers Earl Scruggs

Over the next few days, we will share remembrances of Earl Scruggs from his peers, and the many banjo players whose lives he transformed. Hopefully, we will be able to piece together a portrait of Earl the musician, and Earl the man.

Just moments ago, we spoke with Mac Wiseman at his home just outside Nashville. Mac played with Flatt & Scruggs in the 1940s, and warmly recalled his friendship with Scruggs.

“I just heard 30 minutes ago…

Earl first came to me when I was in Bristol in 1947 working Farm & Fun Time on radio.

Because of weather in the winter time, that was rough territory, and I went back home to Virginia. I came in to do the show one day, and this fellow came up to me. It was Earl Scruggs and he said that he and Chubby Wise were leaving Bill Monroe, and would I hire them.

Long into spring, Lester decided to leave as well, and they called me in Virginia and asked me to join up with them. Now I couldn’t see why they needed me, since Lester could handle all the guitar and singing, but I was happy to be a part of their group.

I did all the booking, and we did a lot of shows. In ’48 I did my first record with them, We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart.

We remained friends through the years, and he was more like family to me.

When he turned 80 years old, I searched the town of Nashville over and couldn’t find a birthday card that said Happy Birthday 80 years. After I was upset and distraught about it, I bought two 40s and stapled them together!

Earl got a pretty good kick out of that.

We had some wonderful times together, and I have nothing but great memories. We were great friends.”

Earl Scruggs passed away earlier today in Nashville at the age of 88.

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About the Author

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.

  • Jack Lawrence

    One of my earliest memories is seeing Flatt and Scruggs with my Dad when I was about four years old. Watching Earl play guitar on TV inpired me to learn to play. I played the first couple of years with a thumbpick and two National fingerpicks just like Earl. I ordered autographed Flatt and Scruggs songbooks starting in ’60 when I was 6 years old. I had no clue then that I’d continue in music and make it my living. It was inspiration I got from Earl and later, Doc Watson, that kept me on track.

    One of my fondest memories is of the very first MerleFest. I was honored to be part of a band that consisted of Earl, Mac Wiseman, Doc Watson, Jim Shumate, Marty Stuart, and Les Deaton. We did maybe 8 sets over the course of the weekend. How awe inspiring to stand on stage with my heroes. Earl and Mac were especially gracious and we all had a grand time. I stood between Earl and Mac. I remember Earl coming up behind me after one of my solos complementing it and encouraging me to take one more. At that moment, maybe more than any other, I felt I had become not just a guitar player but a real musician.

    I’m greatly saddened by the death of my first real hero but I’m thankful for the experience of standing next to the kind, gentle and humble man that was Earl Scruggs.

    Jack Lawrence